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May 11, 2011
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Classic (gluten-free) cupcakes

One hundred and fifty cupcakes. That's a whole lotta cake. And while author and baker Elana Amsterdam was testing recipes for her latest book, "Gluten-Free Cupcakes" it wasn't unheard of for her to have that many cupcakes crowding her kitchen. Sometimes she'd whip up 15 batches of the single-serving desserts in one day.

The book, Amsterdam's second, was released at the end of April and the Boulder resident tested out each of the 50 recipes on her two sons and her husband, Rob Katz, the CEO of Vail Resorts, as well as some lucky neighbors. There are sweet treats of course, blueberry lemon cupcakes, vanilla fig cupcakes, almond fudge cupcakes, as well as savory treats like scallion goat cheese muffins, chive pepper muffins and spinach feta muffins.

Amsterdam began baking healthy, wholesome desserts back in the early '90s when she was studying the healing properties of food. Almost 20 years later, she's still applying what she learned as a baker who takes care of her "family with healing, nourishing foods - not an easy thing when it comes to feeding preteens," she said.

"All of the children in the neighborhood come to my house for snacks and they love my treats," Amsterdam continued. "They think they're getting dessert, while I know I'm getting super foods - such as almond flour - into them in the sneaky form of cupcakes."

In fact, Amsterdam's sons were very involved in the creation of this cookbook, she said. They edited her list of recipes and "came up with their own favorites that they decided had to be included," she said.

Amsterdam took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily about her new book, as well as share a couple of recipes.

Vail Daily: Which was the most difficult recipe for you? And why?

Elana Amsterdam: The vegan chocolate cupcakes. Can you imagine making a cupcake without wheat flour, butter, sugar and eggs?! It's as if there is nothing left to work with but air. This recipe was the "Mount Everest" of the book; I tested it 49 times or so.

VD: You and one of your sons is gluten free, correct? When were you diagnosed?

EA: I was diagnosed with celiac disease during the dark ages of gluten-free living, back in 1998. I went on a really simple gluten-free diet and didn't give it much thought. When my son was diagnosed at age 3, I made it my mission to turn all of my favorite recipes into gluten-free classics so that he would not be deprived of any of the delicious treats that I had growing up. That's why my book has everything from cream-filled cupcakes (they're like those cute little hostess cupcakes my mother used to get for us at the grocery store) to baseball cupcakes, which are chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting and reddish baseball stitching piped on top. I bring those to all of the boys' baseball team potlucks and no one knows ... that they're gluten free.

VD: How many times did you test each recipe?

EA: Anywhere from 10 to 50 times.

VD: What was the most difficult part of this book?

EA: Making dinner in between all of those batches of cupcakes.

VD: What's your kids favorite recipe? And Rob's favorite?

EA: We definitely have our favorites. My older son loves the marble cupcakes. My younger son asks me to make the raspberry cheesecake cupcakes (made with healthy organic high protein goat cheese) every week; and my husband loves the triple chocolate, which are a chocolate cupcake base with dark, milk and white chocolate chips. I love them all!

VD: How will these recipes do at Vail's altitude? Do people need to make any adjustments?

EA: The recipes do great at all altitudes. The most important thing for success with these recipes is reading the recommendations in the front of the book for trouble shooting, following the exact directions and using the recommended ingredients. If you want to experiment with other ingredients and techniques, regard it as an experiment and expect some failures along the way.

Sweetness: Medium

1/2 cup coconut flour

1 tablespoon arrowroot powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

4 large eggs

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 8 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, arrowroot powder, salt, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, agave nectar, and vanilla extract. Blend the wet ingredients into the coconut flour mixture with a handheld mixer until thoroughly combined, then fold in the strawberries.

Scoop 1/4 cup of batter into each prepared muffin cup.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 1 hour, then frost and serve.

Makes 8.

Sweetness: High

My younger son eats this straight out of the bowl!

1/4 cup agave nectar

2 egg whites

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh strawberries

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the agave nectar to a boil, stirring constantly. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 6 to 10 minutes, watching constantly and stirring occasionally, until the agave nectar darkens slightly from its original amber color, then remove from the heat and set aside.

In a deep bowl, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks using a handheld mixer. Be sure to push the beaters around the bowl to incorporate air into the whites. This step is important; if your egg whites are not whipped to stiff peaks, the recipe won't work. Stop whipping as soon as the egg whites are stiff; overwhipping will result in egg whites that are dry and grainy. The foam of the whites will be stiff enough to stand up in well-defined, unwavering peaks.

Drizzle the warm agave nectar very slowly into the egg whites, while whipping with a handheld mixer, to keep the peaks stiff. The meringue will become pearlescent and shiny.

Allow to cool to room temperature, then fold the strawberries into the meringue. Use right away.

Makes 3 cups.

Sweetness: Medium

Vanilla Batter

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

1/3 cup agave nectar

Choco late Batter

2 tablespoons coconut flour

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

1/4 cup agave nectar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 8 muffin cups with paper liners.

To make the vanilla batter, in a large bowl, combine the coconut flour and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, grapeseed oil, and agave nectar. Stir the wet ingredients into the coconut flour mixture with a large spoon until thoroughly combined.

To make the chocolate batter, in a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, grapeseed oil, and agave nectar. Stir the wet ingredients into the coconut flour mixture with a large spoon until thoroughly combined.

Fill each prepared muffin cup with 4 tablespoons of batter, alternating tablespoons of chocolate and vanilla, starting with chocolate batter and ending with vanilla. Use a toothpick to swirl the batter in figure eights.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 1 hour, then frost and serve.

Makes 8.

Sweetness: High

6 ounces dark chocolate chips (73 percent cacao) (about 1 heaping cup)

1/2 cup Spectrum all-vegetable shortening

1/4 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons water

Pinch of sea salt

In a medium saucepan over very low heat, melt the chocolate until smooth. Allow the pan to stand on the counter for 5 to 10 minutes to cool the chocolate to room temperature.

Blend in the shortening with a handheld mixer, then blend in the agave nectar, vanilla extract, water, and salt until smooth. Place the saucepan in the refrigerator for 3 to 8 minutes, until the frosting becomes spreadable.

If the frosting becomes too stiff to work with, reheat the pan ever so briefly over very low heat and stir until the frosting is softened. If the frosting is too runny, place it back in the refrigerator until it firms up.

Use immediately or store in a glass Mason jar in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Makes 1 1/4 cups.


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The VailDaily Updated May 11, 2011 03:53PM Published May 11, 2011 03:45PM Copyright 2011 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.