This recipe combines the two things I’ve been loving lately: light & airy cupcakes, and high-protein cheesecake.
The frosting for these cupcakes comes directly from my No-Bake Cheesecake Bites Recipe, with some modifications to make it more of a frosting!
The base of these cupcakes is very similar to what you’ll find with my Protein Funfetti Cupcakes or Cookie Dough Cupcakes, because it’s one of my favorite baking hacks out there. Mix some cake mix, protein powder, and diet soda, and you’ve got yourself a light and airy cupcake.
To make these Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes, we’re actually going to add some freeze-dried strawberries directly into the batter as well.
These cupcakes are very customizable, so if strawberry is not your thing, feel free to experiment!
Main ingredients for Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes
The base of these cupcakes is my go-to recipe for cupcakes: cake mix, diet soda or seltzer, and protein powder (which I forgot to include in this photo).
Yes, you can combine cake mix with any diet soda or seltzer to make a cake! The soda replaces the need for eggs or oil and works incredibly well. I’ll be honest… I have no idea why, but I’m not gonna fight it, because it makes baking much simpler.
For these Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes, we’re going to add freeze-dried strawberries into our batter as well! If you blend the strawberries up in a spice grinder or food processor, it will give you a strawberry powder that you can add directly into the batter.
Instant strawberry powder!
Depending on how strong you want the strawberry flavor to be, you can add more strawberries to these cupcakes. I prefer my Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes to not have an overpowering strawberry flavor, so I kept it relatively minimal (but still flavorful, of course).
When it comes to adding your strawberries, you can safely double the amount if you want!
With the amount of strawberries the recipe calls for, we still get a nice red color to these Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes.
You can see little pieces of freeze-dried strawberries right in the batter, which I love. If you want to kick things up a notch, you can even finely chop up some fresh strawberries and add those into your batter. I didn’t want to take that chance, because that will add some extra liquid to the cupcakes, but I’d imagine it would work great.
These Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes lose that beautiful pink color as they bake, but don’t let that fool you- that strawberry flavor is still very much present!
Of course, the base of these cupcakes is not the star of this recipe. That title goes to the frosting…
Making the protein cheesecake frosting
You can definitely whip up a more simple frosting like in my Funfetti Cupcake Recipe or my Protein Oreo Cupcake Recipe, but we want these to taste like authentic cheesecake.
The inspiration for this frosting comes straight from my No-Bake Cheesecake Bites…
Of course, we need to turn these into frosting, so there are some slight differences!
Don’t be fooled: this protein cheesecake frosting is incredibly easy to make.
All it takes is mixing some ingredients together with an electric hand mixer. Then, at the end, we’re mixing in some cool whip to thin it out to become this beautiful frosting you see below.
You can see how the consistency changes from step 2 to 4! That’s all thanks to the cool whip. Note that I used fat-free cool whip, but any type will work great.
The key to this protein cheesecake frosting is letting it sit for 3-4 hours
I know I know, waiting is the worst. I get it.
While you don’t have to wait, the flavor changes dramatically after a few hours. I won’t pretend to know what I’m talking about, but it’s clear that something sciency happens over time to change the flavors. If you taste it right away, the cream cheese flavor will be very prominent. After a few hours, the flavors really mix together to create that authentic cheesecake flavor we know and love.
While 1-2 hours will work, I’ve found 3-4 hours to be the golden ticket. You can safely make this frosting the night before and then bake your cupcakes the next morning if you want to make things super easy on yourself.
This recipe makes enough frosting for you to be able to really pile it onto each cupcake. I even had a little bit leftover, which I happily just ate with a spoon.
If calories are a concern, you can certainly cut the amount down, but more frosting = better in my eyes.
All that’s left to do is top the Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes with some graham cracker crumbs to really give it that authentic cheesecake flavor.
Then you’re good to go!
How to store these Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes
These cupcakes are best served cold. While most cupcakes are served at room temperature, this frosting is best when it’s cold.
I mean, it is cheesecake after all!
Don’t worry, the base of these cupcakes will stay light and airy even when cold.
If you keep these covered in the fridge, they will last you throughout the week no problem.
