Vegan & Gluten Free Cupcake Disaster
February 6, 2017 8:05 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to perfect a gluten free/vegan cupcake for my son's first birthday and keep having disasters. What am I doing wrong?

I tried rice flour - the texture is grainy and gross.
I tried oat flour - fixed the texture issue, but doesn't cook all the way through
I tried tapioca starch as a binder - adds a weird taste
I tried box mix - tasted disgusting.

I use earth balance soy free margarine, oat milk, and egg replacement.

Vegan & gluten free bakers - give me your tips!
posted by Suffocating Kitty to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I suggest finding a recipe that uses almond flour--it's expensive but way tastier than most gluten free flours. Also if you can use regular oil or olive oil instead of earth balance margarine that might help the taste.
posted by chaiminda at 8:19 AM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Personally I would use a GF blend such as King Arthur or Cup for Cup, and would not use any odd "egg replacement." There are many many recipes out there on Google. Sounds like you might be trying to reinvent the wheel?
posted by sheldman at 8:29 AM on February 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

GF vegan here. I would get the Betty Crocker or Trader Joe's GF cake mix. Use applesauce and coconut oil as liquids. Should be delicious.

OR...just buy the Trader Joe's GF cupcakes which are very tasty but may not be vegan sorry.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:30 AM on February 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

For egg replacement, have you heard of aquafaba? Sounds kinda bizarre at first, but in practice works wonderfully.

I also really like Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free 1:1 Flour.
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:31 AM on February 6, 2017

Best answer: Are you using a recipe that is specifically vegan & gluten free or are you doing substitutions for a wheat-dairy-egg containing recipe?

By box mix, do you mean a gluten free cupcake mix or flour like cup4cup? (My sister-in-law who has a gluten allergy likes cup4cup.)

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World has a recipe for Vanilla Gluten Freedom Cupcakes.
posted by carrioncomfort at 8:31 AM on February 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Which box mix did you use? The Betty Crocker Gluten-Free cake mix has always been flawless for me, even with vegan substitutions.
posted by kate blank at 8:36 AM on February 6, 2017

Response by poster: I don't remember which box mix i used - i will try the Betty Crocker mix!

I have tried both specific GF/Vegan recipes and replacing ingredients for standard recipes without much success. I did have great success making GF/Vegan chocolate chip cookies and was hoping it would be easy to get the same success with cupcakes.

I use Egg Replacer. I have tried applesauce in the past and found it added too much moisture to the mix.

Cup for Cup? Is this available in a trader joes/Whole Foods?
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 8:43 AM on February 6, 2017

Another vote for the Betty Crocker GF cake mix. They're fabulous.

If you're going to go the scratch method, I also vote for a flour blend. I had disaster after disaster when I used just one thing. Gluten Free on a Shoestring has a recipe for a blend, which was nice but frankly, it was just easiest to purchase. I am a fan of the Betty Crocker GF flour blend. We buy it in bulk on Amazon, and it's really reasonable. I thought it was equivalent to Bob's Red Mill 1:1. I haven't yet tried Cup4Cup but I hear it's fabulous. Yes, you can find it at Whole Foods, and some Safeway branded groceries carry it as well. I even spotted it one lone time at Target about a year ago, then never again.
posted by BlueBear at 8:44 AM on February 6, 2017

Does it have to be from a mix? A friend of mine makes Martha Stewart's Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes for a GF friend and they are SHOCKINGLY good. Like, so delicious that those of us gluten-eaters beg her to bring them to parties.
posted by Aquifer at 8:51 AM on February 6, 2017

Best answer: Cup4Cup's Multipurpose Flour has milk in it, so it is not appropriate for vegan recipes. Their Wholesome Flour is dairy-free.
posted by ShooBoo at 9:06 AM on February 6, 2017

A friend of mine makes Martha Stewart's Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes

This recipe needs to be vegan as well and these are basically butter and eggs with a bit of dark chocolate.
posted by kate blank at 9:32 AM on February 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I don't do GF baking, but I do a lot of vegan baking. I second the suggestions to check out the recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World to see how she does it. I know a lot of her recipes use corn starch or arrowroot for binding instead of fake eggs. They also use the fairly traditional baking powder + baking soda + some vinegar for leavening. I've never had a problem with the recipes, which is why I would trust her GF cupcakes.
posted by kendrak at 9:36 AM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is a tough problem. Plain cake is harder to do well than recipes with something like carrot or banana added.

