Clearly, you’d be hard pushed to find a recipe on this site that doesn’t contain sugar. You’d also have to be living under a rock not to have read any number of blog posts or newspaper articles about the evils of sugar. The World Health Organisation has recently halved its recommended intake for adults to 25g a day. That’s really not a lot. I put my favourite cookies through a basic nutrition calculator and they apparently have 9g of sugar per cookie. Which is fine if you eat just one or two.

The problem is, I’m not very good at stopping there.  The last time I made a batch of those aforementioned cookies for my boyfriend to take to work, I went to bed having eaten five or six in the space of a couple of hours.  That’s two days of my sugar intake right there, on top of whatever else I’d eaten that day.  There was no reason why I needed to eat that many cookies and as much as I can try to rationalise it, fundamentally, I’m just a bit greedy.


I woke up the next morning and decided that something had to change, not least because I’m vain enough to want to lose a few pounds before our wedding later this year and I’m pretty sure that eating your daily calorie allowance in the shape of triple chocolate cookies is not really the way to do it.  That day happened to be Ash Wednesday so I persuaded my boyfriend that we should give up eating sugar (excluding alcohol because I’m realistic) after 5pm for the duration of Lent.  I didn’t want to give up sugar entirely, even for the relatively short period of Lent, because I knew that wouldn’t work for me and because I wanted to still be able to eat my usual breakfast of yoghurt and granola so the 5pm cut off seemed like a suitable compromise.

We haven’t been totally hardcore about it – we’ve had fruit every now and then and I can’t even begin to think how my boyfriend would react if he wasn’t allowed tomato ketchup – but, in general, our evenings have been free from anything sweet.

I’ve actually been surprised at how easy it’s been. Given how much I used to struggle to stop at one square of chocolate, I expected that I’d end up spending every evening obsessing over what goodies might be lurking in the kitchen.  I thought we’d be counting down the days until Easter Sunday when we can start indulging like we used to. Instead, it’s almost felt liberating. Whilst we’re not going to keep it up full time after the end of Lent, I think it’s definitely changed our eating habits for the better.

We’ve kept the ‘no sugar after 5pm’ rule in place at the weekends but that hasn’t meant that we’ve been entirely treat-free (as is probably obvious if you look at my instagram). I’ve tried to focus on quality rather than quantity though so we’re only eating sugar when it’s really worth it.  And that’s where these little chocolate cupcakes come in.

This is not a “healthy” recipe.  I’ve not tried to replace anything with pureed beans or avocado (not that there’s anything wrong with that). They contain sugar and butter and a hefty amount of dark chocolate and that’s absolutely fine with me because they are more than worth it.

The cupcakes themselves are barely adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe that I’ve made plenty of times over the years. I’m pretty sure that I’ve talked about them before on the blog but that post seems to have been lost somewhere along the line. They’re really great though; satisfying on every level. Rich with chocolate and muscovado sugar but not heavy at all, thanks to the leavening power of whipped egg whites. I love the combination of dark chocolate and creme fraiche so I’ve used it here to top the cupcakes, simply whipped with a touch of vanilla, rather than a traditional frosting which I think would be too sweet and cloying. These are simple little cakes and all the better for it.


flourless chocolate cupcakes with whipped creme fraiche {gluten free}

Yield: 6 cupcakes

I'm pretty sure that I posted these cupcakes on the blog near the very beginning - they're based on a Martha Stewart recipe that I keep coming back to time and time again. I love the simplicity of these cakes and, of course, the fact that they are super rich and chocolate-y. They're more like a rich chocolate mousse than anything. I adore creme fraiche and the tartness is such a pleasing contrast in these little cakes. Although I threw some chocolate curls on top of these, berries would work equally well and bring a nice freshness. Just a note - don't try to whip low-fat creme friache. I can tell you from experience that you'll get absolutely nowhere.


    For the cupcakes:
  • 100g (4 oz) dark chocolate (70% ideally)
  • 45g (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • A generous pinch of salt
  • 45g (1/4 cup) dark muscovado sugar
  • For the whipped creme fraiche:
  • 140g (about 1/2 cup) creme fraiche (full fat only)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons icing sugar, to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 120C/240F (fan) and line a cupcake tray with paper liners. In a small pan, very gently heat the chocolate and butter until smooth and glossy. Be careful that the chocolate doesn't split - if you keep the heat low and keep stirring, you should be okay. Take the chocolate off the heat and allow it to cool for 10 minutes or so.
  2. Once the chocolate has cooled, whisk in the egg yolks and salt and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, whisking all the time, until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Whisk a tablespoon of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold the chocolate mixture into the rest of the egg whites, folding gently until all the streaks have disappeared.
  3. Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases and bake for 25 - 30 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin before transferring to a wire rack. The cakes will fall and shrink away from the paper wrappers as the cool; don't worry about this. I tend to just take the cakes out of the wrapper once cool and serve them as is.
  4. To make the topping, tip the creme fraiche into a bowl, add the vanilla and whisk until gentle peaks form. Taste the frosting to determine whether you want a little sugar in there too - it will really depend on your preferences.


