Gluten-Free Halloween Cupcakes (Guest Post)
You might have noticed by now that I don’t often write holiday-themed posts, but Halloween is my girlfriend Paula’s favorite holiday, so she asked if she could write a guest post. Two things I won’t say no to: guest posts and cupcakes. Happy almost Halloween! ~Allison
I love Halloween, and nearly everything about it. I love the crisp autumn air– though Allison will argue that it’s just as hot in Santa Barbara in October as it is in August– but I can tell; the air just smells different. I also love the spooky element. I love horror films, reading scary stories, and seeing people in their scariest costumes. I love decorating for Halloween and seeing other people’s decorations in their offices and around the neighborhood.
We didn’t decorate our apartment because Allison just doesn’t like Halloween that much, but when we moved in together, she let me hang up some of my old horror posters. I have an ancient movie poster for The Lost Boys (which I bought in San Fernando, CA for a dollar when I was 17) and a 30 Days of Night poster (which a friend helped me “acquire,” mat, and frame).
My vast collection of horror films and books are taking up space in our living room and guest room. When Allison’s writing a blog post, I often watch scary movies on my computer– using headphones, so I don’t add a soundtrack of screams, zombie moans, or werewolf maulings to her work.
I have always loved horror; I was weaned on it as a child. I saw my first horror film when I was about 4 years old: the original Night of the Living Dead. Since then, I’ve seen many more, and have developed a discerning horror palette. In other words, I am a horror snob. It’s got to have a plot and characters I like, and can’t have violence and gore just for the sake of violence and gore. More monsters and less cheese/camp and I’m happy.
I also love special effects and makeup artistry. Tom Savini (Dawn Of The Dead, Creepshow 2) and Greg Nicotero (Evil Dead 2, The Walking Dead) were my gods– in another life I would have loved to follow in their footsteps and become a makeup artist. I used to go crazy with the latex, blood, and makeup every Halloween, and turn myself into a zombie or a werewolf victim. It was my personal goal to either turn people green or scare them. (While I respect other people’s bumble-bee, fairy, or Raggedy Ann costumes, I really wanted to keep Halloween scary.) This all ended when I moved to Santa Barbara and got a job for a local ophthalmologist. I just don’t think it’s professional to go to work as a zombie in a doctor’s office.
Although Halloween is not one of Allison’s favorites, I told her that we absolutely HAVE to create a Halloween blog post and that I would love to write it. I love making cupcakes, but I’d never made Halloween cupcakes before and I thought it’d be fun. (It was!) I still think I need to polish my decorating skills, but I also need to forgive myself a little because without using fondant, the designs are just not going to be as smooth. But I’m really happy with how these came out.
I decided to make these cupcakes gluten-free for a friend who just found out she’s sensitive to wheat. I’d never (intentionally) made anything gluten-free before, so I did quite a bit of research and– though many recipes call for a special gluten-free baking mix*– I was pleased to find that we already had several options for gluten-free flours in our pantry: rice flour, chick pea flour, and oat flour. I wasn’t too sure about chick pea flour in cupcakes, so I opted for a mix of rice and oat flours, and it worked nicely!
Since I really didn’t find a specific recipe I wanted to use, I created my own. These cupcakes puffed in the oven nicely and smelled great. They have a subtle oat flavor and a delicate crumb. The pumpkin puree** scores extra Halloween points, but doesn’t lend much to the taste; you could use applesauce as a substitute. The cupcakes were pretty sweet, though not too much so. (You could definitely still use less sugar if that’s more appealing.) The cinnamon adds a nice spice, and is totally optional, but I find I’ll use cinnamon in everything if I can get away with it. The cream cheese frosting recipe— from Allison’s sister– is the same one I used for my Rainbow Cupcakes, but colored with fancy gel food coloring. I got my inspiration for the witches’ hats here. You’ll need thin chocolate-covered shortbread cookies, Hershey’s kisses, and “writing icing” in multiple colors.
* We also looked in several stores for xanthan gum, since nearly every gluten-free recipe called for it. I could only find some online, where one 4 oz.-bag will run you nearly $11. But I was saved when I did a search for substitutes and found Gluten-Free Girl’s post on flaxseeds and chia seeds! Allison had some chia seeds in the fridge. Problem solved!
** Easy Pumpkin Puree recipe coming soon!
Gluten-Free Halloween Cupcakes
(Makes 20 cupcakes)
~ 1¼ cup rice flour
~ 1¼ cup oat flour
~ 3 tsp. baking powder
~ ½ tsp. salt
~ 2 tsp. cinnamon
~ 4 eggs
~ 1¼ cup white sugar
~ ¾ cup brown sugar
~ 1 cup pumpkin puree (or substitute applesauce)
~ 1 cup milk
~ ¼ cup canola oil
~ 2 tsp. vanilla extract
~ 1 tsp. chia seeds (or xanthan gum)
~ Cream Cheese Frosting
~ gel or liquid food coloring for the batter and/or the frosting (I dyed half of each green, and half purple)
~ black writing icing for the spider webs
~ writing icing in other colors for the seams/ribbons around the witches’ hats
~ chocolate shortbread cookies for the witches’ hats
~ Hershey’s kisses for the witches’ hats
How to make it:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix together rice flour, oat flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
2. In a large bowl, beat sugars and eggs together until well blended, for about one minute. Add the rest of the wet ingredients (pumpkin puree, milk, canola oil, vanilla) and the chia seeds, and mix on medium speed for another minute. Stir in dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
3. If dyeing the batter with food coloring, add a few drops at a time until it reaches your desired color (though keep in mind that because of the oat flour and cinnamon, the batter might not be quite as vibrant as you want it to be; I divided the batter in two, and my green cupcakes turned out much brighter than my purple ones).
4. Pour into muffin pans lined with your favorite cupcake liners (fill muffin cups about ¾ of the way). Bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
5. Place on cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.
Mix food coloring into Cream Cheese Frosting a few drops at a time.
~ For spider web cupcakes: Pipe or spread frosting on top of the cupcake. Use black “writing icing” to apply a dot in the center of the cupcake, with two concentric circles surrounding it. Take a toothpick and drag the tip from the center of the dot out to the edge of the circle, and repeat until you have a complete spider web design. (To avoid a messy cupcake, after drawing each radius, wipe the toothpick on a clean damp kitchen towel.)
~ For witches’ hat cupcakes: Pipe or spread frosting on top of the cupcake. Place a shortbread cookie upside-down on top of the icing. The frosting will peek through the central ring of the cookie, making a nice glue for the Hershey’s kiss. Draw a thin line of writing icing around the seam of the kiss and the cookie to form a circle or a bow.