Kids in the Kitchen: Black Bean Browniecakes!

From Jennie Merrill

This past Saturday (1/28), we finally made cupcakes for Kids in the Kitchen. Developing SoFAB's Kids programming has been a learning experience and despite my resolve to teach elements of healthy eating, I also realize that you gotta reel 'em in somehow....which leads me to our Cupcake Class. I decided that if we were going to to Cupcake City, we had to make at least one healthier cupcake as well, so that we could make it a lesson in comparing and contrasting. So we made one classic chocolate cupcake with peanut butter buttercream frosting, and a black bean browniecake with REAL strawberry buttercream!

One of my favorite parts of my job is seeing kids experiment and find they really enjoy either a taste or an experience. This definitely happened on Saturday, and I also learned so much in the process of creating the curriculum. My co-worker found a couple black bean cake and brownie recipes, but having never tried them ourselves we were a little dubious (but excited!) about the idea of throwing beans into dessert. We decided to test them out and made both black bean cupcakes and the black bean brownie. Thank goodness we did this in advance, because for some reason (maybe the ratios were off for the smaller test batch, uneven mixing, or just some weird mistake) the black bean cupcakes had greenish soggy bottoms! To be fair, they tasted okay but it was like a Dr. Seuss book in our kitchen and no one wanted to eat them, not even Sam I Am! The brownies however, turned out delicious. We knew we'd found our healthy recipe to entice the kids.

I was very excited for the topping as well. I found a real strawberry icing recipe, where you pulverize freeze dried berries and add it to the mixture. Y'all. It not only tasted like real strawberries without that chemically aftertaste, it was the perfect color. I cannot stress enough how cool this recipe is and I want to try it with all the freeze-dried fruits now!

I also learned that cupcake classes should probably take a bit longer than I had carved out for them, as many of our cupcakes that were the last to the oven were the last to cool and the first to fall. Good thing cupcake goo tastes pretty amazing, but hey, it's the principle and practice of the thing, right?

One amazing story to come out of this flour fest is that I had received the heads up from a mom that her son was a little on the pickier side and might not try the cupcakes. I had asked all parents to keep the black beans a secret. I can handle picky, unadventurous kids, but it makes my job so much harder when I'm also battling their expectations and anxiety that can build ahead of time. So anyways, the day goes on, our little chef is participating, and then comes the real test: eating. I swear to God, he starts first on the black bean brownie....and ate the entire thing. His mom was shocked, I was shocked, we were all pretending not to be shocked so that he would keep doing it, but man. Those are the moments that I really treasure in my job.

A huge thank you to co-workers, interns, and volunteers for putting on a really fun day, and I hope you make these cupcakes too! Send me pictures to show off your creations, and especially if you try the real fruit buttercream with other fruits. See the recipes below and let us know what you think!


Black Bean Brownie Cupcakes

Inspired by KatieQ's video on Food52 here


  • 1 ½ cups black beans
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ cup oats
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 cup chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a blender, except for the chocolate chips. Blend until everything looks evenly mixed, about 2 minutes.
  3. Pour batter into a bowl, scrapping out the extra with a spatula. Mix in the chocolate chips with the spatula, folding them into the batter.
  4. Use a spoon to place batter in cupcake tins and fill each cup about 2/3 full.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes

The Best Strawberry Frosting

Recipe from:


  • 1 pkg. (1.2 oz) of freeze-dried strawberries (we found them at Whole Foods)
  • 1 C. unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tsp. lemon juice, or milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3-4 C. powdered sugar


  1. Dump your freeze dried strawberries into a food processor. Be sure and take out the little white packet inside, this packet keeps out any moisture but you don't want to eat it.
  2. Finely crush the berries in your food processor or blender.
  3. Pour into a sifter to remove any larger chunks, discard what doesn't go through the sifter.
  4. In a stand mixer, beat sifted strawberries and butter until smooth.
  5. Add lemon juice and vanilla extract and beat again.
  6. Slowly add in powdered sugar until you reach your desired consistency. Cupcakes will need a stiffer frosting while a cake can be a little more soft. To check, I always pull out my spatula and swipe my finger through the frosting. If the frosting keeps its shape and doesn't sink, you're good to go!