Lemon Essence Vanilla Cupcakes – with Almond/Coconut Flour (grain free, super low sugar)

Ever since Valentine’s Day, when I first made the Almond/Coconut Flour cupcakes, I’ve been wanting to make some variations. They’re just too good not to (and easy too). Lemon seemed like a logical choice. I made some other lemon coconut flour cupcakes (muffins?) a couple months ago, and they were great too, but more lemony. I wanted these to be vanilla with just an essence of lemon.

Also, I wanted to adjust the amount of maple syrup/stevia to see if I could still make them kid-friendly with less added sugar.

Coconut/Almond Flour Cupcakes


5 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
2 Tbsp maple syrup (or the original recipe was 1/4 cup maple syrup if you want to stick to that)
3/4 tsp vanilla liquid stevia (if you do 1/4 cup maple syrup, do 1/2 tsp stevia)
3 tsp lemon extract (try real lemon juice if you want to—it would likely work, I just didn’t have any and wanted to keep out the fructose)
1/2 tsp baking powder


2 Tbsp almond flour
6 Tbsp coconut flour
6 Tbsp coconut oil, melted (you could use butter)


Blend well, until all the lumps are gone (I used a hand mixer on high for both steps). Fill greased mini muffin cups 3/4 way (one heaping Tbsp in each). You may need to smooth out the batter before baking (it will be thick). Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. This made 21 mini muffins. Last time I had 23, so I think it depends on how fluffy the coconut flour is (I used Bob’s Red Mill this time, and Coconut Secret last time).

I totally love these—and I had 4 plain ones for breakfast after I made them. I figured pretty much all I was eating was eggs, coconut/almond flour, coconut oil, and a dab of maple syrup (I mean, really, what’s 2 T spread out over 21 cakes?).

Frosting is tricky (for kids) when you’re going for low sugar. I would be perfectly happy with just stevia sweetened cream cheese frosting, but I’m thinking kids will detect that (and maybe not like cream cheese anyway). Maybe a yogurt frosting? Or whipped cream sweetened with a touch of maple syrup (and colored a pretty color?).

I decided to go with yogurt. I happen to know that my taste-testers love strawberry yogurt. I’ve seen them practically eat (and sometimes wear) buckets of it… It made perfect sense.

So I made this (thinking about how to keep it structurally sound. i.e. on top of the cupcakes/muffins).

Strawberry Yogurt Frosting

1 cup whipped cream (make it yourself…just add 1/2 tsp liquid vanilla stevia instead of sugar)
1 cup plain full fat Fage Greek Yogurt (not 2%, not 0%….Full Fat! Then click that link, and find out why I use Fage.)
3 Tbsp Strawberry Jam (I used Wegmans Organic Jammers Fruit spread)
natural red food coloring (please don’t use the crappy stuff—it’s terrible for you)

Mix with hand mixer, put in pastry bag or Easy Accent Decorator and place in the fridge for a while. Frost cupcakes and return to fridge until you’re ready to eat them. You’ll have extra frosting. I’m sorry about that—you’ll just have to eat it. Or frost something else with it.

Personally, I like these muffins better than Betty Crocker or whatever you’d get out of a box. There is a very slight background coconut flavor, and the texture is a little more dense than regular cake. Which is why it should be called either a Cupfin or a Muffcake (I think I should go with Cupfin–and spellcheck is even recognizing it as a word).

The Reviews:

Reviewer 1 (adult): Fabulous. Great flavor and texture. Love love love the frosting.

Reviewer 2 (adult): It’s really good!

Reviewer 3 (adult): All the flavors are great together. You could be on Cupcake Wars!


Reviewer 4 (adult): These are good! (note: she got the leftovers—if the kids decide not to like them at all, she’ll be happy!)

Reviewer 5 (kid): I love the frosting so much. The cake part is good. The frosting is my favorite. (this was after about 5 minutes of being skeptical about taking a bite—he has experienced some of my not so successful recipes in the past)

Reviewers 5, 6, 7  (kids): No comments really, but none of them wanted it after licking the frosting.

Ok, so here’s my take on the last 3 reviewers. I’m being honest here and telling you that they wouldn’t eat them, and I know why (I think). They licked the frosting (all of them), and it didn’t taste like the ones from the plastic package in a 12 pack that you buy in the grocery store–with neon frosting, made out of God only knows what. And mentioning that, my friends, is also a plea not to feed other people’s kids that stuff (or your own, but that’s not really the case in this example). It ruins their ability to fairly judge a good cupcake. Remember how I talked about kids judging things based on how they’re different rather than if they’re good?

