Gluten-Free Strawberry Cupcakes

Dessert,Desserts with Dairy,Fruit,Fruit Dessert

Friday I made two more cupcake recipes and one frosting recipe from Elana Amsterdam’s new book, Gluten-Free Cupcakes: 50 Irresistible Recipes Made with Almond and Coconut Flour. I tested Flourless Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes (p. 42), Strawberry Cupcakes (p. 24), and Orange Cream Cheese Frosting (p. 96). The occasion was the wedding of my long time friend and colleague, Don, and his fiancée, Tracy. They had two other desserts on the menu, a small (maybe 6-inch diameter) gluten-free, two-layer chocolate cake with raspberry filling and some incredibly beautiful egg shaped dark and white chocolate truffles with cream filled centers, and they welcomed my making and bringing 44 frosted  mini cupcakes (48 minus two of each I taste-tasted, for quality control, the day before).

The cupcakes
I made the two flavors of cupcakes. The Flourless Chocolate Coconut Coconut Cupcakes were made from (73% cocoa content) dark chocolate chips (a dark chocolate bar also works), unsweetened shredded coconut, eggs, sea salt, and agave syrup, which I replaced with honey. You’ll find the Strawberry Cupcake recipe below.

Of the two, the strawberry ones were my absolute favorite! They had just the right amount of sweetness for my tastes and I loved the generous dose of vanilla they contained. I like the short ingredient list and the moist consistency despite no added fat. I liked the chocolate ones just not as much.

In the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting recipe  I replaced the agave nectar with honey and the cream cheese with soft goat cheese, a swap that cuts the calories in half without much change in flavor. (The same switch works in cheese cake recipes). The  frosting calls for butter. If you don’t use butter, you can substitute non-hydrogenated palm shortening cup for cup.

From my previous testing the Lime Cupcakes were my favorite. The Orange Cream Cheese Frosting could be modified to include lime zest for those cakes.

Frosting faux pas
I made one and a half times the recipe (one full batch would have been plenty and I wanted to make sure to have enough). I now have a half batch of frozen frosting for future cupcake endeavors.

I included the orange zest in the frosting and set about picking natural vegetable dye-based food colorings for two out of three portions. The sweetness was just right and required no doctoring up or down. For one portion I added bottled natural yellow food coloring made from glycerine and turmeric. That turned out great!

For the second one I added natural red food coloring made from glycerine and cherry extract. No success! Perhaps because the coloring was 3 years old or because I failed to notice the “refrigerate it after opening” note on the label, it didn’t produce a red color despite shaking the bottle and adding many, many drops. By the time the frosting reached a grayish-pink color, it tasted strongly of tart cherries. I remedied that by adding unsweetened cocoa powder, a dash more honey, and vanilla, figuring chocolate cherry would be tastier and prettier than what I had in front of me. The result was good but not great. I much preferred the plain orange and the lemon yellow colored frostings but I had wanted something with more contrast for the chocolate cupcakes.

Chill it
I chilled the frosting on Friday and left the cupcakes in covered glass pans at room temp. Saturday, after teaching a 3 hour cooking class and before unpacking, changing my clothes, and leaving for the reception, I removed the frosting from the refrigerator to let it soften enough to spread over the mini cupcakes.

Next time I plan to frost the cakes within 30 minutes of chilling the frosting and refrigerating the cakes to make it harden. Softening chilled frosting without letting it get too soft is as tricky as transporting freshly frosted cakes in 100 degree weather. Despite placing ice packs between the covered glass pans, the frosting softened and some of the cupcakes capsized on the way. They were righted on arrival and chilled until serving time.

The verdict
The guests loved the cupcakes. They were intrigued before they even tasted them. I overheard the bride telling people that everything being served (from dinner to dessert) was gluten-free. A few people came up to me when they heard that I brought the cupcakes and expressed interest in them. Once the bride-groom cake, cupcakes, and truffles were served I heard compliments on them and requests for the recipes. I told them about the source and about how they could find out more on my blog. The bride and groom were particularly pleased.

If you’d like to try these and other grain-free, gluten-free cupcake recipes, I highly recommend buying a copy of Gluten-Free Cupcakes: 50 Irresistible Recipes Made with Almond and Coconut Flour by Elana Amsterdam as well as her Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook. You can also visit her blog for cupcake recipes not found in her book. She has many winning recipes.

Strawberry Cupcakes

Yield: 8 full size or 24 minis                 Sweetness: Medium

According to the headnotes for this recipe, Elana’s younger son loves these cupcakes and calls them Strawberry Spongecakes. He enjoyed topping them with Cream Cheese Frosting (page 95), though they also pair quite nicely with Strawberry Meringue Frosting (page 97 and photo right). These pink-flecked pleasers are best made at the height of strawberry season. 


  • 1/2 cup coconut flour (sift before measuring if lumpy)
    1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
    1/4 teaspoon sea salt
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    4 large eggs
    1/2 cup agave nectar (I used honey)
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    1/2 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 8 muffin cups with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, arrowroot powder, salt, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, agave nectar, and vanilla extract. Blend the wet ingredients into the coconut flour mixture with a handheld mixer until thoroughly combined, then fold in the strawberries.
  • Scoop 1/4 cup of batter into each prepared muffin cup.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 1 hour, then frost and serve.

My modification: I baked the batter in lined mini muffin tins (24 mini muffins per batch). In my oven they took approximately 12 minutes to test done.

Strawberry Meringue Frosting

MAKES 3 CUPS                    SWEETNESS: HIGH

This is not the frosting that I made for the wedding. (I mde the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting on page 96 of her book.) This is the one in the professional photo (upper right) from Elana’s book and it’s the one I have permission to reprint. I do plan to try it on another batch of cupcakes. Elana’s younger son eats this straight out of the bowl!


  • 1/4 cup agave nectar (I would use honey instead)
    2 egg whites
    2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh
  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the agave nectar to a boil, stirring constantly. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 6 to 10 minutes, watching constantly and stirring occasionally, until the agave nectar darkens slightly from its original amber color, then remove from the heat and set aside.
  • In a deep bowl, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks using a handheld mixer. Be sure to push the beaters around the bowl to incorporate air into the whites. This step is important; if your egg whites are not whipped to stiff peaks, the recipe won’t work. Stop whipping as soon as the egg whites are stiff; overwhipping will result in egg whites that are dry and grainy. The foam of the whites will be stiff enough to stand up in well-defined, unwavering peaks.
  • Drizzle the warm agave nectar very slowly into the egg whites, while whipping with a handheld mixer, to keep the peaks stiff. The meringue will become pearlescent and shiny.
  •   Allow to cool to room temperature, then fold the strawberries into the meringue. Use right away.

Reprinted with permission from Gluten-Free Cupcakes: 50 Irresistible Recipes Made with Almond and Coconut Flour. Copyright © 2011 by Elana Amsterdam, Celestial Arts, an imprint of Ten Speed Press, a division of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA. Photo Credit: Annabelle Breakey.

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