Healthy Dessert Recipe: Wheatgrass Cupcakes With Acai Buttercream Frosting
A new year’s resolution of mine is to eat more healthily — pretty much the same as everyone else's! We all feel a little guilty after Christmas and New Year’s as a result of all the eating and drinking. When January arrives, many of us are in need of a post-holiday detox. For me this means bumping up my nutrient-rich green veggies and increasing my consumption of antioxidant-rich fruits. During my recent quest for a healthier diet, I came across a couple of easily accessible superfoods: the nutrient-laden wheatgrass, with its ample supply of vitamins and minerals, and also acai, which is a Brazilian fruit packed full of antioxidants. Daily, or even twice daily, I enjoy my wheatgrass juice, and, once in a while, I prepare an acai bowl. I got a little addicted to the acai bowls when on holidays in Brazil, the birthplace of acai. They literally have acai cafes there which serve all things acai, from smoothies, juice and acai bowls. I’m pretty much having a crave attack just as I am writing this. Random, but if you are ever in the city of Santos, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, go to a place called D’Boa Acai. They say they serve the best acai in town, but I certainly do believe them.
Not so much on the healthy side, I also quite enjoy the odd treat. Carrot cake cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream frosting, to be precise. Well I suppose they do contain a load of carrots and walnuts, so maybe they aren’t that terrible. A few days ago I decided I would make a batch of cupcakes, but this time I considered ways in which I could nutritionally improve them. I wanted to come up with a healthy cupcake recipe. Since I had wheatgrass powder and also acai powder on hand, I thought of ways I could incorporate these into an existing cupcake recipe I use. To the prepared cupcake batter I added an ample amount of powdered wheatgrass, which gave it a vibrantly-green colour. To my typical buttercream frosting recipe, I incorporated a good amount of acai berry powder, which in turn provided a deep purple tone. It was all very exciting indeed.
Having baked the cupcakes and added the acai frosting, the finished product actually looked pretty awesome and appetising. Upon tasting these cupcakes, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised, they were actually really good. Even mother dearest approved, which is always a positive sign! The wheatgrass provided a subtle green tea-like flavour to the cupcake base. The acai gave a very interesting taste and texture to the buttercream frosting. It reminded me of an acai bowl, which is pretty much a healthy dessert in itself. Overall, the superfoods provided a super taste to the cupcakes. Now obviously I cannot declare this unique cupcake recipe as 100% healthy, considering it does contain sugar and fat, but in comparison to the typical cupcake, it can be considered a healthier alternative. Definitely a step towards your healthier diet plan for the new year.
What is wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass is a nutrient-rich young grass of the wheat plant, latin name ‘Triticum aestivum’. It is prepared from the primary leaf/seed leaf of the wheat plant during its early stage of growth. Wheatgrass grows outside in temperate climates, throughout Europe and the U.S. and is popularly grown indoors for producing wheatgrass juice or smoothies .
Health benefits of wheatgrass
Wheatgrass possesses 98 of 102 earth elements found in soil. It contains vitamins, minerals, enzymes, bio flavonoids, amino acids, proteins and chlorophyll, which are all beneficial for health. The high chlorophyll content gives wheatgrass its characteristic green colour. Vitamins present in wheatgrass include, vitamin A, B, E, C and K. Minerals include Iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, copper, sulfur, boron and iodine .
The consumption of wheatgrass has been associated with many health benefits. Studies report possible anti-cancer activity, antioxidant activity, improved digestion and blood flow and anti-arthritic activity. It also may be useful for a general detoxification of the body due to its high vitamin, mineral and biomolecule concentrations .
What is acai?
The acai berry is a small, dark purple fruit that grows in huge clusters on acai palm trees. These trees are native to South America and grow in the Amazon rain forests. The nutritional content is present in the fruit and pulp of the acai, which only makes up 10% of the actual berry .
Health benefits of acai – Ageing and disease
Let’s first talk about free radicals. Free radicals are formed as byproducts of aerobic metabolism, which is a type of metabolism involving the creation of energy in the presence of oxygen. Free radicals are typically reactive oxygen or nitrogen species (ROS or RNS), they cause damage to cells and tissue, and are associated with diseases including vascular disease, diabetes, cancer and ageing. Common free radicals present in the body include, superoxide (O2•-) and peroxyl radical (RO2•).
Antioxidants obtained from foods are believed to be useful in counteracting free radicals in the body. Since acai is an antioxidant-rich food, its consumption may prove useful in relation to free radical-associated diseases.
In a recent study by Schauss et al., the antioxidant ability of acai was tested against a number of sources of free radicals. Freeze-dried acai fruit pulp/skin powder was used and was shown to have extremely powerful antioxidant properties against superoxide (O2•-). Acai had an extremely high scavenging capacity for the superoxide free radical, which was by far the highest of any vegetable or fruit studied to date. These findings may help back up acai’s antioxidant role in anti-aging and disease prevention .
- 1 1/3 cups (160 g) plain flour, sieved
- 1 cup (200 g) brown sugar, demerara is good
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3 eggs
- 2/3 cup (160 ml) light oil, vegetable or canola
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp tsp salt
- 4 tbsp wheatgrass powder
- 1/3 cup (50 g) chopped walnuts (optional), highly recommend
- 3 tbsp acai berry powder
- 1/2 cup (110 g) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 2 cups (250 g) confectioners (icing) sugar
Method: How to Make Healthy Cupcakes
Please see instructions under pictures
1) Pre-heat the oven to 175 Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). Line the cupcake tray with 12 baking cups.
2) Combine the flour (sieved), wheatgrass powder, baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Mix to get an evenly distributed mixture.
3) Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and brown sugar until frothy and until lightened in colour. Pour the oil, vanilla extract into the mixture and add the chopped walnuts (optional, but recommended). Fold the flour-wheatgrass mixture into the liquid.
4) Pour the cupcake mixture into the prepared baking cups. Bake in the center of the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes. To test if done, insert a wooden pick, it should come out clean. The cupcakes will feel firm when cooked. Let the cupcakes full cool on baking rack or on cold worktop surface before applying the buttercream frosting.
Acai Buttercream Frosting:
5) Using a food processor, process the soft butter until fluffy. Add in the acai powder and process on high to incorporate. In general, it is hard to fully blend in the acai and you may have a few acai 'particles'. You also get this when making acai bowls, it's normal!
6) Combine the confectioners (icing) sugar bit by bit while processing. The mixture should be thick enough for piping, although if a little runny you may pop into the refrigerator to stiffen.
7) Transfer the buttercream frosting into a piping bag and carefully pipe it over the top of the cooled cupcakes. Pipe in one continuous go, moving from the outside to center.
8) Store the cupcakes in the refrigerator and enjoy!
© 2016 David Branagan