Gluten-free cupcakes may not be as popular or well-known as cupcakes made with traditional wheat-based flour, but these cupcakes aren’t just for those with an intolerance to gluten.
By incorporating alternative flours into cupcakes that are free of gluten, you can bake cupcakes that are even more moist and delicious than cupcakes with wheat flour.
What Is Gluten-Free?
A gluten-free diet is a diet that restricts the intake of gluten. Gluten is a type of protein that is commonly found in the following types of baking flour:
The biggest reason that many people adopt a gluten-free lifestyle is that they develop an intolerance to the gluten in their diet.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance or allergies include vomiting, hives, bloating, stomach pain, and headaches. People who have a more severe variation of gluten intolerance, celiac disease, can experience damage to the intestinal tract from eating gluten.
Common Ingredients in Gluten-Free Cupcakes
A difference between gluten-free cupcakes and traditional baked goods is that they use an alternative flour that doesn’t include gluten-based flour.
There are also other common ingredients in gluten-free baking that you might not see as often in standard cupcakes but that helps gluten-free cupcakes maintain a good texture or moisture retention.
If you want to bake cupcakes that are gluten free, investing in a good variety of alternative flours and other ingredients can set you up to learn how.
Here are some ingredients you should expect to see in gluten-free cupcake recipes:
Alternatives to Flour
Rice and brown rice flour
Rice flour is an alternative flour created by grinding rice into a fine powder. However, this type of flour can’t be used as a 1:1 substitute for wheat-based flour because it doesn’t retain moisture as well as wheat does.
Almond flour is a nut-based flour that is made by milling down almonds into powder. A gluten-free alternative flour that is low in carbohydrates, almond flour is a useful option for those who are trying to regulate their blood sugar as well as their gluten levels.
Even though buckwheat has wheat in its name, this seed-based flour doesn’t have any true relation to wheat, making it safe for gluten-free recipes. Buckwheat flour is high in both amino acids and dietary fiber.
Sorghum is an ancient cereal grain that can be ground up and used as an alternative to wheat-based flour. This type of flour has a slightly sweet but neutral flavor, making it a useful alternative flour for gluten-free desserts.
Like sorghum, teff is another ancient cereal grain that originates from northern Africa. Teff has an earthy and nutty flavor that pairs well with chocolate, nut, and fruit-based gluten-free recipes.
Arrowroot flour is a thickening agent that has no flavor at all. Along with being used for gluten-free baking, it can also be used to thicken dessert fillings for gluten-free cupcakes that include a gooey center.
Since many alternative gluten-free flours can be very light or neutral in flavor, this can lead to a lack of flavor. Adding brown sugar deepens the flavor of cupcakes that are free of gluten. In addition, brown sugar also helps them retain more moisture while baking.
Applesauce and fruit puree
Sugar-free applesauce and fruit purees are practical options for adding flavor and moisture to cupcakes without adding too much additional sugar to the baking mix. Adding applesauce instead of butter to a cupcake recipe also helps you avoid saturated fats.
Using alternative flours and sweeteners in gluten-free baking recipes like cupcakes can help improve the flavor of gluten-free desserts. However, you’ll need to know the main differences between gluten-free and gluten-based baking to get the most out of your recipes.
Tips for Gluten-Free Cupcakes
Gluten-free cupcake recipes aren’t more difficult to pull off than traditional flour-based cupcakes. But you will need to keep a few differences in mind between the two baking styles to get the best results when you’re baking.
Here are some rules to follow that will help you turn out a perfect gluten-free cupcake every time:
Find a good flour alternative
While there are many flour alternatives that can be used for gluten-free baked goods, some are better for using in cupcakes than others.
Find an alternative flour that won’t dry out so you end up with moist, delicious gluten-free cupcakes.
Mix multiple flours and binders
Since gluten-free flours aren’t a good 1:1 replacement for wheat-based flour, it’s a good idea to try recipes that use several alternative flours together to help replicate a wheat-based texture.
Don’t be afraid to go store-bought
If you aren’t comfortable measuring out your own mixture of gluten-free flours, there are several major brands of gluten-free commercial flour that can help you generate more consistent baking results when you make cupcakes.
Use more liquid
In general, gluten-free baked goods need more liquid added to them to compensate for starches that don’t absorb moisture as easily as wheat-based flours do.
If you’re translating a traditional baking recipe into a gluten-free one, consider using more liquid to prevent the cupcakes from coming out dry.
Use more leavening
Along with needing more moisture for a good consistency, gluten-free cupcakes also require more leavening agents than typical wheat-based cupcake recipes.
Let your cupcake batter rest
Unlike most traditional cupcake recipes, where the fresh batter is immediately poured and baked, gluten-free cupcake batter will perform better if it’s rested in the refrigerator to cool completely for thirty minutes prior to baking.
