Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chocolate Frosted Orange Muffins

I found out from one of the million Duke email lists I'm on, and don't remember signing up for, that Duke's Nutrition Services was having a healthy dessert contest called Smart Sweets. Someone suggested that I enter so I went home, threw a bunch of stuff together and voilá, these muffins were born. (Ok, maybe it wasn't that easy, but you get the picture.) I know they look more like a cupcake, but texture wise they're more of a muffin. Whatever you want to call them, I thought they were really tasty and considered my opinion confirmed when Austin had several of them. You see, he usually ignores my alluring baked goods so I just end up bringing treats in to my lab.

In the first phase of the contest, the recipes were judged only by the description, which I've included below (it's a bit over the top but, what can I say, I was selling it hard), and the ingredient list. Since I made it though the first phase to the semifinals, I got to participate in a bake-off yesterday. Each dessert faced off against the other desserts in their category (luxury, fruit inclusive or vegan) for a chance to be in the finals. One finalist from each category have their dessert prepared by Duke Dinning Services in mass quantities to serve at the Great Hall on March 28th for students to choose the overall winner. So... guess who won the vegan category? That'd be me! I'll keep you posted on the results of the final bake-off but in the mean time, have yourselves some muffins.  

Chocolate Frosted Orange Muffins
Makes 10-11 muffins

These aren't your mama's muffins. That is, unless your mother was a baking ninja that could make delicious treats using tofu, avocado, oranges and chocolate. The muffin is so moist you won't miss the artery-clogging butter and using the whole orange (yes, peel and all) makes the muffin taste especially bright. The frosting is thick, creamy and ... made with avocado! Say whaaaat?! Yes, avocado. Trust its goodness. It's also chocoholic approved, since it has almost a full bar of 100 % cacao baking chocolate in it. Check (most of) your guilt at the door though. Each muffin has more protein than an egg, 25% of your daily dose of calcium, over 50% of the manganese you need in a day, and about 20% of your daily fiber. Too good to be true? I think not!*


For the muffins
  • 1 whole medium orange, washed
  • 1/3 cup of vegetable oil (canola, sunflower, light-tasting olive oil, or other heart healthy oil)
  • 3/4 cup firm tofu
  • 1 and 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar (white sugar would work as well)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
For the frosting
  • 1 medium ripe avocado
  • 2 oz / 86 g / 1/4 cup silken tofu  (must be silken for the frosting to be smooth)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 3 oz / 85 g 100% cocoa baking chocolate bar (Ghiradelli makes a good one)
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C.
            2. Break the chocolate up into pieces and put it in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave it for 30 seconds, stir and repeat until all the chocolate has melted. Set the chocolate aside to cool.
            3. Let’s put those sweet knife skills to use. Carefully cut off the orange peel, trying to get as little pith (the bitter white stuff) as possible. Next, cut off the pith of the orange until all you have left is juicy orange goodness. Cut the orange up into chunks and toss into the food processor along with the orange part of the peel. If your orange has very thin skin (or little to no pith), you can avoid all this hassle and just cut up the whole orange.
           4. Put the brown sugar, oil and vanilla into the food processor along with the orange. Blend until smooth, using a spatula to scrape down the sides if necessary.
           5. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder and baking soda.
           6. Mix the wet and dry ingredients until just combined.
           7. Grease a muffin tin with some vegetable oil or cooking spray. Alternatively, use cupcake liners. Fill the cups until they’re almost full.
           8. Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
           9. While the muffins are baking, make the frosting.  Put all the frosting ingredients into the food processor and blend until smooth. This will take at least a couple minutes .
     10. When muffins are done, cool in the muffin pan for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.
     11. Once muffins are room temperature, top them with the frosting. If you want to get fancy, you can put the frosting into a plastic bag, snip off a corner of it and use it as a piping bag. If not, you can always use a spoon to plop some of the frosting on each muffin, then use a knife or spatula smooth it out.

*Nutrition facts calculated using this website. Daily values based on a 2000 calorie diet.


  1. wow, they look gorgeous! Congratulations Sara, this is a very innovative recipe! I'm so proud of you! And I can't believe its vegan!
    One tip, when taking the peel off the orange, you don't need exemplary knife skills, you can use a regular vegetable peeler to take off the peel, especially if the orange is firm. This way you avoid most of the white pith.
    Congratulations once again!

  2. Thanks Kritika! That is a great tip which I'll make sure to use next time (or when I have to make TONS of these for the students). Send me good vibes on March 28th for the final bake-off!