Catherine Burns

Low-sugar pumpkin cupcakes are the ideal Hallowe'en snack

  • lower-sugar pumpkin cupcakes are a great lunchbox alternative to cookies and granola bars (Photograph submitted)

Straight out of hurricane eating and we’re into Hallowee'n! Seems like there’s a never-ending stream of natural disasters and holidays determined to trip us up.

It’ll be Christmas before we know it, then it’s Valentine’s Day and Easter, Bermuda Day and Cup Match … that’s before we’ve added in birthdays and anniversaries; there’s always something to celebrate! That’s a good thing but it’s not so good when we celebrate it with sugar or junk.

Many people have a “leave the treats alone” philosophy. They think if you’re going to have cake, just have real cake and let it be; make sure you eat in a healthy way the rest of the time and you’ll be fine. I agree with that in general, but when the milestones and holidays and treats become an avalanche, it helps to be able to navigate our way more soundly.

At Hallowe'en, with a lot of sugar on the horizon, I like to roll out this lower-sugar cupcake recipe for lunch boxes instead of cookies or granola bars. It uses fresh pumpkin, too, and it feels great to eat in season.

I don’t usually frost these, but if you do, skip the store-bought icing (have you ever read the ingredient label?

It’s a horror show of corn syrup, artificial dyes and other weird things).

Instead, just soften some butter (or dairy-free margarine) and whisk in icing sugar and a little pumpkin pie spice. This recipe was a real labour of love. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, low-sugar and free from any artificial rubbish. That’s a mean feat and we destroyed the kitchen (four times) perfecting it so, I hope you enjoy!!

Pumpkin cupcakes (makes approximately 36)


1 cup cornmeal

2/3 cup brown rice flour

¼ tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (use more for adults or stick to this for kids’ palates)

¾ cup brown sugar or sucanat

2 eggs, whisked and at room temperature

½ cup apple sauce

1 cup pumpkin (either steamed and well mashed, or tinned)

½ cup coconut oil, melted

Flax sugar: ¼ cup milled flax seed, ¼ c fine brown sugar or sucanat, ¼ cup desiccated coconut.


1. Preheat your oven to 330F.

2. Prepare the flax sugar — mix all ingredients and crumble any sugar lumps with your fingers. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.

3. Place mini cases in the mini-muffin pans.

4. Add all dry ingredients to a large bowl and mix.

5. Mix in the eggs, apple sauce and pumpkin, using a hand whisk.

6. Mix in the coconut oil until well combined.

7. Fill the cases until they are almost full.

8. Sprinkle the flax sugar on top.

9. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until firm but springy on top.

10. Cool in the trays for a few minutes and then transfer to wire racks.

Catherine Burns is a qualified nutritional therapist. For more details:, 236-7511 or Natural Nutrition Bermuda on Facebook