Cupcakes barely adapted from Martha Stewart

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33 Responses to "flourless chocolate cupcakes with whipped creme fraiche {gluten free}"
  1. Ceri says:

    These sound right up my street. Chocolate and butter? AND creme fraiche! I’ll always remember the desserts day on my natural chef training when we discussed that actually having a dessert earlier in the day is better than having late at night – the rise in blood sugar levels from a dinner dessert potentially disrupting your ability to have a sound nights sleep. So hurrah for 5pm cut off with a day time treat allowed. I commend your lent commitment. I used to give up chocolate for lent but these days just can’t do it!

  2. Magda says:

    Hmm those 25 g of sugar per day are a bit scary. I’m pretty sure I eat more than that… You know, I read an article that said the combination of sugar and fat is the one that is more difficult to give up, ie every kind of dessert out there, simply because when you combine sugar and fat, the taste is not that sweet as the taste of sugar alone. And it makes sense. But who just eats sugar alone, right? Anyway. Your cupcakes look amazing and I love the whipped creme fraiche.

  3. I’m the same as you – If I make cookies, I just can’t stop after 1 or 2. And I also try to choose quality over quantity. A sweet treat needs to be “worth the calories” and whatnot. The problem when you’re a baker is that MOST of the treats you come across ARE worth the calories …. haha. But these sound wonderfully decadent and yet balanced by that creme fraiche topping.

  4. I am the same way as you too! Lots of times, I want to keep ‘testing’ cookies to see if they are really as good as I think they are. This results in 6 cookies gone before dinner and another couple after (because..dessert?). This week, I’ve had trouble capping my sugar and found it was resulting in me being really tired and kind of being all over the place, so I’m trying to find ways to keep my consumption down too! We can do it girl!

  5. I gave up sugar (including alcohol!) for lent a couple of years ago, but I feel like your 5pm rule is much more sustainable :) I am in love with these cupcakes and the fact their is relatively little sugar in them… And shipped creme fraiche? Amazing!

  6. Skye says:

    Oh goodness, I tried to give up sugar for lent this year – and caved after a few days! Maybe I should have gone for the no sugar after 5pm option… These look absolutely delicious, though! Xx

  7. I once tried to give up sugar for a month. The firs three weeks were hell, but the last week was… okay??? You definitely get used to it after a while. I like your no sugar after 5pm rule though — that seems like a happy compromise between the extremes.

    Stunning cupcakes, btw.

  8. Good for you. I started out small and then recently I went “clean” Among many things, I gave up un-refined sugar for 3 months (I still allowed natural sugar, honey, agave nectar etc). I have not decided its permanent!

  9. Kari says:

    My sugar consumption has a tendency to spiral out of control so I periodically have to go on a no sugar allowed spree. Its so rough for the first three days but after I make it through, I find that I really appreciate flavors so much more!

  10. I gave up sugar for a whole year! It was one of the hardest things I have done. I didn’t even eat tropical fruit! Now I only eat a couple of treats on the weekend, and everything else is low gylcemic. This works for me, as it keep my energy levels high. I never want to go back to no sugar ever, as I need to have room in my life for beautiful gluten free treats like these cupcakes. They look incredible!

  11. Oh, these look so divine! What a beautiful combination of flavors + textures. And good for you cutting back on sugar! For me, sugar isn’t as much as a temptation as salt – I could probably cut sugar (mostly) out of my diet (fairly) easily for a given amount of time, but salty stuff? That’s my real vice! But, probably once a week I want something sweet that is absolutely perfect + these little cakes would total fit the bill. Lovely.

  12. Kristen says:

    Oh wow – giving up or limiting sugar is so hard! I’m proud of you for trying – and this cake looks amazing!

  13. Ashlae says:

    This recipe looks and sounds so dreamy, lady. And I’m loving the whole nothing-sweet-after-5PM. Being someone who typically has a small bowl of ice cream AND half a chocolate bar each night after dinner (muuuch more than the recommended 25g ceiling), I could probably benefit from taking a similar approach to the sweet stuff.

  14. Jennie says:

    No sugar after 5pm sounds like a really good rule! I know its the evenings on the sofa when I start to feel the need for something sweet, and with nothing else to distract me, tend to eat way to much sugar! If I know there’s a box of cookies just sitting in the kitchen its very hard to get my mind to think about anything else. I’ve been trying to cut down sugar lately, but I love cakes and cookies and baked goods far to much to get rid of it completely. I’m not about to cut out one of my favourite things in life! Just being more mindful about sugar does really help though.
    These cupcakes look delicious. Sometimes the simple ideas really are the best ones, and I love the idea of using creme fraiche to top them. Sounds like it would be a lovely light contrast to the dark chocolate.

