Snow-Dusted Healthy Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes (Gluten Free, Grain Free, Refined Sugar Free)
Last week, I wasn’t really feeling the holiday spirit. My fiance was off in New York, which is my absolute favorite place to be for the holidays – the Christmas markets are filled with hot cider and artisanal goods, the air is crisp and cold, there’s a fire crackling in the back of bars and store window decorations that’ll take your breath away. I, however, was in California, where a (much-needed) spate of rain was leaving me in a bah-humbug mood. While it wasn’t full blown SAD, I was struck by a kind of lethargy and melancholy that made getting out of bed in the morning feel more difficult. I always find the very beginnings of winter the hardest – when that long stretch of early sundowns and cold looms in front of you, with no end in sight.
It was about ten am on one of those Eeyore days that I decided I really needed to shake myself out of it. And by that, I meant of course to bake myself out of it. For me, there’s no better remedy for the blues – or even just the blahs – than some quality time with my kitchen. It occupies my brain, my body, and at the end, there’s something delicious to eat. I wanted to make something so wonderfully, fantastically holiday-ish, something that wrapped up the wonders of winter into a cute little edible package. I wanted to make something with chocolate (for obvious reasons) and peppermint is one of my perpetual winter cravings. Thus, the healthy Chocolate Peppermint Cupcake was born.
These barely count as baking, they’re so simple to make. It’s about 5 minutes of prep time and a half an hour of bake time, and they’re almost fool proof, which is astonishing given that they contain no gluten, no grains, and no refined sugar. The chocolate is rich and, well, chocolatey, while the peppermint freshens the entire flavor profile up.
And the frosting – ohmysweettastebuds, the frosting. You can make the frosting two ways – if you want them to be completely healthy and refined sugar free, with a honey peppermint blend that tastes like the creamiest candy cane you’ve ever had. Or, if you’re feeling a bit more playful, you can simply blend the soaked cashews with a few crushed candy canes. Are candy canes something I eat on a regular basis? Nope. Are they perfectly healthy? No one’s arguing that. But they’re fun and they’re playful, and, if you get the ones at Whole Foods that are free of the artificial colors and flavors, they’re not that bad for you. These are packed with protein – more than most breakfasts, even – fiber and good fats. You can eat two or three and stay guilt free (although, realistically, if you’re gonna indulge in treats it should always be without guilt, because otherwise you’re not really treating yourself, are you?).
And peppermint – our superstar ingredient – is amazing for you.
Peppermint’s main benefits center around two of your body’s systems: digestive and respiratory. Taken internally, it soothes your stomach’s internal lining, easing muscle spasms or simple indigestion (peppermint tea is one of my go-tos when I’m nauseous or hungover). It also acts as an expectorant and a decongestant, which helps clear up your respiratory tract. Inhale the oils (breathe in while you’re stirring this recipe!) and you’ll feel your airways open right up.
Okay, enough of that. Healthy chocolate peppermint cupcakes – let’s do this thing!
- 1 cup unsalted creamy almond butter (raw or roasted works fine)
- 2 eggs, preferably pastured
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp peppermint extract
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 cups raw cashews
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp peppermint extract
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 cups raw cashews
- 10 candy canes (I bought mine at my local Whole Foods, and they were free of artificial color and flavor)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat eggs until blended, then add almond butter, peppermint extract and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. In a separate bowl, mix together cocoa powder, coconut sugar, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until very well combined. Line 8 muffin tins with baking cups and fill 3/4 of the way to the top with the batter. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cupcake comes out clean. Let cool completely before removing from pan and frosting.
- Submerged the raw cashews completely in water, and soak for 1 - 2 hours. Drain very well, then add to a food processor with all remaining ingredients. Process for 3 - 4 minutes - you don't simply want the ingredients to combine, but you want the nuts to release their oils and for the texture to get very creamy. Spoon into a piping bag or a sandwich bag with the corner snipped off and pipe in a swirled shape on top of cupcakes.
- Submerged the raw cashews completely in water, and soak for 1 - 2 hours. Place the candy canes into a food processor and process until a fine powder forms; scoop out a few heaping teaspoons (this is the snow dust) and set aside. Drain the cashews and add to the food processor. Process for 3 - 4 minutes - you don't simply want the ingredients to combine, but you want the nuts to release their oils and for the texture to get very creamy. Spoon into a piping bag or a sandwich bag with the corner snipped off and pipe in a swirled shape on top of cupcakes. Dust with candy cane snow and serve.
- Makes 8 cupcakes. Store for 2 days at room temperature or up to 4 in the fridge.