While pineapples are available year round, peak season for pineapples starts next month. I love the sweet, yet tart, taste of pineapple and when they are in season I try to incorporate them in as many recipes as I can. Pineapple is an extremely popular fruit. In the states, pineapple is the second most popular fruit behind bananas.
Pineapple is an excellent source of B vitamin, vitamin C, copper, manganese and potassium. Furthermore, pineapple is full of an important enzyme called Bromelain. Bromelain helps break down proteins and has known anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting and anti-cancer properties. Pineapple is low in calories and has no saturated fat or cholesterol.
When selecting a fresh pineapple, look for the largest, chubbiest one you can find. The pineapple leaves should be dark green and not wilted (no yellow or brown leaves). The outside skin should have a bright color and be somewhat soft to the touch. Steer clear of pineapples that have any dark spots that are very soft.
Pineapple is a great ingredient to use in baked goods because it helps increase the moisture level and provides an excellent amount of sweetness. Since I love to create traditional style cakes in a cupcake form, I decided I would create a cupcake that is similar to the ever so popular pineapple upside down cake. My healthy pineapple right side up cupcake embraces the upside down cake flavor but without all the added calories, sugar and fat.
Traditional pineapple upside down cake usually includes flour, butter, whole eggs, salt, baking powder, sugar (both white and brown), flavoring extract (almond, vanilla or both) and of course pineapple. As with most of my recipe re-creations I wanted to replace the butter, whole eggs, and sugar in the traditional recipe. By replacing these ingredients with healthier ingredients, the resulting cupcake has more flavor, more nutrients and more protein than the traditional recipe.
The first ingredient that I replaced was the butter. To replace the butter I turned to my go to butter replacement, unsweetened applesauce. Unsweetened applesauce is a great butter substitute. It provides a wonderful level of moisture and natural sweetness to the baked good. Because this cupcake is a pineapple cupcake, I also added a pineapple puree (recipe below) to the batter prior to baking. Just like the unsweetened applesauce, pineapple acts like a butter by helping to bind the ingredients and provide moisture to the baked good.
To help the unsweetened applesauce and the pineapple with the creaminess of the cupcake, I have added non-fat Greek yogurt to the recipe. Non-fat Greek yogurt works great in adding a creamy texture to the cupcake, plus it also adds a healthy dose of protein (which in my opinion is always a good thing). To further up the “dairy” note, I have included unsweetened vanilla almond milk to the recipe. Traditional cake recipes usually call for cow’s milk but I find unsweetened vanilla almond milk provides a wonderful flavor profile that you just cannot get with cow’s milk. Unsweetened vanilla almond milk also has a lot of increased health benefits over cow’s milk.
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.
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.
Sugar, brown and white, are typically used in the traditional pineapple downside cake. 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.
Because brown sugar is used in the traditional pineapple downside cake, I had added a bit of molasses to the cupcake recipe. Brown sugar is a combination of sugar and molasses. Molasses taste is very hard to replace so when you replace brown sugar with just stevia (or cane/coconut sugar) you lose that distinct molasses taste. By just adding just a touch of molasses into the batter you gain back that brown sugar flavor and only increase the sugar content of the cupcake by a tiny bit.
Pineapple “Right Side Up” Cupcake
1 cup cake flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/8 teaspoon pure Stevia extract (or 1/4 cup cane sugar or coconut sugar)
A dash of molasses
A dash of almond extract (optional)
1 egg white
3 tablespoons non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 tablespoons pineapple puree (see recipe below)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder)
Pineapple puree (for batter and topping)
1 cup fresh pineapple, chopped
1 tablespoon coconut milk
To make the pineapple puree, add puree ingredients to a blender or food processor. Blend on medium speed for about a minute. The puree is now ready to be used in the batter and as part of the cupcake topping.
To make the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners or spray with oil. In a medium sized bowl mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In another medium sized bowl, mix the pure stevia extract (or cane/coconut sugar), egg white, unsweetened applesauce, non-fat Greek yogurt, unsweetened almond milk, pineapple puree and extracts until well combined. Slowly add the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture. Mix until the batter is well combined.
Pour the batter into the lined or sprayed muffin tin openings. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes (or until golden brown). Take cupcakes out of the oven and allow the cupcakes to cool in the muffin pan for about 5 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the muffin tin and allow to cool completely on a wired cooling rack.
Once cupcakes have cooled completely they can be topped with the rest of the prepared pineapple puree. A circle of whipped cream (option 1 below) or non-fat Greek yogurt whipped cream (option 2 below) can be used for an even fancier pineapple cupcake.
Whipped Cream Topping – Option 1
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
In a large sized mixing bowl, beat heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add granulated sugar and beat until soft peaks return.
Whipped Cream Topping – Option 2
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup non-fat Greek style yogurt
1/8 teaspoon pure Stevia extract (or 2 tablespoons cane or coconut sugar)
Optional: A dash of pure vanilla extract
In a stand up mixer (or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer), add all ingredients and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form.