Simple Green Cupcakes – A St. Patrick’s Day Surprise!

I’m not claiming this idea to be “healthy” so please, all crazy health nuts need not comment. The idea here is to have a little fun with the kids, celebrate a holiday by making something green (without taking all day or making a huge mess), and possibly adding a few extra vitamins into the mix, literally.

I love using a boxed cake mix in a pinch especially around the holidays. They make it easy to bake quick desserts where you can easily shave down the fat and calories without anyone noticing. Not even the “I don’t eat light desserts” naysayers, like my husband, can tell the difference. He will rarely eat any of my baking experiments but always likes the ones that start with cake mix. I simply tell him it’s from a box and then all of sudden he’s willing to eat it. It’s maddening but I’m not going there.

Anyway, this idea slapped me across the face after my recent obsession with green smoothies. I’ve done the cake mix and applesauce trick with wonderful results, why not puree a little spinach in it first to make it green? Who needs food coloring?!

Simple Green Cupcakes - A St. Patrick's Day Surprise!the batch

The result was DIVINE… seriously! The perfect cupcake…. Not even a HINT of spinach… just green which is exactly what I wanted for good old St. Patrick’s Day.

The little guy loved them too. I had to cut him (and myself) off at two. The funny thing is he knew what was in them and didn’t care! I thought I’d be all sneaky making the spinach puree while he was at school and then having the batter ready for him when he got off the bus to decorate.

He came home excited to put on the sprinkles and said, “How did you turn them green?”

Simple Green Cupcakes - A St. Patrick's Day Surprise! - sprinkles

“I used a secret ingredient.” I said.

“It’s spinach, isn’t it?” Simple Green Cupcakes - A St. Patrick's Day Surprise!

LMAO “It IS! How did you know?”

“You always like to put healthy things in the recipes.”

Yes I do Little Man man.. yes. I. do. :)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 15 muffin tins with liners and spray with a bit of non-stick to be safe. Note: probably not necassary but I’m over cautious.

Puree the applesauce and spinach in a food processor or Magic Bullet. In this case I like the bullet as you can work it by simply pulsing and shaking the container a bit. It took awhile to get the puree started but once it caught I let it blend for a good minute.

Simple Green Cupcakes - A St. Patrick's Day Surprise! bullet Simple Green Cupcakes - A St. Patrick's Day Surprise!  - the puree

Note: You can add the spinach in batches.

Dump the cake mix and spinach puree in a large bowl.

Simple Green Cupcakes - A St. Patrick's Day Surprise! make the batter

Beat with an electric beater for 2 minutes on medium until the batter is combined.

Separate the batter into the 15 cup cake liners. Add sprinkles if you like. This is my way of making them festive without icing. In my opinion, the cupcake has enough sugar already. No need to add tons more on top. Sprinkles are just as fun!

Simple Green Cupcakes - A St. Patrick's Day Surprise!  beforeSimple Green Cupcakes - A St. Patrick's Day Surprise!  - after

Bake for about 20 minutes, then enjoy and admire your frestive green cupcakes!

Simple Green Cupcakes - A St. Patrick's Day Surprise! inside

Little Man really did like them and I’m glad he is learning to enjoy the simple things without fearing the healthy addition.

Simple Green Cupcakes - A St. Patrick's Day Surprise! opening

Maybe one day we’ll invent a spianch based green cupcake from scratch but in the mean time, enyoy!

Simple Green Cupcakes - A St. Patrick's Day Surprise!  - eating

Hope you have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day next week!

P.S. I can’t belive I’m early with a holiday idea. That NEVER happens! ;)

Approx Nutritional Information per serving
Servings Amt per Serving
15 1cup cake
Calories Fat Fiber WWPs
153 2g 0g old: 3 new: 4
Sugar Sat Fat Carbs Protein
16g 1g 31g 2g
Posted in: 3 WWP, 4 WWPP, Dessert Ideas, Muffins Ideas, Party Ideas, Toddler Approved, Vegetarian Ideas
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51 Comments and 0 Replies

  1. Chrystal N

    These look great! I was trying to think of something to send to my son’s preschool for St. Patricks Day – these look super easy to make so I’m excited to try them! Thanks!

  2. Crystal

    GENIUS. Every time you post a recipe like this, I ask, why didn’t I think of this a long time ago? Love it. I don’t know if you already tried this, but beets/beet juice work well for pinkish/red cupcakes too. Oh my, your pregnant brain comes up with the best ideas :)

  3. Amy Ramos

    Wow! These look great for dessert next week.
    I have a box of spiced cake mix. Do you think that will work as well?