This allows the gluten-free flour to absorb the moisture in the batter.
Stick to the recipe
Gluten-free baked goods can be easy to mess up if you deviate in cooking times or proportions of ingredients. To avoid miscalculating your ingredient proportions, measure your gluten-free flour and other ingredients with a kitchen scale for dependable results.
If you keep the above concepts in mind while you bake cupcakes that are gluten free, you’re more likely to end up with great cupcakes when your baking time is up.
How to Make Gluten-Free Cupcakes From Scratch
Making gluten-free cupcakes from scratch isn’t that hard. However, you’ll need to be precise in your baking for them to turn outright.
Step 1. Gather and weigh ingredients
Before you get started baking, the first step you need to take is to get together every ingredient in your gluten-free cupcake recipe.
It’s also a good idea to gather tools like a kitchen scale and your mixer ahead of time so you don’t have to hunt for them in the middle of your baking process.
Step 2. Make the batter
The most important part of making a gluten-free cupcake batter is resting the batter prior to baking and making sure the liquid is fully integrated into the binder ingredients.
Mix the cake batter thoroughly to avoid lumps. But you also should avoid overmixing to prevent a gummy texture.
Step 3. Fill the cupcake liners
Paper liners for cupcakes are designed to go in the oven without burning. Spray your cupcake pan with a nonstick cooking spray to help prevent the cupcakes from sticking.
Keep in mind that the cupcake papers do not need to be completely filled with cake batter, as they will rise and expand when they start to bake.
Step 4. Bake the cupcakes until set
The baking time for each gluten-free cupcake will depend on the recipe you’re using. But you can also stick a toothpick in your cupcakes if they look done to test if they’re done internally.
If the toothpick is clean when removed, the cupcakes are baked through. If the toothpick is not clean, they need a few more minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before removing them from the cupcake liners.
Even though the specific steps for each gluten-free cupcake recipe will vary depending on the type of cupcake, following the general directions above will give you a good idea of how the process of baking cupcakes works.
For more specific directions and flavor combinations, see the list of twenty gluten-free cupcake recipes below.
20 Gluten-Free Cupcakes for a Dazzling Dessert
1. German Chocolate Gluten-Free Cupcakes
German chocolate cupcakes are decadent as far as gluten-free cupcakes go, and the glistening pecan coconut topping on these cupcakes from Sisters San Gluten is sure to impress.
These cupcakes can be made even fancier by adding a drizzle of chocolate ganache over the top to finish them off.
2. Lime Coconut Cupcakes
If you’re looking for cupcakes that will help give your party a tropical vibe, check out these lime coconut gluten-free cupcakes at Kitchen Sanctuary.
These citrus-flavored cupcakes are paired with a bright white meringue topping to help keep them light and airy.
3. Vanilla Bean Gluten-Free Cupcakes
Vanilla bean is a nice standard flavor for cupcakes. So if you’re looking to master gluten-free cupcake recipes, it’s a smart one to start with. Vanilla cupcakes go well with a wide variety of different icing flavors.
Here’s a basic recipe from Gluten-Free Palate.
4. Hot Cocoa Gluten-Free Cupcakes
Just because you’re baking gluten-free cupcakes doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in some holiday treats that taste amazing.
These hot cocoa gluten-free cupcakes from Breezy Bakes include a silky chocolate frosting and toasted mini marshmallows for a classic combination of flavors.
5. Carrot Cake Cupcakes
One of the advantages of baking cupcakes is that you can take full-sized cakes and bake them in a miniature version. If you like traditional carrot cake, then you’ll want to try these gluten-free cupcakes found at Lemons for Lulu.
These are a light version of carrot cake with a whipped cream frosting that helps the spiced flavor of the cake shine through.
6. Banana Custard-Stuffed Peanut Butter Cupcakes
For a gluten-free cupcake recipe that will wow your house guests, stuffed cupcakes are always a smart bet. These banana custard stuffed cupcakes from Food and Wine are a little more complicated to make than many other gluten-free cupcake recipes. But they’re well worth the effort for the end result.
7. Lemon Meringue Gluten-Free Cupcakes
Here’s another gluten-free cupcake that gets its magic from a delightful creamy filling. These lemon meringue cupcakes at Gluten-Free Cuppa Tea are stuffed with fresh lemon curd.
Then they are topped off with a stacked and toasted meringue topping for a truly impressive dessert to serve at your next birthday party.
8. Lemon Gluten-Free Cupcakes
If you don’t like meringue topping on your lemon desserts, this is another lemon-flavored gluten-free cupcake that you might enjoy instead. Here are some gluten-free lemon cupcakes from Gluten-Free Palate that incorporate a bright, citrusy lemon buttercream icing.