    Jennie // scarletscorchdroppers


  15. Props to you guys on cutting down on sugar, it really does make a difference and I’m glad you feel encouraged by the experience so far! The best part is that you’re being realistic, and I think that is what will make new habits stick ;)

  16. Renée Kemps says:

    Love the recipe! I think it was a great idea to cut sugars out like that and experience with it. And I totally agree that it’s all about the balance. Butter and sugar are definitely worth this cake!!

  17. Jodi says:

    These are so adorable, Kathryn! Loving your approach to cutting down on sugar, well done lady! (as I eat a cookie for breakfast – oops!) xo

  18. Medeja says:

    Lovely treat! Looks simply amazing!

  19. Sini says:

    I really like your concept of avoiding sugar intake after 5pm – I think that, although only following that rule for a restricted time period, like until Easter Sunday, it still is a great way to find balance and get a new perspective on one’s eating habits. I really should give it a go myself!
    Oh and I totally love the look and feel of these cupcakes! What a treat.

  20. Kate says:

    I’m so fascinated by the whole sugar debate. I 100% agree that we all eat too much and should eat less refined sugar, but I do wonder whether all these ‘sugar free’ desserts which contain huge amounts of maple syrup, honey or other sugars are really the answer. Delicious, yet, but not a ‘healthy’ alternative really – people should just be cutting down and enjoying delicious sugar and butter filled treats like these cupcakes *less often*. That’s the theory anyway ? These look wonderful and I love the topping x

  21. The whole sugar thing both fascinates and terrifies me at the same time. I *know* I eat more than I should and often feel quite hypocritical telling my 5 year old that too much is bad for you, then devouring anything sweet in the evenings once she’s in bed. But the thought of quitting is a scary one. I do like the none after 5pm idea, something for me to ponder. Anyway, I love the look of theses cakes. I’ve never used creme fraiche as a cake topping before but I can see it working really well.

  22. Katie says:

    I always roll my eyes at people who tell me they’ve given up sugar (mostly because really they haven’t, and what fun is life without something sweet from time to time?) and I usually try to talk my clients out of it because I find that going totally restricted most often leads to a crash and burn situation. I prefer to eat the real stuff less often, and I like your nothing after 5pm rule! I also normally bake a treat only once a week, so even if we do go overboard (and we do) it’s not so much damage done.

  23. Abby says:

    These cupcakes look wonderful, Kathryn. I just love your photos.

    And about giving up sugar after 5 p.m…. what a brilliant idea! All over the internet there are blog posts & articles about people who gave up sugar entirely. And while that may work for them, it’s just not really realistic. I also believe that depriving yourself isn’t the way to go… so your plan is totally genius.

    And quality > quantity. Always! xoxo

  24. Joanne says:

    I think I need to institute the no sugar after 5pm rule for a month also…our consumption has been getting out of hand! These cupcakes sound like the perfect compromise, and i mean that in a good way! Rich and delicious and so worth it but not totally loaded with sweetness.

  25. It’s totally not the same as dessert (like, not even a little) but my husband and I have started making tea in the evenings instead of a snack, and it’s been strangely helpful in reducing my trips to the kitchen for a treat! This is absolutely the kind of naturally gluten free recipe that I love to pass on to people who aren’t used to baking gluten free – the type that is fantastic and inherently without gluten, because it doesn’t use flour. These look so perfect and hearing that it’s a recipe you’ve come back to again and again just confirms for me that I should make these (and soon!)

  26. Lily Lau says:

    I was in search of a really sweet chocolate recipe, and I can’t believe I found this treasure! I’ll start preparing it right now :)

  27. I know I consume way too much sugar. It’s a constant battle for me. Creme fraiche makes the best frosting! Just the right amount of tang and richness. I love this.

  28. I almost licked the screen. This looks so delicious. :D

  29. James H says:

    Wow, lovely stuff. I think I will have to make a knock-off, no way mine will look as good.

  30. Tonia says:

    I don’t know if anyone else commented, but in the instructions I’m guessing that you meant to beat the egg YOLKS into the cooled chocolate. ;-)
    This looks like a lovely recipe, by-the-way! If I can’t find crème fresh could I just combine heavy cream and sour cream (2-1 proportion) instead? I’ve never had crème fresh, so I’m not sure if that would be about the same flavor profile.
    And congratulations on your upcoming marriage – may you have a lovely life together for many, many years!

    • kathryn says:

      Ah yes, thank you for pointing that out! I will update the recipe…obviously having a moment of brain fail. In terms of a sub for the creme fraiche, I think whipping up dome heavy cream and then folding through the sour cream would probably get you an approximation of the flavour and the rich tang you get from creme fraiche. It’s also possible to make creme friache at home by combining heavy cream with a couple of tablespoons of buttermilk or yogurt and letting it sit for 24 – 48 hours.

      And thank you for your kind words too : )

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