Recipe ReDux: The Cupcake Conundrum

That’s right – a cupcake conundrum. Yes or no? Hot or not? On trend or on the way out?

This photo probably gives away the answer….

For this month’s Recipe ReDux – courtesy of The Meal Makeover Moms @JaniceBissex and @LizWeiss – we were challenged to either proudly fly the mini-cake flag, or put a new hand-held dessert on the pedestal. And while I appreciate a good cupcake now and then, I don’t really get why there are practically as many cupcakeries as Dunkin Donuts around Boston. Is there a rampant frosting deficiency in America?

But I still kept things trendy when I came up with my hand-held alternative: orange chocolate chia squares. The hydrophilic little weirdos known as chia seeds are well on their way to displacing kale as the icon of healthy foodie-ism. They’re full of healthy fats, can be used as an egg replacement in baking, and reportedly fueled some extraordinary runners.

Chia seeds will glom onto water and form a viscous gel, but that doesn’t exactly lend itself to palm-of-hand portability. So to transform the goo to ready-to-go, I started with a strawberry energy gel recipe from Tim Woodbury’s Running Recipes: Chia-Powered Sole Food (which I reviewed previously). I futzed around with the sugar, water and fruit contents, and then transformed the gels into decadent chocolate-covered treats.

These little beauties probably aren’t going to make great running companions (body heat + sweat + chocolate = ew), but I’ll certainly have one as a reward after a weekly long run. You can get your hands on them, too, with the following recipe:

Orange chocolate chia squares

(20 pieces, approx. 185 calories each)

2 large oranges, peeled
2 Tbs grated orange rind, divided
½ cup water
1 Tbs orange juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown rice syrup
7 tsp powdered gelatin (approx. 1 oz)
6 Tbs chia seeds
¼ tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups dark chocolate chips

Puree the oranges, water and juice in a food processor. Add the puree to a saucepan with the sugar, rice syrup, gelatin, chia seeds and baking soda, and put them over medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Be sure to use a long-handled spoon because the mixture likes to bubble & spurt.

Remove the orange mixture from heat and mix in 1 Tbs of the orange rind. Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 9×9 baking pan. Allow to cool for up to 4 hours, or until well set (I left mine on the counter for ~20 minutes, then cooled it in the fridge for another 1 ½ hours, and they were ready).

In a shallow bowl, microwave the chocolate chips for 1 minute at 50% power. Stir, then microwave at 50% in 15-30 second intervals, stirring again afterward, until fully melted (it took 1 ½ minutes for me).

Slice the orange gels into 20 pieces (cut in 4 one direction, and 5 the other). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil. Use a wood skewer or similarly sturdy pointy implement to pierce a gel longways, then dip it in the chocolate until coated. Gently push the square onto the lined baking sheet, then top with a pinch of the remaining orange rind.

Repeat the dipping with all the orange gels, then cool in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.

Once you eat these, you’ll still have another hand free, which I suggest you fill with one of the treats on offer from my fellow ReDuxers:


  1. Ruta says:

    Those looks delicious! And they’re so unique, I’ve never seen anything like them.

  2. Wow I can’t wait to try these! They really would be a great post-workout snack

  3. Karman says:

    What a unique recipe! They look delicious!

  4. Really genius idea to make chia squares, and orange/chocolate is one or my all-time favorite flavor combinations. These look delicious! Happy ReDux :-)

  5. Love anything with chia and chocolate! Definitely going to play around with these!

  6. When I saw your first photo, I thought “whatever these are, I’m so making them!” I’m intrigued by chia, have only used a few times but this for sure will be the next recipe I make with those “gloming” seeds. (Plus anything with orange & chocolate gets two thumbs way up in my book.)

    • eatingtheweek says:

      I eat them pretty regularly, but usually only as add-ins to my oatmeal, or to make cinnamon & almond milk pudding. Always looking for novel ways to use them!

  7. gretchen says:

    what a fun and clever snack idea… thanks for sharing!

  8. Like you, I use chia seeds in my oatmeal but haven’t experimented much with them in baking. Your recipe sounds and looks great! Thanks for inspiring me to bake with chia seeds.

  9. diane says:

    Like your use of chia seeds. I don’t have much experience using them except to occasionally thicken my smoothies. Your recipe is inspiring me to try them in baking!

    • eatingtheweek says:

      Definitely check out Tim’s book of chia recipes. They run the gamut from mains to desserts to energy gels, using chia in ways I hadn’t ever considered.

  10. Jessie says:

    Oh, wow. These orange chocolate chia squares have me craving a portable treat at 8:30 am. What an ingenious use of chia seeds! More creative than the humble cupcake, that’s for sure :)

  11. These look amazing! Way better than a cupcake.

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