healthier chocolate cupcakes sits on a white plate.

Valentine’s Day has never been a big thing in the Johnston household. We have a lot of relationship milestones this time of year (February 12, my husband’s immigration anniversary; February 13, anniversary of the first day we met online; March 17, our wedding anniversary), so Valentine’s Day kinda falls by the wayside each year.

That’s not to say I don’t LOVE Valentine’s Day—I totally do. I’m a sucker for hearts and sprinkles and candy and red and pink and glitter and roses and lovey-dovey stuff. I just can’t find fault with a day that’s about bringing more love into the world. Yes, we should shower our loved ones with compassion and appreciation all year ’round, but it doesn’t hurt anyone to go a little bit above and beyond one day a year, does it?

Our Valentine’s Day plans are pretty tame this year (and honestly, on par with how we’ve celebrated every February 14th for the past decade). They involve a toddler, some sort of decadent pasta dish, and maybe a bottle of wine if we can find the corkscrew that said toddler hid somewhere in the kitchen cabinets. And these chocolate cupcakes. Because it’s not Valentine’s Day without some fudgy, rich, dark chocolate, now is it?

What makes these healthy cupcakes?

I’m in love with this cupcake recipe for exactly three reasons:

(1) It is mega-delicious. We’re talking fudgy, tender, perfectly chocolate-tastic cupcakes.

(2) It’s made with all “healthy” and “natural” ingredients (in quotes because everyone needs to define what those two words mean for themselves). No refined sugars (in fact, the fudgy frosting is just sweetened with dates). All whole wheat flour.

(3) It’s small batch—it makes two big, holiday-celebrating chocolate cupcakes or four normal-size cupcakes. 

An unwrapped healthier chocolate cupcake sits on a white plate.

What do I need to make healthy chocolate cupcakes?

For the cupcakes themselves, the ingredients aren’t all that different from a standard cupcake recipe, but there are a few changes:

  • White whole wheat flour instead of regular all-purpose flour. White whole wheat flour has a lighter, less nutty flavor than regular whole wheat flour, but more nutrients than all-purpose flour. It’s a win all-around!
  • Coconut oil or avocado oil replace some of the butter.
  • Maple syrup instead of granulated sugar. A little maple syrup goes a long way to add flavor and sweetness!

I’ve been playing around more lately with plant-based cooking in my kitchen, and I’m having a blast because it feels like a whole new territory of healthy cooking to discover! I tested these chocolate cupcakes with both “normal” omnivore ingredients (butter and an egg), and I also did some testing to perfect these using vegan ingredients, too, but couldn’t quite nail it down perfect enough to publish. I’m gonna keep on working on it!

Tell me about this frosting!

Unlike the cupcakes themselves, the frosting is decidedly unlike what you’d get on a typical cupcake. But that doesn’t make it any less delicious—I promise! Instead of a butter-based frosting, you’re going to make a date frosting. Hang with me here—the chocolate is going to mask any date flavor, so you’ll just be left with fudgy chocolate goodness. 

A healthier chocolate cupcake sits on a white plate.

I promise these taste just as awesome as standard cupcakes! Enjoy.

Small Batch Healthy Cupcakes

Small Batch Healthy Cupcakes

Yield: 4 cupcakes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

These Small Batch Healthy Cupcakes are fudgy and tender, and only make four cupcakes. Perfect for chocolate cravings!


For the Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates (about 5-6)
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

For the Cupcakes:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil or avocado oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, beaten


  1. Begin with the frosting by placing the pitted dates in a tall, narrow container (like a small Mason jar or measuring cup). Pour over boiling water, and use a spoon to push the dates into the water as much as possible. Let soak 15 minutes.
  2. Once soaking time is finished, pour the dates and soaking water into a high-powered blender (like my Ninja). Add in the cocoa or cacao powder, vanilla, and salt. Blend on high until very smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until cold and firm, about 3 hours.
  3. To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°. Line four cups of a muffin tin with paper muffin liners, set aside.
  4. Melt the butter and chocolate chips together in a double boiler (or you can do this in a microwave safe container, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth). Remove from heat.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa or cacao powder, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, as well as the maple syrup, oil, and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Add in the egg and stir until just smooth.
  6. Fill the liners in the prepared muffin tin 2/3 full with the batter. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely, then frost.


Like lots of frosting? Double the recipe to get the frosting-to-cake ratio you see in the photos.

I like to err on the side of undercooked baked goods, so I pulled these out right at 12 minutes. They're a little gooey, but they set up when cooled.

YouTube video
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 cupcake
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 394Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 294mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 5gSugar: 36gProtein: 5g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

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  1. Totally annoyed I didnt read the lengthy narrative now… Cant believe ive just made a total of 4 cupcakes and have to do all over again!! urghhh who makes 4 cupcakes at a time!!

  2. I just watched the video…Amazing!! Cupcakes look yummy too..Can you taste the dates? …don’t like them.

  3. This is sinful! Who are you fooling with this small batch… I was melting the second portion of butter before I even finished frosting the first batch! ?

    1. Haha! At least it slows down the cupcake eating if you have to take the time to make another batch? 😉

  4. This frosting is genius! I’m going to use this frosting recipe again and again! My cupcakes turned out pretty dry, but I loved that it only made a handful, so I’ll have to try them again (no chocolate chips in the U.K. so I used a chocolate bar and may have messed it up that way).

  5. Thank so for taking one for the team to see if you can develop a vegan version! But in the meantime, I’m sticking with the idea that desserts are worth a “cheat”. Can’t wait to try these.