Superfood Raw Caramel Cupcakes with Banana-Cacao Nib Frosting

[SPECIAL DISCOUNT FOR DDD READERS!! If you’d like to get started with your own Mum’s superfoods, the company is offering a special 15% discount for any online orders from Diet, Dessert and Dogs readers! Just order your products via the Mum’s website and key in the code “RICKI” upon checkout. Note: This is an affiliate discount, so your orders will send a small amount of money my way.].  Go to the Mum’s product page to make your selections and start your purchase.]

I remember being awestruck the first time I saw a professionally prepared raw dessert at a raw foods restaurant in Toronto. As I recall, it was a cashew-based raspberry “cheese” cake  (but don’t quote me on this one–ever since I’ve undergone “the change,” my memory has become pretty sketchy. Like, so sketchy that I forget my sister’s phone number sometimes. So sketchy that I could spend ten minutes trying to remember the name of my favorite movie. So sketchy that I’ve been known to forget what I was about to say midway into a sentence. My memory is so sketchy, it could probably make a living as a street artist drawing tourist caricatures. They do say it comes back eventually. . . but unfortunately I can’t remember who “they” are.).

Anyway, my sketchy cheesecake was rich, thick and dense like “real” cheesecake, with a feathered swirl of deep carmine coulis running throughout. The crust was obviously not grain-based or baked, yet it approximated the classic graham crumb version beautifully. Having just previously learned all about the benefits of raw foods at nutrition school, I had no qualms about digging in, and indulged without any thoughts of calories, fat, or sugars (refined or otherwise).

A few years later, I came across Lessley Anderson’s “The Raw Deal.” In it, Anderson castigates establishments like Café Gratitude in San Francisco or Pure Food and Wine in New York City, which serve high-end, gourmet raw food. According to some raw food purists, he says, “the gourmet trend is potentially destructive to the raw foods movement because its aim is sales, not maximum health. Some of them feel that diners. . . are getting hoodwinked into thinking they’re being healthy, when in fact they’re eating a lot of excess fat and calories.” I recall one of my teachers at CSNN, who would bring with her 3 or 4 mangoes for lunch. For dinner, perhaps, a salad chock full of veggies and a handful of raw almonds.  Now that is healthy raw food.

Healthy, yes. . . but is it appealing? And is it a sustainable way of eating, even for avid health foodies?

While I do admire those purists who can subsist on just green juices, E3Live, and perhaps the occasional fistful of raw cacao nibs, I must respectfully disagree with the notion that raw gourmet is entirely evil.  A delectable raw almond pâté spread on raw sweet potato rounds is in no way comparable–by any stretch of the imagination–with liverwurst or fois gras. It may contain a slightly higher fat content due to the almonds and seeds, but those fats are cholesterol-free, and they contribute to heart health rather than detract from it.  Besides, who’s ever heard of someone eating half a recipe of almond pâté in one sitting? (Okay, so that was me. But it was only that one time. Though my memory is a little sketchy).

Even raw desserts are meant to be a once-in-a-while treat, not a daily habit.  Still, if you enjoyed a hefty piece of raw cheesecake (even with its high saturated fat content from the coconut, agave nectar with its high fructose content, fruit topping with its natural sugars, etc) once a week as opposed to an equal wedge of dairy-based cream cheese cake–well, which do you think would result in a more positive prognosis?  (Exactly.)

When I consider the ingredients in these superfood-filled raw Caramel Cupcakes with Banana-Cacao Frosting, honestly, I just can’t find anything to get up in arms about. (Oh–but DO get up in arms about my giveaway of Mum’s Original superfoods, which I used in this recipe! I’m giving away two prize packs of their products! To read my review and enter the giveaway, check yesterday’s post.).

The cupcake base contains cashews, pecans and hemp seeds, a trio that contribute minerals, protein and a great balance of Omega 3s, 6s and 9s to your diet. Lucuma is known for its sweet, caramel flavor while remaining low glycemic; it also provides an array of important minerals and some protein. The frosting is made of (mostly) coconut butter, a rich source of fiber and lauric acid, which boosts the immune system. While it does contain saturated fat, the fat in coconut is medium-chain fatty acids, a heart-healthy form of fat. The banana powder (which seemed to intrigue many of you who’ve already entered the giveaway) is made of whole bananas, dehydrated and ground to a powder. Along with their remarkable, unique taste, bananas also offer a good amount of potassium, a key mineral for healthy blood pressure and a host of other functions.  And since the cupcakes are miniatures, you can indulge in one (or two) and still feel good about what you’re eating.

Yes, Virginia Lessley, there IS such a thing as “healthy raw gourmet” (and to be fair, Anderson does admit that restaurant-ready raw foods compare favorably to, say, a Big Mac). Made from scratch and brimming with healthful ingredients, a beautiful raw dessert can be both restaurant quality and a worthy indulgence.  And that’s something worth remembering.

