How to Make Gluten Free Cupcakes

Three Methods:Gluten-free IngredientsPreparation MethodBaking the Cupcakes

If you have any extent of a gluten intolerance, you’ll likely find yourself searching for ways to make gluten-free variations of traditional gluten-rich recipes. Going gluten-free doesn’t mean giving up dessert. Cupcakes are a popular mainstream dessert and can be made gluten-free without sacrificing on taste. Gluten-free baking does, however, require some modifications because of the need for the lack of wheat flour in recipes. Gluten in wheat flour is responsible for many attributes in a baked good, including structure, texture and volume, so to make a gluten-free cupcake, more than one ingredient is used to replace wheat flour. Making gluten-free cupcakes becomes easier when there is a basic understanding of the ingredients and preparation involved.

Method 1
Gluten-free Ingredients

When there is gluten in a product, it creates a web that traps air and allows it to expand. This is vital to the structure and texture of a cupcake. With gluten-free flours, there is no gluten web to trap air. The gluten-free flours rely on other ingredients to trap air. Unfortunately, they are not as effective as wheat and that is why additional ingredients are used. Many ingredients are found at the local supermarket, but most specialty ingredients will have to be purchased in a baking shop, natural foods store or ordered online.

  1. 1
    Choose the best gluten-free flour. There are many options for gluten-free flour. The key to picking the right flour is knowing how you want the final product to come out. Each type of flour has unique flavors and properties. Since gluten-free flour is lower in protein than wheat flour, it’s actually a good thing for cupcakes because too much protein creates a tough cupcake. Also, look for a fine texture flour to help give your cupcakes the best structure and consistency.
    • Try gluten-free multi-purpose flour for a mild flavor and to cut down on the amount of ingredients needed for your cupcakes. The multi-purpose flour has gluten-free flour and starches already added to it to mimic the effects of gluten. This is good flour for beginners to gluten-free baking because it’s easy to use.
    • Use amaranth flour if you are looking for a very nutritious option. This flour is an ancient grain, high in fiber and binds water well. You may need more water when using amaranth flour to get the best batter consistency. It has mild corn flavor and will work best in a flour blend.
    • Try sorghum flour or tapioca flour for a mild flavor and a texture similar to wheat flour. These flours work well in gluten-free baking and can be used for most baked goods.
    • Try rice flour for good batter consistency and final texture. Rice flour contains the bran, the starch and the hulls, all of which help create a creamy, stable batter good for cupcakes.
    • Try cassava flour for a one to one switch with wheat flour. Cassava flour properties and flavor are very similar to cake flour. With cassava flour, you may be able to take a regular cupcake recipe and just switch the flours. The biggest issue with using cassava flour is finding a place to purchase it. You will have the best luck ordering the flour online.
  2. 2
    Use gums to help with structure and texture. Food gums are carbohydrates, considered dietary fiber and are not digested or absorbed by the body. They come from natural plant sources and are used to help with water binding, air cell structure and mouth-feel of a product. They come from the class of foods called hydrocolloids. Gums are very important in gluten-free baking because they help perform functions that gluten performs in regular baking.
    • Use xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is essential in almost every gluten-free baked good. In cupcakes, it helps trap air in the batter, giving a light texture to the cupcake and increasing the volume. For best results, do not use more than 0.5% xanthan of the total recipe weight.
    • Try guar gum for increased volume and a light texture. Guar gum should be used in conjunction with xanthan gum. Unlike xanthan gum, guar gum is optional. For best results, do not use more than 0.5% guar of the total recipe weight. Guar gum will be harder to find than xanthan and you may have to order it online.
  3. 3
    Use starches to help with texture and chewiness. Starches are also in the class of foods called hydrocolloids. They help bind water and trap air. They work in conjunction with protein and other starches to help mimic the effects of gluten.
    • Some good starches for gluten-free baking are rice starch, tapioca starch, cornstarch, potato starch and arrowroot starch.
    • Use a starch that works well with the chosen flour. For instance, if you have rice flour, try using rice starch in the recipe as well.
    • Cornstarch, potato starch and arrowroot starch generally work well with any gluten-free flours.
  4. 4
    Use ingredients that trap air to provide cell structure. Providing cell structure is one of the most important and challenging aspects of a gluten-free cupcake.
    • Use egg whites to create a light texture. Whipped egg whites trap an abundance of air. Whipped egg whites are a delicate ingredient, so use cream of tartar to stabilize them if needed.
    • Use flax seed meal for an allergen-free egg substitute. Mix the flax seed meal with water and whip it to incorporate air. It will add a nutty flavor to your recipe.
  5. 5
    Use the best leavening system. Cupcakes are chemically leavened and that leaves room to work with the type of leavening to get the best volume in your cupcakes.
    • Use baking soda. Fresh baking soda will work best because it will still have the most ability to create air bubbles.
    • Use an acid to get baking soda to react properly. Some natural acids are cream of tartar, lemon juice or buttermilk. You want to use just enough acid for the reaction so that the acid and baking soda flavor are neutral after baking. The downfall to natural acids with gluten-free baking is that they react immediately to create air bubbles. With gluten-free baking, the best acids will react more slowly to allow air bubbles to develop in the oven.
    • Sodium aluminum phosphate or monocalcium phosphate are good slow reacting acids. These will be hard to find at the local supermarket, but are found in specialty baking shops or online.
    • Be sure to check if there is acid already in the cupcake recipe and adjust the leavening accordingly.
    • Use double acting baking powder. This is the best option for someone new to gluten-free baking. Double acting baking powder is inexpensive and can be found at most local supermarkets. It contains baking soda and acids. Double acting means that it leavens before and during cooking, which is good for gluten-free cupcakes.
  6. 6
    Watch for ingredients that will “kill” your batter system. Some necessary ingredients for a good cupcake can cause problems if used in excess in a gluten-free system.
    • Do not use too much sugar. Sugar will increase the temperature at which the starch begins to form a gel. In order for the starch to work best, it needs to form a gel before the water reaches boiling point.
    • Do not use too much dairy. Dairy and high levels of lactose will slow the rate of reaction in the cupcake batter because of the calcium present.
    • Use a minimal amount of course grains. Course grains change the texture of the cupcake and make it more like a muffin. They also act like knives that break the cell structure in the batter system that traps the air pockets.