I’m actually blaming myself for this situation (not that it’s a big deal, but it’s a learning experience), and I really appreciate the parents who are letting me test things on their kids. I don’t think the world is going to change and stop feeding crappy cupcakes to kids—but it made me realize that making the cupcake look like something the kids have had before is not going to be the best way to approach this. I know for a fact that my reviewers like strawberry yogurt, but when they licked the cupcake, they expected a totally different type of frosting, even though I told them it was made out of yogurt (I mean, who is really listening when they’re about to lick frosting?).  So then they wouldn’t try the cupcake. I am doing this experiment based on offering foods, not pushing, bribing, or anything else. As a result, I’m not offended or upset if nobody even tries them. It’s all part of the experiment to see what kids will try. Also, I want to know who does and doesn’t like it—kids are different anyway. Not everyone will like everything!

The oldest kid reviewer had the most open mind about it (and he is exposed to all kinds of junky and healthy foods in his world) — he was hesitant, but knows me well enough that he’s not expecting Duncan Hines frosting. Because of that, he loved the frosting (I also know that he loves yogurt, so if a kid hates yogurt, this one probably wouldn’t work at all). He liked the cake, and ate all of it, but acknowledged that the frosting was his favorite part and told me I could make it for him again. I talked to him about how it was different because it was healthier than a normal cupcake. Little kids don’t get that kind of thing—but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be discussed (a topic for another day).

Anyway, I think the experiment was a success.

I got information for my study, and some reviews! I think the next approach might be to do the cake without the frosting—call it a muffin, give it to them for breakfast or a snack (and not for dessert). Maybe they’ll have different expectations. And if they hate it still, that’s ok. I’ll try it on more kids and get an overall vote!

Now I have to run—-I have a meeting and a yoga class, and then I’ll be glued to my computer working the rest of the day and evening. I mean, unless someone wants to interrupt me. Then I’ll procrastinate!

What do you think about this situation? Am I interpreting it accurately? Do you have any other ideas for how I could approach kid-food-testing, or why/how they make judgments? 


8 thoughts on “Lemon Essence Vanilla Cupcakes – with Almond/Coconut Flour (grain free, super low sugar)”

  1. So interesting Lisa!  I do think that you’re interpreting it accurately.  I actually felt the same way myself when trying “gourmet” raw food…if you make something look like french fries and CALL it french fries, but it’s actually just raw jicama, then I’m going to take a bite and be all “meh”.  But if you say “hey, try this jicama, I think you’ll like it!” without trying to make it look/sound/pretend to be something else, then I’ll probably love it.  And I’m a grown-up!  It must be true 100-fold for kids.

    And I seriously think that you could open a gluten-free, sugar-free bakery.  Lately  your blog has been all beautiful baking all the time!

  2. i vote CUPFIN, too!
    yup, you cannot make something that looks like what a child is used to eating but tastes different. they will see “cupcake” and draw up what a cupcake tastes like in their memory. then when YOUR cupcake is different (still yummy but different) they will automatically reject it. i think the open approach is best: “hey! this is a cupfin! it looks like a cupcake but is not going to taste like a cupcake you’ve had before!” or whatever. but with kids, you can never predict!
    i liked reading your review responses!! you won the adults over!

  3. It’s crazy that I didn’t think of it before I did it—I was just thinking that if it was pretty and tasted good, that (1) they’d try it, and (2) they’d realize it was a taste they like.
    But I’ve had this conversation with people before—especially about raw and vegan foods. That maybe they should not try to be something they’re not—At one point, my friend and I made this chickpea recipe that we thought would be a good sub for tuna…and at first called it Mock Tuna, but really, it wasn’t like tuna. So we changed it to Chickpea Surprise. Ha.

    Down with Neat-balls and Not-Dogs!!

    I suppose we could apply this to other areas of life too, but they be a little much for a Sunday morning 🙂
    Thanks for your thoughts, Stephanie.

  4. satisfying a kids taste is tricky, especially if they are used to sugary sweets. but to be fair, adults are too!! i took black bean brownies to a vegan bake sale today and watched the first couple of adults buy them and eat them. oh dear… one of them said “wow, just like they should be- so moist and hat avocado ganache is awesome” the other ones “this is different” and “its not really sweet enough, a bit weird” and one more person taking a mini bite and rolling his eyes. i made the brownies out of black beans mostly, one TBSP of instant oats and 1 Tbsp of coconut flour. i added a lot of honey (for my taste and liking) but i guess it still wasnt enough for a “normal” person’s taste. Its so difficult, it seems my taste has changed. i am definitely not into sweets and if, i am all about dark chocolate, papaya and avocado pudding.

  5. Lisa_healthy_diaries

    Your muffins always looks so light and fluffy! I have to try your recipe since my coconut flour muffins always turn out so dense and dry!

    It’s hard to get kids to try different things when their palates are so used to something else. One of our nephews who is 8 is a great eater and he will always try whatever we make!! The other 2 are a little more picky and hesitant always!

  6. I left out the lemon juice and stevia. Put in 1/4 cup of organic maple syrup and added 1/8 cup organic honey. Also added 1/2 cup of organic cream and increased the bake time from 12 to 15 minutes. This came out very well, sweet moist and tender, and my daughter loves them, too.

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