Almond and Candied Orange Cupcakes (Gluten Free & Vegan)

January 14, 2013

You know it’s been a wondrous weekend when glitter trails its way out the front door of your home. Literally. This weekend was brimming and bursting with five-star food and company. They say Ithaca brews magic, and I must agree, our (newish) hometown is truly alight! To relish the weekend backwards, today I will share Saturday’s festivities and save Friday for tomorrow.

On Saturday eve we hosted a birthday party for our dear friend Sarah: 28! Saturn Return is a time of transformation that takes place between the ages of 27 and 30, celebrating the interval it takes for Saturn to make one revolution around the sun. It represents a passing of right and the entry to a new phase of life. (Wikipedia has a good description of Saturn Return.) Based on the wisdom of friends and elders who have crossed this transition, my own interpretation is that we finally reach a stage of feeling comfortable in our skin and navigating the world, where we can quit self-conscious notions and just start living!

Emma Frisch Almond and Candied Orange Cupcakes (Gluten Free & Vegan) Recipe

Saturn Return is the perfect excuse for a cosmic party! Sarah rallied a gorgeous crowd of ladies and gents. We bedazzled ourselves and shared a gorgeous array of food and cocktails. Anna’s velvety almond-milk based, spiced pumpkin and squash soup was sacredly delicious. Sarah and Creighton’s smoked tofu wontons were wildly scrumptious. Shoshi’s simple roasted roots from her own garden (just mustard, salt and pepper!) were candied to perfection and Sarah’s stinky kimchi salad – don’t even get me started on her aaa-mazing salad creations. Hannah’s black bean brownies (yup, you read right!) were sinfully good. I will humbly add my shock over how successful my gluten-free AND vegan cupcakes turned out!

As you may know, there are two habits I can’t seem to break in my kitchen:

  1. I LOVE a good challenge, however unreasonable.
  2. I abhor following recipes. It’s not in my blood.

Emma Frisch Almond and Candied Orange Cupcakes (Gluten Free & Vegan) Recipe

The birthday girl is gluten-free, and I was determined to make a dessert that would rise to the occasion. After all, gluten-free baking isn’t that challenging. When I made gluten-free Pumpkin-Sage Muffins with Caramelized Onions and Apples, all I did was replace the regular flour with Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour. It turns out, cupcakes are not so simple, at least not if you want them to rock your world!

Disclaimer: Gluten-free baking is slightly absurd and should be reserved for labors of love, only! (Or, maybe these are just the words of a gluten-free novice, and so bake away without hinderance!)

My friend Anna, another gluten-free beauty, lent me a copy of Erin McKenna’s BabyCakes. For any gluten-free, (mostly) sugar-free and (mostly) vegan human, this book is like the bible. Unlike most vegan and gluten-free bomber recipes, a vitamix (crazy, powerful blender which whips any grains or nuts into cream) is NOT needed for any of her recipes. Hallelujah!

GF baking requires investing in a new pantry of odd flours and starches, like potato starch and xantham gum, which I still find questionable – I mean really, how do they extract potato starch? More research needed here on my end. All of these can be found in the natural foods section of your grocery store, the coop, or online fromBob’s Red Mill. It’s pricey too – I used 2.5 jars of coconut oil (and no, this batch wasn’t the gallon I bought for $2.00 from a grandfather’s shack on Corn Island). But actually, once you have the ingredients on hand, it’s not so scary! I followed the recipe almost to a T, replacing vanilla extract for a more sophisticated and buttery almond flavor and added candied orange peels.

The final product was better than ANY cupcake I have ever sunk my teeth into. No joke. The frosting is like crack, and these cosmic orbs of delight are “good for you.” So, nosh away to your heart’s content (especially if you’re the one baking them!).


Almond Cream Frosting

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Erin McKenna wasn’t lying when she said her customers would tear down her bakeshop if she stopped serving her Vanilla Frosting / Vanilla Sauce. With a touch of almond, this recipe is over-the-moon! Save extra frosting for smearing on pancakes and toast, or melting over fresh fruit. Amazing!

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: enough to frost 48 cupcakes


  • Unsweetened soy milk – 3 cups
  • Dry soy milk powder – 1.5 cups
  • Coconut flour – 2-4 tablespoons
  • Agave nectar – 1/2 cup
  • Vanilla extract – 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Almond extract – 1 tablespoon pure almond extract
  • Coconut oil – 3 cups
  • Lemon juice – 2 tablespoons, fresh squeezed
  • Orange juice – 2 tablespoons, fresh squeezed


  1. Note: Coconut oil usually comes in a jar, and depending on the temperature in the store or your pantry, is either in liquid or solid form. If the coconut oil is solid, melt it before measuring. You can either put the jar in a bath of boiling water, or scoop out the oil and melt it in a saucepan (if the latter, let the oil cool before using).
  2. In a blender or food processor, combine the soy milk, soy powder, 2 tablespoons of coconut flour, agave nectar, vanilla and almond extracts. Blend the ingredients for about 2 minutes.
  3. With the machine still running, slowly add the coconut oil and citrus juice in a slow and steady trickle. Alternate between the two, doing 1 tablespoon of citrus juice and then a bit of oil back and forth until fully incorporated.
  4. Pour the mixture into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for at least an hour for the frosting to solidify.
  5. If the frosting is not solidified when you take it out, pour it back into the food processor and whip in 2 more tablespoons of coconut flour, adding a little bit at a time. (My batch was a bit too thin to stick on the cupcakes, and so my gluten-free friend Anna added a generous heap of coconut oil which instantly seized up the frosting! Voila! Next time we will add a tad less to preserve that creamier frosting feeling.)


Allergens: milk

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