• The Best Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes

    by Jon on February 13, 2010 · 20 comments

    Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Icing
    dedicated to Peter, my one and only, the love of my life

    Four hours before Valentine’s Day. Mission accomplished. Three batches, 12 cupcakes in each batch, 36 cupcakes total, 3 different recipes, 100’s of pictures, many calories consumed! All in search of the perfect nirvana-esque chocolate cupcake with chocolate ganache icing. It was worth it. After all, there’s nothing that says Valentine’s Day more than chocolate. Um, maybe I could think of one or two things.

    If you’ve blogged about a gluten free Valentine’s Day recipe and you want to share it with others, please go here. I’ve created an opportunity for you to add your recipe to a link list of other gluten free Valentine’s Day recipes.

    If you’re new to gluten free baking and are flummoxed by the large number of flours and starches used, please know that each of them has their own personality, each has a job to do, each is important to the integrity of the finished product. Is it necessary to use six different flours and starches in gluten free baking? No, absolutely not. There are gluten free bakers who very successfully use two or three gluten free flours and starches. But those who are regular readers of my blog know that I favor mixing a good five or six gluten free flours and starches together for my baked goods. This allows me to use the white flours and starches (white rice flour, sweet white rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, cornstarch, arrowroot, etc.), but mostly as a supplement to the higher protein ones (millet, sorghum, teff, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth etc.).

    Many of my gluten free blog colleagues as well as other websites have written about the properties of gluten free flours and starches. If you’re interested, here are just a few of the many links available online to help you learn more about the subject.

    Gluten Free Girl
    Gluten Free Mommy
    Gluten Free in SD
    Living Without Magazine
    The Gluten Free Lifestyle

    NOTES about the cupcake recipe:

    1. The surejel: fairly new member of my gluten free baking arsenal. You might know it as pectin, used to help set and firm up homemade jams and jellies. I’ve been finding it has an important place in my baked goods. I’m still experimenting with it, so I believe that it’s possible to leave it out of this cupcake recipe altogether.

    2. The espresso: not integral to the recipe – I’m just a HUGE fan of anything coffee flavored, so I threw it in for good measure, but leave it out if preferred.

    3. Quinoa flour: For the longest time, I stayed away from using this in my baked goods because I thought it would lend a bitter taste to the end result. No such thing! Especially in baked goods that are chocolate. The quinoa isn’t detected at all. I’m a big fan!

    4. In addition to being gluten free, this recipe is egg-free and dairy-free. You will not miss either, trust me. These cupcakes taste like the best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten, with a tender crumb and a moist texture that will have you scratching your head and wondering why.

    5. Let these cool for a minimum of two hours before icing AND before tasting, if not more. I know it seems like an interminable amount of time, but you will be disappointed if you bite into them before they’ve had a chance to gel. The difference between how they look on the inside after they are just out of the oven or even an hour outside of the oven AND a few hours later is like night and day. Go figure – it’s part of the mysterious nature of gluten free baking.

    Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Icing

    1/4 cup white rice flour
    1/4 cup quinoa flour
    1/4 cup sorghum
    1/4 cup almond flour
    2 tbsp tapioca starch
    2 tbsp potato starch
    1/3 cup cocoa powder
    2 tbsp flaxmeal
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp xanthan gum
    1/4 tsp sea salt
    1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    3 tsp ground espresso
    1/8 tsp surejel
    1 cup unsweetened soymilk (or alternative milk of choice)
    1/3 cup canola oil
    3/4 cup sugar
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    1 tsp apple cider vinegar
    White Sparkling Sugar Sprinkles by Wilton, optional

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.

    In medium-sized bowl, combine white rice flour, quinoa flour, sorghum, almond flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, cocoa powder, flaxmeal, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, sea salt, ground cinnamon, ground espresso, and surejel. Set aside.

    Combine milk, canola oil, sugar, vanilla extract, and apple cider vinegar in bowl of stand mixer (or use free standing bowl and hand mixer). Mix until just combined. Keeping mixer on low speed, slowly add dry ingredients. When everything is blended together, increase speed to medium high for 3 minutes.

    Spoon mixture into cupcake liners until they are about 3/4 full. This works really well with a spring-loaded ice cream scooper. Bake 23 – 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to sit in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then remove to cooling rack. Allow to completely cool before icing.

    Chocolate Ganache Icing

    1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or alternative milk of choice)
    1 tbsp agave syrup
    1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    pinch of cinnamon
    pinch of sea salt
    1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

    Mix the milk, agave, vanilla, cinnamon, and sea salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

    Melt chocolate chips in microwave. It is very important to do this in such a way that it doesn’t burn. I usually start out setting the microwave on 50% power for about 20 seconds, and I repeat this one or two more times. Then I give it one more burst on high for about ten to fifteen seconds. Feel free to melt them in a double boiler on the stove. Note that even if they retain their shape and don’t look melted, if you touch a spoon to them, you’ll see that they really have begun to melt

    Once the chocolate chips are melted, add to milk mixture and mix until completely blended.

    When both the cupcakes and the icing have reached room temperature, spoon the ganache over the cupcake, allowing it to spill over the sides.

    NOTES about the icing:

    1. Do not use this to ice your cupcakes until both the cupcakes AND the icing are at room temperature.

    2. After you’ve iced the cupcakes, resist the temptation to eat them. Walk away, find something to do. Clean the mess you’ve just made in the kitchen, go fold some laundry, walk the dog. Come back about one or two hours later and the icing will have magically set. It will look like the chocolate shell on the Chocolate-Dipped ice cream cones from Dairy Queen. In fact, sneak a peak at the picture at the top of my post. This was taken before the icing really had a chance to set – you can tell it’s still a bit shiny. About an hour after that picture was taken, it looked like a different cupcake!

