September 23, 2009

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Zucchini Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Frosting

cupcake 003Don’t be alarmed by all of the descriptors. Chances are, if you happened upon these cupcakes, you wouldn’t know that they were without flour. Or dairy. Or even sugar, hardly. Because when you take a bite, they have a perfectly moist, tender crumb. They’re sweet, but not artificially so, as many “sugar-free” treats often are. Cinnamon and nutmeg perfectly compliment the richness of the coconut cream frosting. What’s even better? One cupcake is enough to satisfy. In the world of cakes and sweet treats, this is a rare occurence for me.

The world of gluten-free baking is still quite new to me. So far, most of my baking has relied upon packaged baking mixes (thank you, Pamela’s – your bread mix is heaven!). However, I decided it was time to think “outside the box.” After finding that I had a surplus of zucchini in my kitchen (after all, I can’t resist buying too much sometimes at the farmer’s market!), I decided to bake a quick bread. But not just any old quick bread, I wanted something a bit fancier (without much more work)! Cupcakes – I could make zucchini cupcakes. They would be spiced similarly to carrot cake, in sort of a carrot-meets-zucchini cupcake concoction. Amy at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free posted a carrot cupcake recipe that set off the inspiration for these beauties.

In addition to being gluten-free, I wished for these cupcakes to have a speck of nutrition. Also, knowing that many celiacs and other people cannot have dairy, I wished for them to be dairy-free. I wanted to make something without using cupfuls of sugar, or nutritionless flours. I decided upon agave nectar for the sweetener, and coconut and almond flours in place of regular flour (or a gluten-free baking mix).

Agave nectar is a natural sweetener made from the juice of the agave plant. It has a texture similar to honey and is slightly sweeter than sugar, but unlike so many alternative sweeteners, it is not bitter and does not have an “off” taste. It has a low glycemic index – around 30, substantially lower than sugar, which has a glycemic index of around 65. This makes it a good choice for those watching their blood sugar levels.

Almond flour, specifically blanched almond flour, has been around a long while, but recently came to my attention through Elana at Elana’s Pantry. She bakes only with non-grain-based flours, and typically uses almond flour. In my experiments, I’ve found almond flour to be great for baking – it creates a tender crumb and has a subtly sweet flavor, is very low in carbohydrates and is high in protein. I bought mine through Honeyville, as the almond flour they sell is more finely ground than what I typically could find in stores. As for the coconut flour, I heard about it through Elana as well. It’s also high in fiber and low in carbohydrates. I bought Bob’s Red Mill, and this was easy to find at Whole Foods.

Back to the cupcakes. That’s what you were here for anyway, right? I do want to share that these were substantially sugar-free, and not entirely sugar-free, although they could be easily modified. I used sweetened dried cranberries, and crystallized ginger as mix-ins, but of course, you could leave these out or substitute with things such as unsweetened cranberries, raisins, chopped walnuts, etc.

One of the best aspects of these cupcakes? They were pretty easy to make. You could leave them unfrosted and consider them a muffin for breakfast, or top with frosting for a more decadent treat. They are delicious to share, or perhaps tasty enough that you will need to stow away a few, just for yourself!

For the cupcakes, adapted from Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free:

1/2 c light agave nectar

1/3 c virgin coconut oil

2 T water

1/2 t vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1/2 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

1/2 t ground allspice

1/4 t ground nutmeg

pinch of cloves

1/2 t cinnamon

1/2 t salt

1/4 c coconut flour

1/2 c almond flour

1 1/2 c grated zucchini

1/4 c chopped crystallized ginger

1/4 c dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with baking papers.

Whisk agave, coconut oil, water, vanilla, and eggs together until mixed well. In a separate bowl, mix together baking soda, baking powder, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, salt, and flours. Mix together dry ingredients into wet, and stir until just combined. (Don’t over-mix.) Fold in zucchini, ginger, and cranberries.

Pour even amounts into baking papers. Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from tin as soon as possible. (I used a fork and, sliding it down the side of the cupcake, carefully lifted each from the tin.) This will prevent the bottoms from getting soggy. Set on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before icing.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Coconut Cream frosting, adapted from Elana’s Pantry:

1 14.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk (not light)

1 c agave nectar

pinch salt

5 t cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)

1-2 T water

1 1/4 c virgin coconut oil

1 c unsweetened coconut flakes

In a medium saucepan, heat coconut milk, agave, and salt. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring.

Combine cornstarch and water and mix until you get a slurry. Add slurry to saucepan and bring to a boil briefly, stirring. Remove from heat. Gradually blend in coconut oil. Add coconut flakes and stir.

Place saucepan in freezer for 40 minutes or more, checking and stirring occasionally, until frosting solidifies. Blend again until fluffy. Spread over cupcakes. Top cupcakes with dried cranberries, if desired.

Note: I found that this recipe makes way more frosting than is needed for these cupcakes. The frosting freezes quite well. When you want to use the frozen frosting, just allow to thaw until the frosting is able to be stirred and spread, and use on cupcakes as needed.

Refrigerate cupcakes if they will not be served within an hour or so, to preserve freshness. I’ve found they keep in the fridge for several days.

32 Responses to “Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Zucchini Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Frosting”

  1. I love your dairy-free version!! And, I agree, almond flour is delish – it really does produce a nice, tender crumb. Your photo is just beautiful. I love seeing how you’ve jazzed up my carrot cupcakes!

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  3. WOW, these cupcakes look incredible! How do you always get such amazing photos?!

