Enlightened Carrot Cupcakes Recipe

Enlightened Carrot Cupcakes

Enlightened Carrot Cupcakes

Lighter, healthier carrot cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting that are just as moist and delicious as traditional carrot cake, in a perfectly portion controlled package with just 6 PointsPlus value.

I’ve been a big carrot cake fan for as long as I can remember. It was my go-to dessert all through the late 1980s and early 1990s. I remember going to restaurants where I would bring home most of my dinner in a doggie bag just so I could indulge in a big delicious cream cheese frosted wedge.

That was before I joined Weight Watchers and started paying attention to things like calories and grams of fat. According to eTools, a piece of carrot cake with cream cheese icing has 18 PointsPlus value. The slice at Outback is even worse. It has 761 calories, 82 g carbs, 46 g fat and 5 g protein for a PointsPlus value of 21.

Needless, to say, this isn’t the kind of dessert I indulge in on a regular basis anymore, unless I’m sharing it with an entire table and having a bite or two.

But I haven’t lost my taste for the wonderful flavors and textures of carrot cake.

That’s where this recipe from Enlightened Cakes: More Than 100 Decadently Light Layer Cakes, Bundt Cakes, Cupcakes, Cheesecakes, and More, All with Less Fat and Fewer Calories by Camilla Saulsbury comes in. I adapted the recipe slightly, using the one bowl mixing approach from another one of Camilla’s books, Piece of Cake!: One-Bowl, No-Fuss, From-Scratch Cakes to make it as quick and easy as possible to mix.

I also substituted the canola oil in the cake and butter in the icing with MELT organic buttery spread. (I received two packages to sample and thought this was a great way to test it out, since it is supposed to cook and bake like butter.)


If you haven’t heard of it (I hadn’t), MELT is an organic spread that’s a blend of virgin coconut oil, flaxseed oil, palm oil, canola oil and sunflower oil, with 80 calories and 2 PointsPlus per tablespoon. It’s rich and creamy and I can taste the slightest hint of coconut, which I like.

I haven’t tried MELT on my toast, since I prefer it spread with peanut butter or almond butter. But it was great when I used it on steamed veggies including broccoli and carrots. (For more information about MELT, check out the links at the bottom of the post.)

Scooping Out the Melt Spread

Scooping Out the Melt Spread

These cupcakes were a huge success. They satisfied my craving with just 6 PointsPlus. And Mom, who doesn’t really like carrot flavored baked goods, gave them two thumbs ups proclaiming them, “the best carrot cake I’ve ever had.”


Lighter Healthier Carrot Cupcakes Ready to Frost

Lighter Healthier Carrot Cupcakes Ready to Frost

Enlightened Carrot Cupcakes Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Lighter, healthier carrot cupcakes with lemon cream cheese icing, a delicious portion controlled way to indulge in carrot cake with just 6 PointsPlus value
Recipe type: Dessert, Cupcakes
Serves: 12
For the Cupcakes
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used Pampered Chef Cinnamon Plus)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil (I substituted MELT Spread)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup finely shredded, peeled carrot (about 2 medium)
  • 1 can (8-ounces) crushed pineapple, drained very well
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
For the Lemon Cream Cheese Icing
  • 2 ounces ⅓-less-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used MELT Spread instead)
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1-2/3 to 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  1. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg until well blended.
  3. Add the oil, vanilla, egg, carrots, and pineapple and stir until well blended. Gently stir in the dried cranberries.
  4. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, dividing it evenly among them.
  5. Bake on the center of the oven for 16-18 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Remove pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes and then remove the cupcakes from the pan and let them cool completely on the wire rack.
  7. While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the lemon cream cheese icing. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter (or MELT spread), lemon zest, vanilla, and salt with an electric mixer on medium speed until just blended and smooth.
  8. Gradually add 1-2/3 cups of the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the lemon juice until blended. If the mixture seems to soft, add more sugar until you reach a nice spreading consistency.
  9. When the cupcakes are completely cool, frost the cupcakes with the lemon cream cheese icing
Cook's Notes
Nutritional Estimates Per Serving (1 cupcake): 222 calories, 7 g fat, 38.5 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 2.3 g protein and 6 WW PointsPlus value I love Pampered Chef Cinnamon Plus Spice Blend in place of Cinnamon. It's a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ground orange peel, cloves and ginger. Because of the nutmeg in the blend, I didn't add the ⅛ teaspoon called for.

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