I came across Elana Amsterdam’s blog, Elana’s Pantry, quite a while ago and I have been playing around with many of her recipes ever since. They are all so wonderfully simplified, not loaded with tons of strange flours or gums. Just simple and healthy gluten-free adaptations of classic recipes, many times featuring almond and coconut flours. After making many of Elana’s recipes and always being impressed, when I found that she was releasing a Gluten-Free Cupcakes cookbook I knew I had to have it. I preordered the cookbook so I would have it the minute it released. I went through every single page the minute it showed up this spring and made a game plan for which recipes I would make first. With it being such a busy spring and summer I haven’t been doing nearly as much baking as I would like, but every single time I passed Elana’s book on my shelf, I salivated thinking about making gluten-free cupcakes from scratch, in my kitchen. I am not one of those people who freak out over cake (like my husband, Mark), even before being gluten-free I almost always passed it up at birthday parties, but there is something about a deliciously made and adorable little cupcake that always gets me. It’s the perfect amount of cake for me. Whenever I am in NYC I always make it a point to travel out of my way to Babycakes, for that very reason.
Since it had been so long since I had made a cupcake or any cake for that matter, I decided I wanted to go with the classic, chocolate cupcake with vegan chocolate frosting. Elana’s book has all of the sweet classics as well as some really fun new twists on cupcakes like Raspberry Cheesecake, Vanilla Fig, Pina Colada and so many others, there is even a section of savory treats like Scallion Goat Cheese Muffins, Chive Pepper Muffins and more. All of the recipes in this book feature coconut flour, almond flour or both. So no need to buy strange flours that you’ve never even heard of. Elana’s book also has vegan versions of many of the cupcakes as well as a variety of frostings both vegan and not. I decided to try the vegan frosting since it sounded easy to make and I was very curious to taste it. Not surprisingly, it was some of the best frosting I have ever had, super-rich and very chocolatey. I may have had a spoonful or two (or 5) of the frosting right from the jar, it’s that good.
The cupcakes were so chocolatey, moist and fluffy, I couldn’t believe that the only flour in the entire recipe was a 1/4 cup of coconut flour. When I read the recipe, I was convinced this had to be a mistake. I went to the front of the book to read more about coconut flour where Elana explains that coconut flour absorbs all of the moisture in recipes, which is why the ratio always seems off. Coconut flour is really quite amazing and unique, it rises so nicely in recipes and a little goes a long way. Most people assume that coconut flour will cause a recipe to strongly taste of coconuts, but this isn’t the case. The little bit of experimenting I have done with coconut flour has always yielded wonderful results, I cannot wait to keep playing and baking with it.
I’m gonna tease you with this recipe from the book, but you really really need to go buy the book yourself and start baking from it, you won’t regret it. I myself need to keep baking from it and start practicing my cake decorating skills. I attempted at first to use an icing bag to pipe the frosting on for the photos. Wow, what a mess, it looked like a 5-year-old did it. So, I stuck with what I am good at and decided to just take an icing knife and swirl it on.
Besides this wonderful book, Elana has an array of beautiful and tasty looking cupcake recipes on her blog, which you can access here.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 9 cupcakes*
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup unsweetened organic cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 large farm fresh local brown eggs
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup agave nectar
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line 9 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, grapeseed oil and agave nectar. With a hand mixer, blend the wet ingredients into the flour mixture in the large bowl, until thoroughly combined.
Scoop 1/4 cup of batter into each prepared muffin cup.
Bake for 18 to 22 minutes (mine actually took more like 25 to 28 minutes until they were done), just watch them and test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of a cupcake, when it comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, they are done. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for an hour, then frost and serve.
* Looking for more than 9 cupcakes? Elana notes in the book that rather than doubling the recipe, it is best to just make a second batch.
Vegan Chocolate Frosting
6 ounces dark chocolate chips (73% cacao) (about 1 heaping cup)
1/2 cup Spectrum all-vegetable shortening
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon water
Pinch of sea salt
Heat the chocolate in a medium saucepan over a very low heat, melt until it is smooth. Allow the pan to rest on the counter for 5 to 10 minutes to cool the chocolate to room temperature.
With a handheld mixer, blend in the shortening, then blend in the agave nectar, vanilla extract, water and salt until smooth. Place the saucepan in the refrigerator for 3 to 8 minutes, until the frosting is spreadable.
If the frosting gets too stiff to work with, reheat the pan very briefly over a low heat and stir until it is softened. If the frosting is too runny, place it back in the refrigerator until it firms up.
Use the frosting immediately or store in a glass Mason jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.