This recipe is being shared at Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

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Last Year at this Time: Supremely Summery Raw Zucchini “Bruschetta” (gluten free; ACD All Stages)

Two Years AgoGrilled Vegetable Salad with Tarragon Dressing (gluten free; ACD all Stages)

Three Years Ago: Fresh and Spicy Cilantro Sauce (gluten free; ACD All Stages)

Four Years Ago: Ten Photo Meme (see Chaser as a pup with attitude! See Elsie typing on the computer!)

© Ricki Heller

[Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. If you buy using these links, at no cost to you, I will earn a small commission from the sale.]



  1. Wow – both of these look amazing. Yum!

  2. Jeez Louise, do these ever look scrumptious!

    I have missed visiting your blog. I get your blog e-mails all the time, but sometimes the Internet connection where I’m living in Italy isn’t constant enough to permit me to click the links, so every Internet activity is limited, and Internet time is, consequently, limited to getting work done, for the most part. You didn’t need that long story, but all that to say that I dig this recipe!

    I am in total agreement with you regarding fats: there are good and less good kinds, and, with regards to the good ones, we just have to consume them in moderation and all will be fine. If cashews and almonds were a little less expensive here, I’d consume these adorable sweets in moderation 😉

    • Aw, thanks, Christina! And sorry you’re having trouble with internet (and nut!) supplies. Glad you like the look of the cupcakes, though! 🙂

  3. Nice post. I tried eating raw for a bit but I just couldn’t find a way to stop feeling “light-headed”. I noticed you mentioned eating raw sweet potatoes but I had read this article in the past… what do you think?

    “Sweet potato shows trypsin inhibitor activity. That means it contains an enzyme inhibitor that blocks the action of trypsin, an enzyme that digests proteins. The trypsin inhibitor prevents the digestion of protein. Sweet potatoes with higher protein levels have more of the trypsin inhibitor. This makes raw sweet potato difficult to digest. The trypsin inhibitor is deactivated by cooking.

    One way the raw food diet helps people is by supplying food enzymes. Food enzymes do part of the work of digesting the raw food. Enzyme inhibitors increase the amount of work that your body needs to do to digest foods. Enzyme inhibitors force your body to produce more digestive enzymes. This uses up resources that could be used to produce detoxifying enzymes. When animals are regularly fed enzyme inhibitors in research, they become sick. Sweet potato should not be eaten raw.”

    • Thanks, Dawn. I’m not a raw foodist or raw food specialist (you might want to ask this same question of Gena at Choosing Raw), but I did learn about a raw food diet and it was one of my teachers–who was a raw foodist–who first introduced the raw sweet potato rounds to me. I think, like anything else, a once-in-a-while consumption when you otherwise have no digestive problems shouldn’t hurt (but again, I’m not a professional; that’s just my own personal opinion). People still eat raw spinach despite the oxalic acids, raw cabbage despite the goitrogens, tofu despite the phytates, etc., etc.. . . it’s a matter of balance, I think. It’s never caused a problem for me (and I love the taste of them), so I will continue to consume them. But I think you have to do what feels right to you. 🙂

  4. This post introduced me to so many new foods! I have never heard of hemp hearts, banana powder, or lucuma, and I am going to read more about them now. These little cupcakes look delicious!

    • Thanks, Lauren! They are all delicious (I eat the hemp hearts from a spoon–just LOVE them) and good for you! I won’t be eating the banana powder for a while because of candida, but the lucuma is okay in small quantities, and it really adds a lovely flavor to sweet things. 🙂

  5. Well hello gworgeous…

    And where have you been all my life?!

    Sigh, if I could only grab these off the screen.

    Amazing, Ricki. Just love these.

    And I LOVE Cafe Gratitude. I live in Northern California (Davis) about an hour from SF. My husband is from the Bay Area so we are always in the City and we stop at this fine establishment every time we pass through. Often just for one of their milkshakes. They also have a location in Berkeley. I have their cookbook…and I’m actually making their raw ketchup tonight! 🙂

    P.S. I see this is labeled as “nut free” but I see cashews in every version. Just curious about this. Thanks Ricki.

    Be Well,

    • Amber, I’m so envious! I must get to Cafe Gratitude one day. . . sigh! Glad you like the look of the cupcakes. But where do you see the tag “nut free”? I can’t find it. . .??

      • Hi Ricki,

        I too hope you get to Cafe gratitude. Such an amazing place, experience, and community. Their farm is just down the road from us (about 15 minutes away). I would love to visit one day. It would be interesting to hear how the whole process from farm to table works in the restaurant industry.

        Well, I may very well be way off here Ricki, so I apologize in advance, but the “nut free” is under “suitable for” at the end of the recipe.