    Click here for printable recipe

    Happy Valentine’s Day! May your day be filled with light and love and lots of chocolate!

    { 18 comments… read them below or add one }

    gfe--gluten free easily February 13, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Gorgeous! That's a lot of cupcakes, Ellen. There will be some lucky folks tomorrow. 😉



    Tasty Eats At Home February 14, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Sounds like you worked your butt off for the love of chocolate! They're gorgeous.


    Valerie (m.) February 14, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Those look fabulous, Ellen!!!


    Diane-The WHOLE Gang February 15, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Those do look like the best! Lucky guy.


    selina February 16, 2010 at 10:22 am

    I completely agree on the espresso addition! I made gluten-free chocolate cupcakes for my daughter's 2nd grade class Valentine's Day Party and the way the (decaffeinated!) coffee/espresso enhances the chocolate flavor is amazing. Plus, because I add it to the batter when it's warm, the batter rises better in the oven.


    Jessica February 16, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    yummy yum yum, mom! they look great! especially the icing and the little crystal sprinkle thingies!!


    Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    I read your wonderful blog, your photos are fantastic, the recipes are great I will be trying your Chocolate Cupcake , I did notice that some of the recipes could benefit from a new product I have found called Chia Seed Flour. This wonderful product is made from Chia Seeds the healthiest grain. You can find it at http://www.nuchiafoods.com.

    Nuchia Foods Corporation makes the world’s only Chia Seed Flour. It bakes and tastes very much like wheat. Because it is made from the Chia grain it is the most nutritionally dense flour product available anywhere. Its health benefits have been proven to work even when it is included as an ingredient to wheat flour.



    Sam February 17, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Wow these look great! Thanks for sharing.

    Sam the Queen of GF Vegan ;-D


    Johanna Draper February 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Oh my gosh those look fantastic! I love chocolate cupcakes. Thank you for sharing.


    I Am Gluten Free February 19, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    gfe – yes, it was ALOT of cupcakes!!!

    Tasty Eats At Home – I would concur. But my butt isn't smaller due to the fact that I've eaten most of the cupcakes:).

    Valerie – Thanks!

    Diane – yes, Peter was pretty happy, he's been eating cupcakes too, thus his butt isn't very small:).

    Selina – Huh, interesting about adding it while the coffee is warm. I added it as powder, not as liquid. Next time, I will add more as I wanted even more coffee flavor.

    Jessie – thank you honey! The little crystal thingies are not only pretty but they add such a nice crunch to your mouth!

    Anonynmous – I've wanted to try Chia Seed Flour. Thanks for the reminder.

    Sam – thanks for stopping by!

    Johanna – thank you too for stopping by and sharing!!!


    dreaminitvegan February 25, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Hmmm I think I'll try these ones out they look great. I recently tried ones that had garbanzo flour in it and I'm not a fan of using that flour in my baked goods. Luckily the chocolate overpowered that flavor.

    Oh can you recommend know of a good GF bread that's not like a rock and I don't have to bake?


    Joanie April 27, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Finally made this recipe for our son's French Horn senior recital (at a local university) ~ and I had dessert reception duty. These were a huge hit and passed the test as an approved cupcake recipe for our son's wedding reception in June! (I'm doing 4 GFDF cupcake recipes; 2 dozen each – have 3 of 4 recipes and looking for a lemon chiffon. Interested in trying that one or know of someone who does? I'm not a chemist, but am very successful with a great recipe!)

    *One of the comments I received was that I should begin baking professionally and offering this recipe for sale at our local natural foods store (okay, now that's way more work than I'd want to commit to) It's really kudos to you. Therefore: way to go, Ellen! You've got a special gift in creating recipes… And, when you decide to publish a cookbook, I'll be first in line. 🙂


    Holly September 2, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    I am looking for a gf and dairy free cupcake recipe to make and freeze. Do you know if these freeze well with the frosting? If not, can you suggest something? The preschool teacher asked me to bring some cupcakes to freeze so that when another child brought a birthday treat, they could just take a cupcake out of the freezer for him so he can participate. I want a really nice frosted cupcake though. I don't want him looking longingly at what the other kids are eating.


    I Am Gluten Free September 3, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    dreaminitvegan – Udi's has everyone talking these days. I tried their multi-grain GF bread and liked it very much.

    Joanie – I am humbled and delighted. And the fact that you used them for a wedding reception – oh my!!!!

    Holly – I froze these, with the frosting, with great success!


    That Girl September 23, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I don't have any flax meal, but I want/plan to make these for my friends birthday party tomorrow-any substitute suggestions? I'll be subbing maple syrup for the sugar, and reducing the liquids a bit. (can't have sugar or dairy) Coconut milk and carob powder are the other sub's. I'm praying they turn out as good as yours!


    I Am Gluten Free September 23, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    That Girl – I can't wholeheartedly recommend a replacement for the flax without having tried it first. Others have used Ener-G egg replacer. You might try that. Or silken tofu. But again, without having tried them, I can't be sure of the end result. Good luck!


    Beth Bruno April 26, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Do you think I could substitute agave for sugar? I have a sugar sensitive child.


    Helen August 14, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    I’ve been inspired by many of your recipes and when I saw this one, I had to share one that’s very similar but even simpler and SO DELICIOUS! Instead of quinoa flour – supplemented with other flours – just make up a bunch of quinoa and throw it in! Here’s a link: http://makingthymeforhealth.com/2013/12/04/best-ever-chocolate-quinoa-cake-gluten-free/

    I’ve made it with half brown rice and half quinoa and couldn’t tell the difference (wanted to double the recipe but ran out of quinoa!) And lately I’ve added a zuccini to the blended part in place of 1/4 oil or butter and it’s incredibly silky. I’ve been making this every week since I found it online – it’s heavenly!


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