  4. Those cupcakes look soooo delicious! And I love the cranberries that are teasing and taunting the cupcakes ;) And the coconut cream frosting sounds simply marvelous…I must give it a try!!!

  5. These look so so pretty with the cranberries on top of the delicious coconut frosting!

  6. I like the little cranberries on top. I need to get me some zucchini stat!

    • Bread + Butter – Thanks! Yes, get yourself some zucchini before it’s all gone! I even froze some grated zucchini so I could make these again in the middle of winter.

      Natasha and Sara – Thanks!

      Simply Life – thank you. Honestly, my photos have improved because I practice a lot. I do have a photo studio light box now, but I don’t always use it…I think trial and error works best! That, and a little editing in Photoshop always helps!

      Amy – Thanks for posting your cupcake recipe, so I could become inspired!

  7. Wow these looks amazing–LOVE the cranberries on top!

  8. This looks great! I love that it’s gluten free.

  9. Wow, these look wonderful :)
    I am going to make some this morning … just have to find some almond flour.

  10. Great stuff! I’ll give it a whirl .. my kids will love it, I think. You might want to post that on Gling.com. It’s a new Gluten-free site for recipes, locations, food and also Articles.

  11. These look wonderful indeed! I love to bake with agave nectar, it’s so much healthier than sugar.

    • Miriam – Thank you! I love baking with it too (so far)!

      Mike Lee – Thank you, I’ll check it out!

      Zainab – for these cupcakes, you could use Bob’s Red Mill, which is easier to find. It’s just coarser is all.

      Nutmegnanny – Thanks! Me too!

  12. This looks so yummy. You always do such a great job making healthy dishes look mouthwatering!

  13. Those cupcakes are gorgeous. We need more gluten-free recipes and you are one of those cooks/bakers inspiring me to do so. I’m glad that more ingredients are now available compared before. They’re just more expensive as of the moment. But this cupcakes are surely a winner- it’s gluten-free, dairy-free and it’s vegan. It’s great for people who have allergies. I want to try this recipe soon. Thanks.

    • Divina – Thank you! For the record, they’re not vegan (they have eggs). I’m blaming my “flu brain” on that one (I was sick last week), as I was not thinking straight when I posted this recipe! I couldn’t get Foodbuzz’s feed to read the revised title, unfortunately. However, you could make them vegan with an egg replacer, or I’ve had success with using flaxseed mixed with water. (Bonus – added fiber!)

  14. wow! these cupcakes are so adorable, I always enjoy reading your blog because you truly know how to turn gluten free dishes into delicious mouth watering ones!

    I have a cookbook recommendation for you. It’s called Baby Cakes, it’s focuses on vegan baking but I think you would love it!

  15. Oh my wow! That image on top, is GORGEOUS!! Another great recipe!

  16. Thanks very much for this idea. I’ve been toying with the idea of producing sweeteners; and in addition to honey bees, agave cacti are way up on my list of things to try. And since we have coconuts here in FL, I could feasibly make a local version of the frosting! I am saving this to my recipe box and can’t wait to try. Excited!!!!! Thank you :)

  17. I am currently having a love affair with zucchini breads, so your cupcake combo looks outrageous! Love the gluten and dairy-free option as well. Cheers!

  18. oh, i love the little touch with dried cranberries as garnish!
    beautiful cupcakes.

    • Lululu, Diana and Rachel J – thank you!

      The Chickenless Chick – I so wish coconuts were local here! Coconut is one of my favorite fruits.

      Jessie – I will definitely have to check that book out!

  19. Love it! Thank you for sharing this! I must try it. Great job on the picture too!

  20. Wow those look scrumptious! I’ve even got some coconut and almond flour. Now all I have to do is figure out how to make them Vegan by taking out the eggs. Hmm… chia seed gel? Egg replacer? Well, I’ll just have to get on it.
    I particularly love the way you used coconut oil instead of butter. It’s what I use all the time and sometimes converting from butter can be a major you know what. I love creative people, thanks for the post.

    • Laurel – I’ve seen a lot of recipes that use Ener-G egg replacer. I’ve also heard of using flaxseed meal mixed with water. I’ve used the latter instead of an egg in meatloaf (I just happened to be out of eggs that day), but I don’t know how it would work in baking. Of course, these kind of cupcakes are pretty forgiving, so I would encourage you to try! I bet they’ll taste yummy no matter what.

  21. These look amazing! I can’t use agave because it has more fructose than HFCS, which is dangerous for people with insulin resistance like me. Rapadura or even honey in moderation is better for my blood sugar if it’s combined with protein like a nut flour.

    Would you swap the agave 1 for 1 with rapadura?

  22. Do NOT use egg relacer for these muffins. They did not cook well at all. Basically they sank completely and were uncooked after 40 minutes. It seems like there should be more an a total of 3/4 cups of flour in these.

    • Jeanne – I’m sorry they didn’t turn out for you! I have next-to-no experience with egg replacers, so I haven’t experienced your problem. But even with eggs, these are quite moist. I could see how this could happen. You might try upping the flour, or if you can handle it, add some tapioca or arrowroot or another light starch to keep the sinking to a minimum. Good luck!

  23. Just tried this recipe out. The only thing different was I couldn’t find coconut flour, so I just did all almond flour. My batch sank in the middle and most of them broke apart. Could I have mixed ingredients to well? Should have left them in the oven longer? I don’t bake a lot so there’s a learning curve here :)

    • Louise – most likely your dough was too wet. Coconut flour absorbs WAY more moisture than other flours, so perhaps if you did 1 cup of almond flour instead of the 1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup…? I’m thinking it’s high time I make those cupcakes again!

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