Maybe the Babycakes NYC recipe? I haven't made it for years but I think it was pretty good and I've heard other people say good things about it. I also like the Minimalist Baker but haven't tried this recipe myself.

I'm gluten free and dairy free but eat eggs. I think you will have trouble adapting recipes like the Martha Stewart one above that rely on a lot of eggs for structure. I think the suggestion to look for a recipe with almond flour is a good one as it helps make moister baked goods. You definitely can't just sub rice or oat flour for all purpose flour. Also on flour, different brands of rice flour can have very different textures. I personally use the Authentic Foods extra fine brown rice flour; however it has a different weight per cup than coarser ground flour. Memail if you want me to look up the conversion. Bob's Red Mill is also ok and commonly used. I found the Arrowhead Mills one really grainy but haven't used it for years.

I wonder about the type of milk. One of the ATK gluten free books has dairy-free adaptations and they always say something like "We prefer this recipe with almond milk. Soy milk will also work. Do not use rice milk." I've never used oat milk myself though.
posted by carolr at 9:39 AM on February 6, 2017

Another vote for Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.
posted by JawnBigboote at 9:40 AM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've made this awesome vegan chocolate cake before (NYTimes article about the recipe - Even something as simple as the classic Amazon, or black-bottom, cake found in so many cookbooks uses no dairy products or eggs, only vegetable oil and vinegar with cold water. The cocoa reacts to the combination to produce the darkest, moistest cake seen outside the photo on a box of mix.).

You could try it with a gluten-free flour mix.
posted by ShooBoo at 9:49 AM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

You need xanthan gum. Many pre-made mixes have it, or you should buy it and add it to your homemade flour mix. I'd also encourage you to try out aquafaba in place of the eggs rather than commercial egg replacer.

This recipe makes an excellent cake, and imagine it would still work baked as cupcakes. I used King Arthur Gluten Free flour to make it.
posted by snaw at 9:58 AM on February 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'd start your journey out with a vegan cupcake recipe, and then work on adapting it to gluten-free.

The chocolate cupcakes in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World use the same recipe as Just Chocolate Cake except that once you've mixed the cake batter, you want to:

Pour into liners, filling three-quarters of the way. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack and let cool completely.

I just substituted the all-purpose flour with Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flour, and added 1 teaspoon of xantham gum.

I find the 1tsp of xanthum gum addition works pretty well when converting recipes to gluten free.
posted by backwards guitar at 10:40 AM on February 6, 2017

Best answer: Another vote for Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I used to have a small vegan cupcake business and I used their recipe for g/f cupcakes when a customer requested them. Babycakes recipes are good too, but they often taste g/f, which is something I've tried to avoid.
posted by Kitteh at 10:42 AM on February 6, 2017

This recipe needs to be vegan as well and these are basically butter and eggs with a bit of dark chocolate.

I read the question three times to make sure I wasn't missing anything...and literally missed the vegan part. Sorry!
posted by Aquifer at 11:03 AM on February 6, 2017

I generally use Bob's Red Mill gluten-free baking flour. For vegan baking, I've had good results using flax eggs.
posted by cnidaria at 11:42 AM on February 6, 2017

FWIW, I happened to be at Trader Joe's today and checked their gluten free cupcakes on your behalf. They are not vegan.
posted by instamatic at 6:26 PM on February 6, 2017

Best answer: Gluten-free baking and vegan baking are both areas where you really need to understand what the ingredients are doing. When you combine the two, this becomes urgent. Basically your issue is that sponge cake becomes 'fluffy' and light because proteins form an architectural lattice and gases form inside the lattice, creating a spongy texture with multiple small holes. Standard cakes have two main kinds of protein doing this structural work - egg and gluten. There's also a 'glue' action that these substances have - they bind the cake together so that it doesn't fall apart in your hand and retains moisture rather than drying out in the oven.