  4. roni

    I think they will taste GREAT! But you may have hard time making them green. If I remember correctly the spice mix is already quite brown. It’s totally worth a try though! I’d up the spinach to counter the brown.

  5. Krista S.

    Girl…you are a GENIUS! When I first saw the title of the post though, I thought, “Why is Roni baking with a cleaning agent?” (Have you ever heard of Simple Green?) Anyway, I’m totally going to try these out….they look great.

  6. josie @ The Skinny Way Of Life

    Don’t feel bad my husband is a boxed baked good person too! I made homemade Brownies before with pureed spinach and it tasted like poo LOL but I can see how a boxed cake mix can mask the flavor. I’m really excited to try these! Have You ever heard of a cake mix called “Naturally Nora”?? I find it in my regular grocery store or on Amazon. Its an all natural boxed cake mix without the preservatives its really good and taste just like the regular boxed mixes! Check it out : )

  7. Brandy Jo

    I’m gonna make these after the kiddos go to bed! I think I’m gonna add some banana to it too! (I am super obsessed with the green smoothie!)

  8. kristin t

    Whew! I thought you meant “Simple Green” cupcakes!…as in the green household cleaner…I was so confused (but I was prepared to be really REALLY impressed)! :-)

  9. Josie @ Skinny Way Of Life

    Oh BTW I just showed my 4 yr. old daughter the picture of the cupcake and I told her we were going to make these next week for St. Patty’s Day and she said, “what kind are they?” and I said “Green.” lol her response, “Do they have Spinach in them!? That’s awesome!!” hahaha! It’s nice when you can be honest with them : ) my husband on the other hand said “I’m sorry but that’s sick…” when he found out I was putting spinach in a cake. Oh well you can’t win them all!

  10. Kelly

    Well this is a great idea! I can’t wait to make a batch for our next family get together- what fun! You are really kicking the creativity into high gear lately- pregnancy agrees with you!

  11. Brandy Jo

    I made these last night for my kids and the neighbor kids (one doesn’t eat any veggies.) I forgot to add the applesauce but it turned out sooo good! I did 4 cups of spinach, 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 1 banana. They all 4 LOVED them!! The picky one at the whole thing and then I told her about the spinach, and she just shrugged and says “it tasted like bananas!” This is such a good recipe! They turned out almost muffin like. (oh, I did add a splash of water to thin the batter out)I could probably put some peanut butter on top and give them one for breakfast if I was feelin fun ;)

  12. Niki F

    We are baking our version right now! (Only had 1/2 c. applesauce so subbed egg/egg whites and skim milk.) They smell delicious!

    I’m serving them to company tomorrow. Will let you know how it goes… :)

  13. Niki F

    We had extra cupcakes for tomorrow night’s company, so I let the family try one tonight for dessert. They were a HUGE hit! HUGE! Momma got lots of compliments from my three kids. And my husband’s comment was “These are so good, I don’t know why you don’t add spinach to everything.” I already have green monsters and green oats, but this has inspired me. I even added a full packed 5 cups and no one could tell, apart from the bright green!

  14. Karen

    Oh my goodness! I am SO making these for our St. Patrick’s Day party, and my kids’ preschool parties. Can’t wait to see what the kids think!
    I always add pureed spinach to my pasta sauce, but never thought to do this to sweet dishes too! Great idea!

  15. Amy

    I made these last night and they turned out fabulous! Gonna make some mini ones for my son to take to school on St. Patty’s Day. He loved them!

    I used almost a whole bag of baby spinach. Didn’t measure it out but I’m sure it was 4 cups (or so). The batter sort of scared me because it was super thick, but they turned out REALLY moist and delish.

  16. Suzanne

    Roni you told Amy that she can always add more water, but I didn’t see any water in the recipe you posted. I’m making mine today sometime and will add a banana, too! So happy you came up with another idea for eating spinach without tasting it!

  17. roni

    Oh Sorry – I meant as according to the box. The box has you adding some water to the original recipe. A 1/4 cup or so wouldn’t upset things too much as the batter is real thick but you wouldn’t want to go overboard. It will make the cupcakes fall apart easier.

    The “green” monster/oats is just the name people give to adding pureed spinach or other greens to smoothies and oatmeal. It’s just a way to describe them. Does that make sense?

  18. Suzanne

    I just ate my first piece of green cake (didn’t have cupcake liners). I added 1 banana and also more applesauce (I have to make my own so just used what 2 apples made). I had to add 1/2 cup of water to get my blender to puree the spinach (I have the worst blender ever!!) so the batter was more like normal (btw, my cake box called for 1 1/3 cups of water, but I only used the 1/2 cup).

