March 21, 2011

Gluten-free vanilla cupcakes with berry cream cheese frosting

A co-worker recently was diagnosed with gluten intolerance and has been having trouble finding gluten-free food (not just baked goods, but also a lot of Chinese food, as soy sauce contains wheat), so I decided to bake some gluten-free cupcakes to cheer her up.

I've never baked gluten-free before (besides some meringues), so I did some Googling and was initially a bit intimidated by the recipes I found, which all seemed to require unfamiliar and exotic-sounding ingredients like xanthan and guar gum. Luckily I found a gluten-free plain white flour mix by Dove's Farm (UK) at the supermarket, which can be used in place of regular wheat flour in most recipes.

Here's the recipe for the gluten-free cupcakes that I made. They came out lighter and looser than regular cupcakes, but I think my coworker will be happy to have these baked goods as they're equally tasty, even without the denser crumb of cakes made with regular wheat flour.

Cupcake base
  • 150g softened room temperature butter
  • 150g vanilla sugar* (or 150g sugar + 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 2 eggs (take out of fridge ahead of time so it's room temperature)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150g gluten-free white flour
  • 3 tbsp milk
  1. Preheat oven to 190C or 170C if you have a fan/convection oven.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  4. Add in the baking powder, flour and milk.
  5. Pour into cupcake liners in a cupcake tin and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown on top and a cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Let cool and then frost with your preferred frosting. I used the one below.

*Vanilla sugar:
I made homemade vanilla sugar by adding a left over vanilla pod (from making ice cream) into a container of caster sugar. I top up the sugar as it's used so I have a constant supply of vanilla sugar. I've used the same pod for about six months now and it still infuses the sugar with a strong vanilla flavour. It's important to make sure the pod is covered with sugar to avoid it going bad. (The sugar absorbs any moisture.)

Berry cream cheese frosting

  • 150g cream cheese
  • 150g softened butter
  • 1 cup (110g) icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp good quality jam (I used a mix of strawberry, blueberry and apricot as that was what I had on hand, but I might use raspberry next time. Please do not use Smuckers or other cheap jam with high fructose corn syrup. I used Bonne Maman which is a good, widely-available French jam that is not ridiculously expensive - it's a good mid-priced choice.)
  1. Mix together cream cheese and butter until combined.
  2. Strain jam through a sieve to remove seeds and other bits, then add to the cream cheese-butter mixture.
  3. Sift in the icing sugar and mix with a spatula.
  4. Spread on top of cupcakes with the spatula* and chill in fridge for at least one hour until set.
*The frosting was slightly softer than pure buttercream frosting; I didn't have very good results when I tried to pipe it with a nozzle. I would definitely recommend using a spatula instead.

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