Valentine’s day is the perfect opportunity to flex your gluten free baking muscles and create some sweet treats.Cupcakes have been the trendy baked good of choice in Manhattan ever since the Magnolia Bakery introduced us all to the delight of vanilla buttercream frosting. When I moved to NYC, it didn’t take long before my cousin brought me to the West Village to experience Magnolia’s famous cupcakes. When I found out that they had a cookbook I started experimenting with their recipes on my own. I discovered that it wasn’t that difficult to make the frosting and that a yellow cake mix tasted just as good as the much more labor intensive cupcake recipe. I started bringing my “Magnolia Style” cupcakes to dinner parties, birthday parties, and any celebration in need of such an indulgence.
Once gluten was banned from my life, I went in search of a gluten free cake recipe that rivaled my previous concoctions. I spent hours on the weekend trying every vanilla and yellow cake mix and recipe I could find. I made my roommates try all of the results.
“Tastes like cornbread”
“Ummm, not good”
They would look at me with sad eyes, knowing how much I needed to find a recipe that could bring back some sense of normalcy to my new gluten free lifestyle. After trying upwards of 15 recipes and mixes, I started to give up hope that I could make cupcakes that rivaled my old glory.
The Really Great Food Company yellow cake mix is pretty good and the Dowd and Rogers Dark Vanilla cake mix with chestnut flower is delicious in it’s own right, but it’s not the same as a simple yellow cake. While I have embraced many of the new flavors and textures that gluten free cooking has brought into my life, I needed that small yellow cupcake. Thankfully, shortly after I had given up hope, someone on the Delphi forums posted a surprisingly simple technique for yellow cake that she claimed had ‘never-failed’ her. I decided to give it one more shot but didn’t get my hopes up. I mean, orange juice in a cupcake recipe? How could that be any good? Wouldn’t it taste like oranges? Well, it worked and it worked really well. It’s moist and delicious and just as good if not better than any ‘gluten’ cupcake. The hint of orange is only detectable when you know it’s there.
1 package Jello vanilla instant pudding
1/2 cup sugar
4 extra large eggs room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 C orange juice
1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons good vanilla extract*Do not follow the directions on the package
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the wet ingredients in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients and beat on high speed for two minutes.
Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Fill liners 2/3 to ¾ of the way full.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If making a cake, grease the pan first, pour in the mix and bake for 40-45 minutes.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (adapted from Domino Sugar)
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
1 stick (8T) of good unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons good vanilla extract
¼ cup of milk
Combine half of the sugar with the butter and beat on low speed. Add the wet ingredients and beat. Slowly add the rest of the sugar while mixing until combined. Beat on medium-high speed for at least two minutes until the frosting is smooth and creamy. If you want the frosting to be a little bit stiffer (better for decorating) add powdered sugar a couple of tablespoons at a time. Frost cupcakes with icing at room temperature.
Tip – I find if I am going to a party that cupcakes are difficult to transport already frosted. Instead I keep the cupcakes and frosting in separate Ziploc bags or Tupperware containers and then frost them quickly upon arrival. They may not be pretty but they will taste good. This recipe stood up against cupcakes made by a professional working at Martha Stewart! Making homemade frosting is key – it doesn’t take that much extra effort on your part but it will take your baked goods to the next level.
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