Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes

I bet you’re wondering what the big surprise is in our Chocolate Surprise Chocolate surprise cupcakeCupcakes, right? Drum roll, please. It’s a can of pumpkin and apple juice. Instead of adding oil to the cake mix, we use pumpkin and apple juice. The pumpkin increases the nutritional content by adding a good dose of vitamin A but it does not make the cupcakes taste like pumpkin. Sneaky, huh?

Last week my co-worker Holly shared our recipe for Pumpkin Apple Cake. Our Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes are a variation of that using a chocolate cake mix. One cake mix makes 24 cupcakes so if they won’t be eaten within four days, they freeze well in a freezer bag or other airtight container. These would be good for a birthday, bake sale, or when you just need a little chocolate!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes

Chocolate cupcake

Have you ever heard of a chocolate cupcake that provides 60% of the Vitamin A you needed in a day? Today is your lucky day!

My first experience with surprise cake was a layer cake made with spice cake mix and pumpkin pie spice. It tasted good. However, if it is not chocolate I usually don’t spend the calories on cake. We experimented a bit and came up with chocolate cupcakes made with pumpkin and apple juice. Believe it or not, there is no oil added at all.

I love this recipe because it is super simple, lower in calories than the usual cupcake, and more nutritious. I bought a pack of 6 juice boxes which I use just for this cake. It is super moist so I freeze what I am not going to use in the next 4 days .

 Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes

Serving Size: 1 cupcake | Serves: 24 | Cost Per Serving: .12


  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
  • 1  box (18 ounces) chocolate cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) apple juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts *

*the walnuts are optional, but they are included in the nutrition facts



  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or spray muffin tins.
  2. Combine the pumpkin, cake mix, eggs, and apple juice in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Beat batter well. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full of batter. Sprinkle walnuts on top.
  4. Bake according to package directions for cupcakes (about 20 minutes).
  5. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.
  6. Let cool on rack for 5-10 minutes. Remove from tin.


  • You can use a white or spice cake mix with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice added to batter instead of the chocolate cake.
  • 1/3 cup measure works well to scoop batter into muffin tin.
  • Instead of cupcakes you can bake the cake in 9 x 13-inch cake pan or 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan. Use toothpick method in Step #5 to test for doneness.
  • Serve with low fat or fat free frozen whipped topping.

Valentine’s Day “From Scratch” Brownies

February is known for two holidays, Ground Hog Day and Valentine’s Day, but only one of these tempts our sweet tooth (and our pocketbooks).  Valentine’s Day is known for its expensive indulgences: eating out, flowers, alcohol, and chocolate.  For this Valentine’s Day, try some low-cost and healthier ways to celebrate like opting for a romantic homemade dinner rather than eating out or baking low-fat chocolate treats instead of buying expensive chocolate candy.

It seems like as soon as the holiday season is over, grocery store shelves begin to be stocked with tempting red boxes of chocolate.  A small box of these can cost as much as $5, which is a lot considering how few you get.  Making “from scratch” brownies is a great chocolate treat that can serve up to 10 people for a whole lot less money.  Making homemade brownies takes the same amount of time as a boxed mix!  Make the below brownie recipe Valentine’s Day special by using a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut them.  Enjoy them yourself and share with your friends, family or your sweetheart!

“From Scratch” Brownies


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup oil (to lower the fat content you can use applesauce)
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup white flour
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt


Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Mix well.  Pour in 9x9x2 in baking dish.  Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.  Check doneness with knife.  If knife comes out clean, the brownies are done.


Nutritional Analyses: serving size: 1/10, 192 calories, 9 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 42 milligrams cholesterol, 104 milligrams sodium, 27 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 3 grams protein

Rebecca Brotzman, RD, LDN

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