Thursday, July 21, 2011

Allergy-Friendly Cupcakes

I consider myself lucky. As far as I know, I’m not allergic to anything. Definitely not any foods anyway. This past weekend I took on what I consider to be one of my greatest baking challenges yet – making an allergy-friendly cupcake that didn’t taste like one.

A few weeks ago, a friend approached me and asked if I could make cupcakes for her sister’s surprise bachelorette party. Not a problem. Then she reminded me of the allergies I needed to accommodate. The cupcakes had to be free of wheat (not necessarily free of gluten), dairy, nuts, and sulphites. Phew. Normally I’m quite nervous at the prospect of accommodating an allergy. In this case, all involved were adults who weren’t anaphylactic to any of the previously mentioned items.

I spent a lot of time online trying to figure out which ingredients were safe and which recipes would be best suited to all of the substitutions. My vegan cupcake book, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, was a great starting point for the dairy-free aspect of things. In the end though, I decided to modify the ever popular Coconut Lime cupcakes and make them allergy-friendly.

Getting rid of the dairy was easy. Since there was already a coconut component to the cupcake I substituted coconut milk (being careful to find one that was sulphite-free) for the buttermilk. Next, I found out there’s a ratio for substituting oil for butter in baking. Use about ¾ the amount of oil as you would butter. There were no nuts in the original recipe, nor did any of the ingredients contain anything. The hardest thing to substitute was the good old all-purpose flour. After much research, I decided to use a gluten-free flour blend I came across on Martha’s website. It was made up of a mix of rice flour (I mixed white and brown), tapioca flour, and potato starch. It seemed to be the most popular mix for baking I found mentioned on multiple sites. With all of the ingredients sorted out I was set!

This may be the first recipe I feel I’ve adapted enough to post it as my own…

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Coconut Lime Cupcakes
Adapted from Coconut & Lime
(makes 12 to 16)  

1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
1 cup sugar
7 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup coconut milk
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest of one lime (or more to taste)


Preheat the oven to 350. Line 12 wells in a cupcake tin with baking papers. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, zest, vanilla, and sugar until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the juice. Alternately add the flour mixture and coconut milk, beginning and ending with flour. Fill each baking cup two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

For the frosting I used Martha Stewart’s Basic Buttercream (my new favorite) and substituted 1 cup of President’s Choice lactose-free margarine for the butter. I find spreading icing to be too time consuming so I just used a large freezer bag with the corner cut off to quickly pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. Then I dipped the frosted cupcakes into toasted coconut to finish it off. Sulphite-free coconut can be found at health food stores. In this case, I just left the coconut off of a couple of them for the one person with the sulphite sensitivity.

They were a hit! I made a test batch early in the week (and used my co-workers as taste testers) to make sure that they were edible. Even I thought they were tasty. Of course the texture will never be quite the same as all-purpose flour but the flavor was quite good. I thought the frosting might be gross with the margarine but I actually loved the flavor and the ease of using the margarine. No worrying that you’ve left it out long enough to soften. It also piped beautifully. I will probably use the margarine in place of butter again. The bride-to-be was thrilled when she found out that she was able to eat the cupcakes, as was her friend who has Celiac disease.

While I won’t be making these kinds of substitutions on a regular basis (gluten-free flour is expensive!!), I am glad that I gave it a try.

Are there any of your favorite recipes that you’ve adapted to accommodate allergies?


  1. Those look awesome! Especially for gluten free ones! Nice job. Make me some. Please?

  2. They were so awesome! I even took the leftovers to the office (i have to get into that dress after al!) and they caused quite a commotion! The people with the allergies came out of the woodwork and even the non-allergic loved them! Thanks so much for all your hard work!!


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