Protein Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes
Light and airy strawberry cupcakes are topped with a delicious cheesecake frosting to give these an authentic cheesecake flavor with only 160 calories per cupcake!
- 135g (1 Cup) Sugar-Free Yellow Cake Mix (or any cake mix!)
- 31g (1 Scoop) Vanilla Whey/Casein Protein Powder
- 1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp Seltzer or Diet Soda
- 15g Freeze-Dried Strawberries
Cheesecake Frosting Ingredients
- 31g (1 Scoop) Vanilla Whey/Casein Protein Powder
- 4oz Fat Free Cream Cheese (can use Greek cream cheese or reduced fat)
- 40g Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt
- 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
- 20g Powdered Sugar Substitute
- 45g Fat Free Cool Whip (any Cool Whip will work great)
- Pinch of Salt
- 10g Graham Cracker Crumbs
- 2 Fresh Strawberries (can use the freeze-dried strawberries as well)
Before we dive in, I want to recommend that you make the frosting ahead of time! I've found that letting it sit for 4 hours in the fridge yields the best taste (overnight works well too) because the flavors really combine well over time. You can whip up the frosting and then immediately make cupcakes, but I can promise you that it will taste much better after sitting for a few hours.
- Add all of the cheesecake frosting ingredients to a large bowl except for the cool whip. Using an electric hand mixer, beat everything together until it becomes a thick frosting. It will definitely be thick, but that's what we want!
- Add your cool whip to the bowl, then mix it all up to smooth it out. Add it to the fridge for a few hours to allow the authentic flavors to develop. 3-4 hours is ideal, but overnight will also work.
- Once you've let the frosting sit, it's time to make the cupcakes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, mix up the cake mix and protein powder to get out any clumps. Using a spice grinder or food processor, blend your freeze-dried strawberries until it becomes a powder, then add that to your bowl.
- Add in the seltzer/diet soda and mix it up until you have a thick but pourable batter. The type of cake mix and protein powder you use will determine how much liquid you need. For mine, 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp was the perfect amount. Start with 1/2 cup and add in more as needed until it's a pourable batter.
- Grab a cupcake/muffin tin and add liners, then lightly spray with nonstick spray. Using a spoon, fill each liner about 2/3 with batter. You don't want to fill them all the way because they will rise.
- Add to the oven and bake for 17 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes (you don't want these to be hot when you frost them or the frosting will melt). Take your cheesecake frosting out of the fridge and use a butter knife to frost your cupcakes. The frosting is the star here, and the recipe makes enough for you to lay it on nice and thick.
- Sprinkle each cupcake with graham cracker crumbs (I ended up using a total of 10g) and then top with a slice of strawberry to serve.
- Take these cupcakes to the next level by using a strawberry flavored protein powder OR strawberry cake mix! If strawberry isn't your thing, you can play with the flavors to make virtually anything you'd like.
- The macros don't exactly add up on this one because of the sugar-free cake mix utilizing sugar alcohols. If you're unsure about the nutrition, I always recommend calculating your own based on your specific ingredients.
- I have not tested this recipe with 100% whey protein. Remember, I use a BLEND that also contains casein protein. Whey protein should work in this recipe, but I can't say with 100% certainty. To see how different types of protein powder affect cake recipes, check out my Ultimate Protein Powder Substitution Guide.
- You're going to want to keep these in the fridge- trust me, they're even better cold. The cupcake stays nice and light, and the frosting tastes like authentic cheesecake.
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Nutrition InformationYield 6 Cupcakes Serving Size 1 Cupcake with Toppings
Amount Per Serving Calories 160Total Fat 1.5gCarbohydrates 28gFiber 1gSugar 5gProtein 13g
Monday 12th of December 2022
These were SOO good and the frosting was delicious! The flavor really does improve after some time in the fridge so highly recommend that. Also, apparently you can mix cake mix and pumpkin without eggs or oil too! That seems like it might be pretty dense though so I’m not sure how adding protein powder to that would turn out, what do you think Matt?
Friday 16th of December 2022
I've actually tried cake mix + pumpkin before and I didn't love the result. I felt like the pumpkin affected the flavor too much, so I don't think adding protein powder to the equation would help. Couldn't hurt to try, but I wouldn't have high hopes!