They are topped with fresh blackberries for a picture-perfect dessert. Your icing can be made with a dairy-free butter to make these cupcakes vegan as well.
9. Chocolate Gluten-Free Cupcakes
Chocolate cupcakes are a classic cupcake flavor, and these gluten-free chocolate cupcakes at Gluten-Free on a Shoestring combine tender chocolate cake and a whipped chocolate ganache frosting that is so moist these cupcakes will keep for days.
This recipe is also naturally dairy-free too, making it the perfect choice for those with both gluten and dairy allergies.
10. Eclair Gluten-Free Cupcakes
Cadbury Eclair candies have a unique toffee flavor that is useful for replicating in baked goods, and these gluten-free eclair cupcakes at Gluten-Free Alchemist are no exception.
Rather than incorporating Eclair candies, these cupcakes use the flavors of eclairs in their toffee sponge cake and chocolate ganache filling.
11. Dreamy Orange Cupcakes
Along with lemon cupcakes, another popular citrus flavor used in gluten-free cupcakes is orange. These cupcakes from Gluten-Free Palate incorporate fresh oranges and orange zest for a bright, juicy flavor.
You’ll get the best flavor out of these cupcakes by using oranges when they’re in season.
12. Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Maple Frosting
Cupcakes are a popular item to bring to fall festivals and parties. If you’re looking for a gluten-free option for your next autumn gathering, try out these gluten-free pumpkin cupcakes at Caramel and Cashews.
These cupcakes use a pumpkin cake base and sweeten it up with a thick, creamy frosting that is spiced with cinnamon and maple syrup.
13. Red Velvet Gluten-Free Cupcakes
These gluten-free red velvet cupcakes at Flipping Delicious have a dark red color that is well suited for the winter holidays or Valentine’s Day. The real flavor of the red velvet cake is moist and tender chocolate.
Pair these chocolate-flavored cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting. But buttercream frosting can also be substituted for those who find cream cheese too rich.
14. Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes
Another flavor combination that is popular around the winter holidays is chocolate and peppermint. Nutrition in the Kitchen combines these two flavors for cupcakes that are a delicious option for your next holiday potluck.
The cupcakes are created from a gluten-free flour made of chickpeas that adds dietary fiber and protein without making the cupcakes too dense.
15. Eggnog Gluten-Free Cupcakes
Eggnog, also known as milk punch, is a dairy drink spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg that is traditionally consumed around the Christmas holidays. These gluten-free eggnog cupcakes at Fearless Dining use a commercial gluten-free flour blend to make baking them simple.
You can use either regular milk eggnog or dairy-free eggnog for delicious results.
16. Raspberry Gluten-Free Cupcakes
For a colorful cupcake that is chock full of vanilla extract and raspberries, these gluten-free cupcakes at The Banana Diaries are a fruity option to consider. The rich flavors and moisture in these cupcakes will have your guests shocked that they are vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free.
They also have an extra punch of nutrition from oat flour.
17. Dirty Chai Cupcakes
Chai is a popular flavor in desserts since it adds tasty Eastern spices that complement dairy well. Dirty chai is the flavor of chai combined with the deep, roasted flavor of expresso.
The gluten-free cupcakes at Sarah Bakes Gluten-Free incorporate expresso buttercream with a chai spiced cupcake base for cupcakes that are perfect for either breakfast or dessert.
18. Apple Spice Cupcakes with Cinnamon Mascarpone Frosting
For another cupcake option that is a practical match for fall get-togethers, try these spiced apple gluten-free cupcakes from Zest and Lemons.
The creamy, cheesy flavor of sweet mascarpone cheese in the frosting of these cupcakes helps offset the sweet, lightly spiced flavor of the cake.
19. Nutella Gluten-Free Cupcakes
Nutella is a chocolate hazelnut spread that is a popular addition to both sweet breakfast dishes and desserts. The gluten-free cupcakes at Gluten-Free Alchemist are baked with a chocolate-hazelnut sponge cake that is filled with roasted and ground hazelnuts.
The cupcakes are stuffed with Nutella spread and topped off with a Nutella-flavored whipped frosting.
20. Strawberry Gluten-Free Cupcakes
In late spring and early summer, a bumper crop of strawberries leaves many home bakers scrambling for ways to incorporate them while they’re at the peak of their season.
The gluten-free strawberry cake recipe at Mama Knows Gluten-Free makes the most of summer strawberries for delightfully pink cupcakes that are filled with fresh strawberry flavor.
Easy Gluten-Free Vanilla Cupcakes Recipe
These easy gluten-free vanilla cupcakes from Gluten-Free on a Shoestring are an amazing recipe to act as a foundation for you to build other gluten-free cupcake recipes.