Method 2
Preparation Method

To make a good gluten-free cupcake, the way the ingredients are mixed and the order in which they are added makes a difference to the final product. Gluten is not as sensitive to abuse as the ingredients needed for gluten-free baking.

  1. 1
    Whip the eggs with half of the sugar, any extracts and cream of tartar (if using) first. The sugar needs to be added slowly during whipping. The eggs should whip to a soft peak, creating a foam consistency of tiny air cells.
  2. 2
    Cream the butter or shortening with the rest of the sugar. This is done by adding the sugar as you whip the butter. The end result should have an even, creamy consistency, free of lumps.
  3. 3
    Mix the other dry ingredients well.
  4. 4
    Add the dry ingredients and liquid while mixing them in to the creamed butter/sugar mixture. This works best by alternating the addition of liquid and dry ingredients in stages.
  5. 5
    Fold in the egg whites using a wide and flat spatula. Be careful to keep the egg white texture as airy as possible. This will help with the light, airy texture.
  6. 6
    Let the batter rest for 10 minutes at room temperature. This allows the leavening process to begin and the dry ingredients to hydrate properly, which will yield the best results in the oven. This is important for cupcake volume and texture.
  7. 7
    Fill the cupcake pan or liners and bake them for the recommended time. Be sure to leave room for the cupcakes to rise.

Method 3
Baking the Cupcakes

Fortunately, baking gluten-free cupcakes is very similar to regular cupcakes.

  1. 1
    Bake your cupcakes at 325°F to 350°F (160°C to 180°C). You do not want the oven to be too hot because the water may reach boiling point before everything has had a chance to react.
  2. 2
    Bake for the proper amount of time. This can range from 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the size and amount of the cupcakes. It is best to only use a single rack in the oven for the most even baking. Use a toothpick to check for doneness; it should come out clean.
  3. 3
    Do a test bake before baking all the cupcakes. You can store the extra batter in the refrigerator while you test the temperature and time for baking or you can make a new one. Be sure to let the batter temperature rise slightly after taking it out of the refrigerator and before baking because it will adjust the time needed for baking.


  • There are many gluten free cake mixes in the marketplace if making cupcakes from scratch is not a priority. They usually only have chocolate, vanilla or yellow, but you can add extra ingredients for different flavors if you like.

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