It's possible to get an okay rise by removing one of these ingredients and jiggling around with the other ingredients to compensate. For example, I will often veganise recipes by adding more 'gluey' ingredients (egg replacer, syrups, banana) and adding a little bicarb and vinegar to make the mix more bubbly going in. Conversely, GF recipes often compensate for the limited structural qualities of GF flours by relying on egg, plus some further 'gluey' ingredients like xanthan gum.

However, when you're doing vegan AND gluten-free baking, you are suffering from a deficit of structure-builders, meaning the cake will easily collapse and may appear not to be cooked at all. You're also suffering from a lack of 'glue', meaning you may end up with an overly dry, fall-apart cake. There's also the problem that while flour grains will 'cook together' into a smooth mix, some other flours will not do this, so you get a grainy or worse, gritty texture.

How do you deal with this?

One thing I'll strongly recommend from the start is that you use a commercial GF flour blend. These are designed to get a mixture of starches and gums which will approximate to some of the qualities of regular flour while also taking into account factors such as taste.

The other thing you need to remember is that most egg replacers ONLY replace the 'glue + moisture' properties of eggs, not the structural component. Also, some of them are just the same starches you find in GF flour, so you may end up with a starchy mess if you try to cook with the two together without checking the ingredients list. One egg replacer that doesn't suffer from this problem is silken tofu, but it's advisable to flavour the cupcakes so that the soya flavour doesn't predominate. You'll also want a blender or stand mixer to make sure that the tofu is very well blended into the mixture, which is hard to do by hand.

An alternative is to use soya yoghurt and add a bit more margarine. This makes it into a cake that gets a lot of its lightness from fat rather than air. It will have a crumbly texture but taste good. Add a commercial egg replacer such as Ener-G to try to hold it together as best you can.

If there's not a specific reason why you're avoiding soy as well, I STRONGLY recommend you bake with soy/soya milk instead of oat milk. Oat milk is mostly water, with a few starches suspended in it, and will not have the qualities which suit milk to baking. It's also a good idea to put a capful of vinegar into the soya milk and leave it for about 5 minutes to coagulate - this will allow it to contribute structure-builders of its own and will give a better taste.

So, in summary:

- Use a GF flour blend
- If you're flavouring the cupcakes, use silken tofu as an egg replacer - not too much, and pay attention to your flavour profile.
- Otherwise, use soy yoghurt and add a bit more Earth Balance than you usually would. Add egg replacer to improve cohesion
- Use coagulated soya milk instead of oat milk.

If you have to avoid soy as well, you're in for some real trouble as there aren't many other options to build structure - I suggest you look into aquafaba but bear in mind if done properly it takes several days to prepare.
posted by Acheman at 4:58 AM on February 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for your very detailed answers! My son has a lot of food sensitivities that cause him to poop blood when ingested - so we avoid eggs, wheat, nuts, dairy, soy, shellfish, and beef which can make cooking and eating out an adventure. I ordered the Vegan Cupcakes take Over the World and the Cup4Cup Wholesome flour from Amazon to get started. I will provide an update once they arrive with my results!
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 8:02 AM on February 7, 2017

Response by poster: Ok - cupcake update - it took 3 batches to really finalize my approach.

Vegan cupcakes take over the world is PERFECT. Using vinegar as the egg replacement is astounding. Cup4Cup is great as a base. It's a little thick ground, but I got a really decent batch of cupcakes using cupc4cup wholesome flour, rice milk, and the cooking then for 30 minutes instead of the suggested 22 minutes.

Thanks for all the help!
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 10:45 AM on February 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

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