    The batter tasted just like it does without all of these extra ingredients which for me was a big plus because I’d rather eat the batter anyway!

    The cake was very moist and didn’t fall apart at all. It tasted almost like zucchini bread to me without the nuts!

    Definitely will make this again. Thanks again for helping me to eat vegetables!

  19. Emily

    I have a question. Do you NOT add in any of the things the box recipe calls for? Only powder mix and spinach mix? Just wanted to clarify as I’m making today. So excited and appreciative of the recipe!!! Thanks!

  20. Brook

    This is Awesome. My daughter had been told to stay away from Red and Greed food coloring right before her 6th B-day and valentines and her cake she wanted was pink. I was afraid another special day of hers was gonna be ruined. Now I can make her green cupcakes and we will not have to worry about any allergic reactions.

  21. Carolyn @ lovinlosing

    I just made these and they’re great!! I used Betty Crocker mix and when I used the Recipe Builder they came out to 3p+ with sweetened applesauce (accidentally bought that instead of unsweet) for 16 cupcakes. With 24 cupcakes and unsweetened applesauce (0p+) they would only be 2 p+!!

  22. Kim

    I just made these!! They are good. Perfect St Patricks treat when the kids get home from school. I used a yellow cake mix & it worked out just fine! Thanks for all the ideas!!

  23. Jill

    These are delicious! who would have ever thought spinach in cupcakes! My 2 yr old does not eat any green vegetables but LOVES cupcakes…these are perfect! Thank you!

  24. Amy

    I copied your recipe using the same mix, unsweetened Santa Cruz applesauce, and 4 cups of spinach. I added about a 1/4 cup of water when mixing, and they turned out yummy! The best part was that I made my 2 and 4 year old’s day by letting them help, and they got a little more iron in their diet. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Melanie

    Made these last night and they were perfect. Bright green – great texture (for a box mix w/ no oil) – and no one could figure out the “secret” ingredient.

    I ended up with 17 cupcakes – taking them to 3P+ each. Next time I may add a banana … and definately MORE spinach.

  26. Lisa

    I’m excited! I came across this recipe by accident. Thought I’d give it a try! Going to make them right now. I’m NOT telling a soul about how they became ‘green’. :)

  27. Katie

    I catered a 50-person St. Patrick’s Day party yesterday and despite rave reviews for the potato skins, beer bread and all the other munchies I made, these cupcakes were by far the biggest hit. I didn’t tell everyone right away that it was spinach, but when I started hearing “these are the most delicious cupcakes I’ve ever had!” I figured it was safe to reveal the secret ingredient. Couldn’t have gone over any better! Brilliant! Thank you!

  28. Aimee

    I just took these out of the oven. They are delicious. My husband agrees. I made them while my 4 year old sleeps so he won’t see the secret ingredient. He is the pickiest eater. I can’t wait to see if he eats one. Thank you for sharing this idea.

  29. Beth

    I just tried these today….I didn’t really measure the spinach after the first 2 packed cups I put in…so I think I may have put a bit much in. My 4 year old daughter loved them though! My husband and his friend could tell they were off…but said they’d eat them with a bit of icing (men!).

  30. karen

    I’m definitely going to be trying these soon with my almost 5 year old! I normally detest the idea of hiding vegetables in food just to trick him into eating them … but I have a feeling that when he helps me make these and knows upfront that a vegetable is going in them then he might be more willing to try spinach NOT in cupcake form!

  31. Jamie

    Just wanted to let you know that I tried these with chocolate cake and kale. I was hoping the stronger chocolate would mask the stronger kale flavor, but not so much. My 3 yo gobbled them, but I can really taste the kale! I can’t wait to make the pink beet for my daughter’s first birthday! Thanks for the idea!

  32. Jess

    Hi Roni, love your blog! I was wondering if I could use frozen spinach for this recipe. If so, do you recommend thawing before blending and how many cups to use? Thanks in advance.

  33. roni

    I’ve never done it Jess and I’m not sure I recommend it. Frozen spinach is much more concentrated and has been blanched. The flavor is much stronger and the color wouldn’t be as bright.

    Hope that helps!

  34. Sabrina

    My cousin made these today and brought them over. They were sooo good!! Moist and delicious. And really not a hint of spinach. (which would have been fine because I like spinach) They were YUMMY!

  35. Misty

    These look fun! I just found them via Pinterest so I’m way late for St. Patty’s Day but I might try them for Christmas with some red sprinkles.

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