Cupcakes will never achieve the nutritional stardom of a food like kale. But you can lower the fat and calories in your favorite treat, while mildly raising the fiber content, by substituting applesauce for some of the oil. While many oils used in baking aren't inherently unhealthy, they do contribute about 480 calories for every 1/4 cup compared to applesauce's 25. Anytime you alter a recipe, you affect the final product. Cupcakes made with applesauce may be heavier and drier than their oil-based counterparts.
The Role of Fat
The oil added to cupcakes helps them brown, as well as contributing to their light delicate texture and tender, moist crumb. While you can use applesauce in lieu of oil in any cupcake recipe, those with a heavier, heartier batter -- such as spice cakes and carrot cakes -- fare best with the substitution. If you want a light and airy cupcake, you're best off following the recipe faithfully. You should definitely forgo subbing applesauce for the fat in a cupcake recipe that calls for creaming the butter and sugar as one of the steps in making the batter. Creaming contributes to a lighter batter that rises high in the oven. Applesauce blended with sugar will not create the same effect.
How Much to Use
While you can substitute applesauce measure for measure for oil in cupcakes, you risk a dry finished product. Instead, settle for using applesauce for half to three-quarters of the oil in a recipe. So, if the cupcakes call for 1 cup of oil, use 1/2 cup of oil and 1/2 cup of applesauce; or 1/4 cup of oil and 3/4 cup of applesauce.
Add applesauce with any other liquid ingredients when mixing the cupcake batter. Work with unsweetened applesauce if possible. If you do use sweetened, you'll need to reduce the amount of sugar in the batter according to your tastes. Applesauce adds a neutral flavor to the finished product, so you don't have to worry about it negatively affecting the taste of the batter.
Baking the Cupcakes
The baking time of cupcakes may shorten when you use applesauce to replace some of the oil. About 10 minutes before the cupcakes are supposed to be done according to the recipe, check them by inserting a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cupcakes are ready. If they aren't quite finished baking, continue to bake them but recheck every few minutes so that they don't dry out and overcook.