Blueberry Banana Yogurt Cupcakes

Spring is just around the corner and I am already moving my spring inspired recipes to the front of my recipe Rolodex.  Spring time is great for a number of reasons.  The weather is amazing, plants start to flower and it is the start of berry season.  Berries are synonymous with spring time and blueberries are, traditionally, a berry favorite.
Blueberries are harvested in the states starting in the month of May and gathered during the entire summer.  Thankfully blueberries are harvested almost year round in the Southern Hemisphere so, typically, fresh blueberries are almost always available in the grocery store.  When shopping for fresh blueberries, look for berries that are firm and plump.  The berries should have a smooth skin with a deep purple/blue color.
Blueberries are small but pack a mighty nutritional punch.  They are rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber.  Blueberries have a low glycemic index and are practically fat free.  They can help lower cholesterol and blood fat balances.   Blueberries have been known to help improve eye sight, reduce belly fat, increase cognitive thinking and promote good urinary tract health.

Blueberries are used in a variety of recipes including muffins, pancakes, pies, scones and cupcakes.  Blueberry muffins and cupcakes are two of my personal favorite ways to have blueberries (besides eating them raw).  Blueberry cupcakes are fun, delicious and colorful.  There are many blueberry cupcake recipes out there, most of which are relatively healthy.  However, like with most of my recipe re-creations I like to take the healthy factor and increase it as much as I can.

Blueberry cupcakes are similar to blueberry muffins in regards to their ingredient lineup.  The only variation is a slight difference in the quantity of certain ingredients.  Majority of cupcake recipes, blueberry ones included, contain basic cupcake making ingredients like cake flour, butter, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, whole eggs and vanilla extract.  Some recipes have the addition of cream or cow’s milk.

For my blueberry cupcake recipe I wanted the cupcake to be butter and oil free.  In order to ensure proper ingredient binding, a very ripe banana is used as a butter/oil replacement.  Bananas work as a great butter substitute in most baked goods. Since blueberries pair well with bananas, having them together in a cupcake was an obvious choice.

To help the banana with additional creaminess and moisture, I have added non-fat Greek yogurt to the recipe.  Much like bananas, non-fat Greek yogurt is a great ingredient by itself but it is even more magical in baked goods.  In addition to providing a great texture to the baked good, the yogurt also adds a healthy dose of protein (which in my opinion is always a good thing).

For the flour element of the cupcake, traditional cupcake recipes use cake flour.  Cake flour is milled for a longer period of time then all-purpose flour so it has a very fine texture.  Cake flour gives cupcakes a light and fluffy baked texture.  Usually I am a fan of replacing traditional flours with healthier flour versions.  However, I have tried several versions of flours in this cupcake recipe and have found that cake flour produces the best results.  You can use whole wheat flour, but be forewarned the resulting cupcake is very dense and it is more like a muffin than a cupcake.  Unbleached cake flour is available in most grocery stores so that it is good option in regards to purchasing a less processed cake flour.   Whole wheat pastry flour is also a replacement option and I would say works the best after unbleached cake flour.

Whole eggs are typically used in cupcake recipes.  Eggs are a great ingredient, however, if you just use the egg white in the recipe, you can dramatically cut the cupcakes overall fat, calorie and cholesterol content.  The egg yolks are not needed to help bind and fluff the ingredients, egg whites can do that all by themselves.

Some cupcake recipes use cow’s milk (or even cream).  Milk is used in cupcake recipes to give the batter structure and strength.  I am okay with using cow’s milk in recipes, however, I prefer to use an alternative milk that has more health benefits instead.  Unsweetened vanilla almond milk is one of my favorite alternative milks to use in a range of recipes.  In addition to the increased health benefits, unsweetened vanilla almond milk also provides a wonderful flavor profile to the recipe that you just cannot get with cow’s milk.  Much like cows milk, unsweetened vanilla almond milk gives the batter structure and strength, so nothing is compromised when making this substitution.

Sugar, brown or white (or both) is typically the type of sweetener that is used in cupcakes.  I am not a fan of sugar so I try to replace it when and if I can.  Thankfully, pure stevia extract is a wonderful sugar replacement.  If you are not a fan of pure stevia extract (has a bitter aftertaste for some), you can use cane sugar or coconut sugar instead.  Cane sugar and coconut sugar are far better than granulated white table sugar.  Since both blueberries and bananas are sweet, and both are used in this recipes, the cupcake is already sweet without adding any additional sweeteners.  Technically, you could actually not add any sweetener (if you wanted) to this recipe and the resulting cupcake would be perfectly fine (and sweet).

The recipe below make about 10 cupcakes (depends on how high you fill the cupcake liners with batter).  The recipe can be doubled to fit your personal needs.  The finished cupcakes can be topped with blueberry flavored frosting.  I have included several blueberry frosting options at the bottom of this recipe page.

Blueberry Banana Cupcakes
1 cup unbleached cake flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
 
1/8 teaspoon salt
 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
 
1/8 teaspoon pure Stevia extract (or 1/2 cup cane or coconut sugar)
 
1 large very ripe banana
 
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla powder)
 
1 egg white
 
1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
 
1/3 cup fresh blueberries (rinsed and patted dry)
 
3 tablespoons non-fat Greek style yogurt
 
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line 10 muffin tins with cupcake liners or spray with oil.   In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, and pure Stevia extract until well combined. In a medium sized bowl, mash the banana.  Add the non-fat Greek style yogurt, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, pure vanilla extract and egg white to the banana.  Mix the banana mixture until well combined.  Pour the banana mixture into the dry flour ingredients and mix well.  Gently fold in the fresh blueberries.

Pour the cupcake batter into the lined or greased muffin tins.  Fill the muffin openings about 3/4 of the way up.  Place the cupcakes in the pre-heated oven and bake for about 18 to 20 minutes or until the tops are slightly golden brown.  Remove the cupcakes from the oven.  Allow the cupcakes to cool in the muffin tin for about 5 minutes before removing and then cool the rest of the time on a cooling rack.  Cool cupcakes completely before frosting them.   

Below I have two blueberry cupcake frosting options.  The first option is a standard blueberry butter cream frosting.  The second option is a healthier blueberry “butter cream” using non-fat Greek style yogurt.  I, of course, prefer the second (Greek yogurt) option, but I always like to include traditional frosting recipes just in case you want to go the traditional route and are okay with the butter/sugar ingredients.  

Traditional Blueberry Butter Cream Frosting – Option 1

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

1 tablespoon fresh blueberries

In a stand up mixer (or large bowl with handheld mixer), beat butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar to the whipped butter and continue to beat, on slow speed, for another minute. Add vanilla extract, salt, fresh blueberries and milk (or cream) to the mixture and beat, on medium speed, for about 3 minutes.  The frosting is now ready to be used on your cooled cupcakes.  

Healthy Blueberry “Butter Cream” Frosting – Option 2

1 cup non-fat Greek style yogurt 

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla powder)

1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract + 3 tablespoons corn starch (or 1/2 cup powdered sugar)

1 tablespoon fresh blueberries

In a medium sized bowl, mash blueberries and then whisk in all other ingredients until they become well combined and thick.   Cover and place in the refrigerator to thicken up even more (about 20 to 30 minutes).  Remove cooled frosting from refrigerator and use to top the cooled cupcakes.  

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