These cupcakes incorporate baking powder, vanilla extract, eggs, butter, and other ingredients for a great cake recipe that can be used with a wide variety of frosting and topping combinations.
Here are the ingredients you should gather to start baking easy gluten-free vanilla cupcakes:
- 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose gluten-free flour blend
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 3/4 tsp of xanthan gum (if your gluten-free flour blend does not contain it already)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar (white sugar or brown sugar)
- 8 Tbsp unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 1 egg (room temperature)
- 1 egg white (room temperature)
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup of milk, buttermilk, or dairy-free milk such as almond milk (room temperature)
For the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 8 Tbsp unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp salt
- Milk (added in teaspoon increments as necessary)
Once you’ve gathered the necessary ingredients, follow these instructions:
Step 1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare your cupcake pan
Add cake liners to the pan and grease them with a nonstick cooking spray.
Step 2. Mix your dry ingredients together
Sift your dry ingredients other than sugar together in a mixing bowl and set aside.
Step 3. Cream your wet ingredients together
Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or with a mixing bowl and a handheld electric mixer, mix the butter, egg, egg white, vanilla extract, and sugar together.
Mix the ingredients together at a medium-high speed until the mixture looks whipped (approximately two minutes).
Step 4. Blend dry ingredients into wet ingredients
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in three batches, alternating with the milk or buttermilk to thin the batter. End the mix with a batch of the dry ingredients.
Mix lightly after each addition until the batter is combined. But avoid overmixing. The batter should look fluffy and light.
Step 4. Fill the cupcakes
Place batter in each of the cupcake tins, filling them roughly 2/3rds of the way full. Shake the cupcake tin to settle the batter in the prepared wells.
This will help the cupcakes bake with a flat, even top.
Step 5. Bake the cupcakes
Place the cupcakes in the oven and bake for around twenty minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes are light golden brown. Watch the cupcakes carefully to avoid overbaking since this can dry the cupcakes out.
Step 6. Cool the cupcakes
Allow the cupcakes to cool for five to ten minutes in the tin before moving them to a wire rack to finish cooling. Then allow the cupcakes to cool completely before adding frosting or other toppings to prevent them from melting.
Once your vanilla cupcakes are cooled, you can decorate them any way you like. These cupcakes are also a good match to add fillings like chocolate mousse, berry preserves, or citrus curd.
Gluten-Free Cupcakes FAQ
What Is the Best Gluten-Free Flour for Cupcakes?
There are many different kinds of alternative flours that are used in gluten-free cupcakes. However, you can often get a more consistent result if you use a commercial gluten-free flour blend.
If you’re looking to get the most out of your cupcakes, here are a few of the best gluten-free flours to use when baking them:
Cup 4 Cup Multipurpose Gluten-Free Flour: A major advantage of using this gluten-free flour blend is that it is a 1:1 replacement for traditional wheat-based flours in recipes.
This makes it easy to bake gluten-free desserts without having to do any complicated baking conversions.
King Arthur Measure for Measure Gluten-Free Flour: This gluten-free flour from King Arthur is another 1:1 gluten-free flour substitute, which greatly simplifies creating new gluten-free cupcake recipes.
This flour blend is fortified with iron, calcium, and Vitamin B.
Krusteaz Gluten-Free Flour Blend: This gluten-free flour is one of the more economical gluten-free flour blends you can find.
If you’re just getting started in baking gluten-free products, the Krusteaz brand lets you invest in a dependable gluten-free blend without having to spend a lot of money upfront.
Do Gluten-Free Cupcakes Taste Different?
Some gluten-free cupcakes may taste different than traditional wheat-based cupcakes. However, many gluten-free flour blends are designed specifically with a neutral flavor that allows them to emulate traditional cupcakes as closely as possible.
The most noticeable difference you are likely to find in gluten-free cupcakes is that the texture of the sponge is finer. The dairy-free frosting and icing used with gluten-free cupcakes can also have a different mouthfeel than traditional dairy-based frostings.
Are Gluten-Free Cupcakes Healthy?
While gluten-free cupcakes can be baked to be a healthier or lighter version of traditional cupcakes, just because they’re gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re diet food.
These cupcakes often contain just as much sugar and oil as traditional cupcakes. Moreover, they are just as high in carbohydrates.
Gluten-free cupcakes can be more nutritious than traditional cupcakes since gluten-free flour contain more protein and dietary fiber than processed multipurpose wheat flour. The amount of sugar in gluten-free cupcakes can also be reduced by replacing part of the sugar called for with fruit puree or applesauce.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a gluten allergy or you just want to make healthier dessert choices, gluten-free cupcakes can give you a lot to work with. Just because you can’t have gluten doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in your favorite cupcakes. The list of recipes above should give you plenty of options for starting your gluten-free cupcake adventure.