Cupcake Rampage: Gluten-Free Chocolate Mint Cupcakes
a. k. a. Bunraku cupcakes. Get it? Of course you do.
I know several people who have the bad luck to suffer from celiac disease, a disorder of the autoimmune system that manifests itself as varying degrees of wheat intolerance. The impact of this affliction is that they can’t enjoy a lot of the foods that some of us might take for granted; breads, beer, cupcakes, etc.
Vegans and celiacs are like kindred spirits in this sense; we take forever to shop because we inspect every ingredient list in the grocery store aisles, we don’t make any friends at restaurants when we viciously interrogate hapless servers, and we both suffer when we screw up, albeit in different ways. For most vegans, the lifestyle is a conscious choice; celiacs don’t really have a say in the way their bodies behave.
Baking gluten-free isn’t as difficult as it’s been made out to be, although it does require a few extra ingredients and involves an additional step or two. Most gluten-free recipes will call for the use of two or three different kinds of gluten-free flours. The reason for this is that while wheat flour is, for the most part, bland and flat; flours made from other grains and seeds each have their own distinctive flavors and textures that can easily overwhelm and throw off the final result. A good example is corn flour, which has a very identifiable taste and works great for corn muffins or tortillas, but not so much if you’re trying to utilize other flavors, like chocolate.
Recipe after the jump.
Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Mint Cupcakes:
I adapted this recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World.
- 1 cup soymilk
- 1/3 cup canola or other neutral-tasting oil
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon mint extract
Dry Team A:
- 1/4 cup tapioca flour
- 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
Dry Team B:
- 1/2 cup white rice flour
- 1/2 cup quinoa flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 350° F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients until just combined. Add the tapioca flour and flax seed and whisk vigorously for about a minute, until the dry ingredients are emulsified and you no longer see a layer of oil hovering on top of the mixture.
Using a whisk for this first step is actually easier than an electric mixer, although you’re going to have to break out the hardware anyway when it comes to incorporating the rest of the dry goods.
Sift in the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
The three flours used for this recipe each have their own specific tasks. The tapioca flour provides the same smoothness that cornstarch would, the white rice flour is the bland balance, while the quinoa flour has a slightly nutty taste and will lend a little tooth to the crumb. Whole quinoa is relatively cheap, but quinoa flour is stupid expensive, which leaves you with some choices if you don’t feel like biting the bullet. Swap out the quinoa flour with another non-wheat flour, like sorghum flour or almond meal; or just grind your own.
Dump a cup of rinsed and dried quinoa into a food processor or blender and buzz it up until it looks like, well, flour. Depending on the power of your equipment, you may not get every one of the little seeds, so make sure you sift it thoroughly afterwards to catch any little crunchies. Once the quinoa is ground, it can go rancid pretty easily, so store it in the fridge until ready to use.
Mix for at least two minutes on a medium-high speed to get everything incorporated. This is important because there won’t be any gluten to create a stable structure when the batter bakes, so the batter has to be as tightly constructed a mass as possible when it goes in, and the added violence of mixing will help with that.
A word about xanthan gum: a lot of gluten-free recipes call for this polysaccharide because it exhibits a lot of the thickening and binding properties of gluten without the whole gluten thing. I’ve baked with it before, and I have to tell you, I’m not the biggest fan. True to its name, it tends to gum up batters, usually to the point where the mixture will climb up your electric mixer’s beaters like the tentacles of some weird Cthulhu-esque cephalopod. And while the finished baked goods don’t taste any different, they do possess a somewhat rubbery consistency. Since this recipe calls for flax seed, which is also used as a gluten-free binder, we don’t have to mess with xantham gum…this time.
Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake cups, filling them about three-quarters of the way up. No gluten also means not a whole lot of rise, so you can fill these up with a little more batter than usual.
Bake for 20 to 23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then de-pan and cool completely on a cooling rack.
Top with mint buttercream frosting. (To make this, use the Mother Buttercream recipe, adding in a teaspoon of mint extract and a drop or two of green food coloring.) Garnish with shaved dark chocolate, a chiffonade of fresh mint leaves, or an Andes candy broken in half.