        • Thanks, Amber! No, you weren’t way off–I was just looking in the wrong place. I looked everywhere except right in the actual recipe! Error has been corrected now. Thanks for letting me know! 🙂

  6. I absolutely adore raw foods, but I would never exist on raw cannoli, cheesecakes, smores, or any other decadent treats that places like Pure Food and Wine make for us. They are TREATS! Even people who live on plant-based diets need a treat every once in a while. I’d much rather eat raw cashew ice cream with healthy fats than a scoop of dairy ice cream sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

    Love your recipe, Ricki!

    • Yes, couldn’t agree more! (Even though I probably *could* exist on raw cannoli, cheesecakes, etc. . . ) 😉 But there’s no doubt those are still better than the conventional desserts!

  7. Om my!! Now there’s a cupcake I can eat five of and not feel as guilty! Those are so cute and they sound so tasty!!

    Also, you’d asked about my cookbook. It’s supposed to be out late next month. It’s already available by pre-order through Amazon (you can find it if you search for Cookin’ Crunk). Yea!! Thanks for asking! I am soooooooo excited for it to FINALLY come out!

  8. These look incredible – far better than any non-raw cupcakes I’ve seen recently. I love the idea of using cupcake moulds to shape raw batter.

  9. My memory is feeling a bit sketchy tonight – though I suspect I will remember this post and the lovely pictures – I haven’t really got into raw foods – though am interested in reading about them and have dabbled sightly on the odd occasion – but I think your sort of discussion of raw foods is very useful – how I wish to eat just vegies and a handful of almonds but I just can’t see it happening on a regular basis

    • Ha ha! I know how you feel! 😉 I think raw veggies and almonds are great, just not for every meal. Sometimes, a gal needs a treat! 😀

  10. Wow, this is a superfood grand slam Ricki! You really packed them all in there and they look amazing.

    • Ha ha! I tried to use as many as I could! 😉 And the banana powder really is something special. .. I think you’d love it. 🙂

  11. Okay seriously; I came to your site to comment on your burger recipe today and just saw THIS!!!! OMG. Dying at how amazing these sound. I cannot wait to try them.
    You are a genius.

  12. Oh WOW Ricki!!! These look incredible!

  13. Oh my goodness. These are GORGEOUS!! I cannot believe how amazing these sound! I am so wanting some of these right now. And those photos are totally stunning!!

    • Aw, thanks, Kim! I have to admit I devoured the one I had (and would have had more if not for the banana, which I can only eat in minute amounts). Glad you like the look of them! (I think the sunshine/photo gods were on my side at that moment!) 😀

  14. Dear holy yes oh my heavens.

    P.S. I’m 25, and I have forgotten my own birthday more than once. I’ve also spelled my own name wrong before. Sometimes, the memory just doesn’t work, regardless of age! 😉

  15. These cupcakes contain so many things I adore! Buttery pecans, sweet lucuma powder, coconut butter, banana powder…ok, so the banana powder is brand-new to me, but I don’t have to taste it to be certain I’d love it!

  16. Joanne Banane says

    Where can I find banana powder- or do I have to make it myself? Also, lucuma powder?

    • Joanne, you can buy the banana powder directly from the Mum’s website. (Use the code “RICKI” on checkout and get 15% off). You can order the lucuma via amazon or iHerb–I think I’ve put a link in the recipe itself. 🙂

  17. I just found a great list of cruciferous veggies here. A couple of them I wouldn’t have guessed,like collards and wasabi. While you can eat some of them raw some of the time, you can’t switch one to the other and include something in the group every day. It’s not just cabbage, but all its friends and relations. On another discussion board, I read that cooking for 30 minutes reduces the goitrogens significantly (by 1/3), but obviously you wouldn’t be on this discussion thread if you wanted to do that.

    In addition, I found this list on the Whole Foods site which are also goitrogenic. some duplicate those on the link above.

    These really threw me: kombu and seaweeds. The only seaweed that doesn’t taste fishy to me and a standby treat.

    Lastly, has a good list of non-goitrogenic foods and thyroid stimulating foods. Many of them are good raw and I like them also, but unfortunately not as much as I like the cruciferous veggies. sigh.

  18. oops, that was kombu and SWEET POTATOs. Apparently, I was writing on auto-pilot.


  1. […] Diet, Dessert and Dogs Share : Pin ItTweet Posted by Miss Cupcake in Fruit Cupcakes and tagged with banana, caramel, […]

  2. […] Lucuma Lucuma powder is actually dried and pulverized flesh of the lucuma fruit, native to South America. While I wouldn’t use lucuma on its own as the sole sweetener in a recipe, it’s a lovely addition to amp up the sweetness and confer a slight caramel or butterscotch flavor to your dessert. Two of my favorite recipes using lucuma are Walco-Nut Butter and Raw Caramel Cupcakes with Banana Frosting. […]

  3. […] Superfood Raw Caramel Cupcakes with Banana-Cacao Nib Frosting from Ricki Heller […]

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