Throughout elementary school, I intensely feared buying lunch, practically to the point of tears. With the long lines stretching out the door of the MPR (Multi-Purpose Room) and half of the dishes clashing with my picky eater palate, my parents took pity on me and packed my midday meal every single day in my purple insulated lunch box.
When my teacher released us as the noon bell rang, I happily skipped outside to the old brown picnic tables and unzipped my tote. I always found the same meal: half an apple, sliced (my younger brother received the other half in his lunch); half of a bagel with cream cheese or half of a peanut butter sandwich (no jelly, no honey, no bananas—just extra peanut butter!); and a treat.
With very little time or desire to bake, Mom normally tucked in store-bought desserts instead. Although she tended to choose the variety according to the supermarket’s weekly sales, she often fell back on our favorite Little Debbie treats: oatmeal crème pies, Swiss rolls, and—the absolute best—chocolate cupcakes.
Most of my friends stared enviously across the table as I unwrapped my dessert. They tried bartering or trading their homemade chocolate chip cookies for my cupcake; everybody adored that creamy vanilla frosting in the middle. I often ended up splitting my cupcake in half for a few bites of their cookies since I just couldn’t bear completely parting with it!
But now when I crave a cupcake, I feel a little guilty turning to those Little Debbie chocolate ones. For starters, their Nutrition Labels don’t look very appealing, and secondly, my mom isn’t there to remind me, “Just eat one, Amy.” I’d be tempted to sneak another without a parent in the house to stash the box in a secret hiding spot!
Instead of caving and splurging on a single gourmet cupcake from the boutique downtown, I decided to create my own recipe for a single-serving one—and make it healthier, using entirely wholesome ingredients. Because the summer heat wave already hit my town last week (90°+ and climbing!), I turned to the microwave to avoid creating a sauna in the house just for a single dessert.
The result? This Skinny Single-Serving Microwave Spice Cupcake! With its cozy cinnamon taste and sweet vanilla frosting, this classic treat easily won over my heart—and taste buds—compared to that packaged chocolate dessert of my childhood. (And I’m a diehard chocoholic!) Even better, this cupcake is low fat, low calorie and completely clean-eating friendly!
The recipe itself is very basic. Just mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another; then stir them together and pop in the microwave! However, compared to typical mug cake recipes that require 3 tablespoons of oil, an egg yolk, and more fat-laden ingredients, my version only needs ¼ teaspoon of oil and no eggs at all!
You’ll replace the egg with Greek yogurt. It’s my secret weapon in healthier baking: it adds all of the moisture of butter and oil, but without the excess fat and calories! It also contains extra protein, which actually helps provide the structure to this cupcake because it lacks the egg’s protein. I haven’t tried regular yogurt, but if you do, please let me know how that goes!
To cook your cupcake in the microwave, you MUST follow these guidelines.
1. Use a standard-sized coffee mug. (Like the one pictured above!) If you use a silicon muffin cup or a ramekin, the cupcake will rise above the rim and spread outward into a flat mushroom top. The tall sides of the coffee mug force the cupcake batter straight up, so its top will look normal instead.
2. Use a paper cupcake liner. Do NOT, under any circumstance, use a metal cupcake liner in the microwave. When you put metal in the microwave, it catches on fire. Please oh please, do NOT burn your house down! But because it’s paper, this low-fat cupcake wants to stick to the liner like superglue, so after placing the paper cup inside of the coffee mug, liberally coat both of them with nonstick cooking spray.
3. Microwave on 30% power. Zapping the cupcake on high increases the chance that you’ll overcook it, resulting in a tough and rubbery treat. Instead, bake it at 30% power for 2 minutes and 35 seconds. When the timer dings, immediately run a knife around the cupcake’s top and invert the mug to pop out the treat. The side edges will still look wet and underdone, but they continue to cook through from the inside out as the cupcake cools. Trust me on this!
Now for the frosting! You just need 4 ingredients: Greek yogurt, Truvia, vanilla, and xanthan gum. Stir the first three together in a bowl, and adjust the sweetness level to suit your tastes before adding the xanthan gum. The xanthan gum immediately thickens the yogurt, and it’ll turn the mixture soupy if you stir too much! If you let the soupy frosting sit for 20 minutes, it’ll thicken up a little more, but not completely to a pipe-able consistency.
If you don’t own xanthan gum, that’s okay! Just spread the frosting on top of the cupcake instead, or substitute your favorite canned version instead. I’ll never know!
Although slightly different than my lunch box treat, this Skinny Single-Serving Microwave Spice Cupcake satisfied my sweet tooth even more. The homey hint of maple… The warm burst of cinnamon… The classic vanilla frosting… They all combined into one magical bite that left me hungry for more sweltering summer days—just for another excuse to make this cupcake again!
So… Who else is ready for a cupcake?