These gluten-free vanilla cupcakes are incredibly moist and fluffy inside, made with olive oil instead of butter. They’re decorated with a stunning pink ombre frosting, using a 1M Star Tip. This is a small batch recipe, making 8 cupcakes, but can easily be doubled.
It’s love week.
The one that signals Valentine’s Day, heart shaped everything, red and pink having their moments, and countless reasons to be a cheesy romantic. And whether it’s with your boo, your BFF, or your best gal pals, these gluten free cupcakes with pink ombre buttercream are worth celebrating.
So during the month of January, I tested and tested different versions until the gluten free vanilla cupcakes coming out of my oven were fluffy, light, and incredibly easy to make. Yes, even that starry frosting – I swear it’s easy to do, and looks much more intimidating than it actually is. More on that later in the post.
Here’s a little insight to my recipe testing, and key components of an amazing gluten free vanilla cupcake.
Butter vs. oil
I’ve always assumed that butter was the best option for cakes, adding flavor and the fat component that makes it tender. However, after doing research, it made sense that oil is be a superior choice for cupcakes because it is 100% fat, whereas butter is usually 70-80% fat. Therefore, the cake will be even lighter, and loftier. And they stay moister, longer.
So I tested both to see for myself, and the cupcakes made with oil were the clear winner. I thought a nut oil, like Roasted Almond Oil would be delicious, but the flavor was too powerful. So I ended up going with olive oil, which added a buttery, fruity flavor.
Vanilla paste vs. vanilla extract
My goal was to create a vanilla cupcake that truly tasted like vanilla. Not just a faint afterthought, but rich, bold, and complex vanilla flavor. I found that this could be achieved with a combination of pure vanilla extract, and vanilla paste.
Look for ‘pure’ on the extract label to make sure it’s not the imitation kind – this fake substitute has a bitter aftertaste and won’t add that delicious flavor you’re looking for.
Vanilla bean paste is a rich, thick paste that contains a blend of the scraped-out vanilla pod seeds and vanilla extract.You still get the classic, rich vanilla flavor that the pod offers but you don’t have to prep and seed the pods yourself.
How much batter per cupcake
When I’m making gluten free muffins, I fill each cupcake liner to nearly the top, as this produces the bakery style muffins that rise high and give you that glorious muffin top. I found this technique should NOT be used with cupcakes.
Fill each cupcake liner a little over half full, and the cupcakes will rise just to the top and not spill out the sides, so you can frost the perfectly flat tops.
Gluten free flour combinations
I’ve written before about why it’s important to use both starches and grains in gluten free baking, to achieve a texture that doesn’t fall apart, yet isn’t gummy, but also tastes good. It can be tricky to find that sweet spot! For this recipe you’ll use almond flour, sorghum flour, and sweet rice flour.
Xanthan gum is often used to mimic the properties of regular all-purpose flour, but I do not use it in my kitchen, as I don’t think it’s necessary. And there are many people who react adversely to it.
How to make professional looking cupcakes when you’re not a baker:
Now, let’s talk about this mauve inspired, pink ombre frosting situation. I spent an afternoon with my friend Holly, making these cupcakes, after I had sent her a few inspo photos of cupcakes decorated using a star technique.
I decided to learn how to pipe the frosting, and gave her the green light on mixing up the prettiest 3 shades of pink.
I made a double batch of this simple buttercream frosting recipe, and split it into three different bowls. Holly made the three shades of rose pink by adding red food coloring, followed by a few drops of blue. With each bowl she increased the amount of red to create a deeper shade.
Then, for the piping technique, I recommend watching this Youtube video to see how to use the 1M Open Star tip. ou’ll see it at the 1:25 second mark. That’s all I did to learn! Once you’ve filled your piping bags, practice on a plate to get the hang of how much pressure you need to use, an how fast/slow to pull the tip up.
You certainly don’t have to do three different colors of frosting. Decorating with one color, using the star tip would also be very pretty!
If you make these Gluten-Free Vanilla Cupcakes, be sure to tag me on Instagram with hashtag #heartbeetkitchen, or @heartbeetkitchen!
Gluten Free Vanilla Cupcakes with Ombre Buttercream Frosting
The best gluten free vanilla cupcakes that are soft and fluffy, and don't fall apart!
Auto-immune issues and health issues that forbid so many things I used to love, esp refined/white sugar and dairy- Could I use alternatives? I’d love a ‘yellow cake’ of any sort, to use for cupcakes and celebration cakes, as I’m looking to replace my former traditional recipe repertoire while healing. Love your site so much!
Hi Valentina! I have an AIP Paleo Carrot Cake recipe that might fit what you are looking for, as well as a AIP Paleo Moist Carob Cake with Date Frosting!
Hi, could I use more sorghum flour in place of rice flour? Thanks
Oh My! Yes please! These vanilla cupcakes look so dreamy! I like that these are incredibly moist and fluffy inside. I’m lickin my lips just looking at these! I’ve just bookmarked the page. Can’t wait to give the recipe a try (probably this weekend). Thank u a lot for this inspiration! Your blog is wonderful. I’ll be coming around often. Keep up the good work!
Hate to ask someone who’s posted a recipe they’ve painstakingly created, tested, & written But with that said, if you’re someone who has multiple autoimmunes besides just avoiding gluten- we avoid nuts & I in particular don’t tolerate almonds— Any thoughts as to a substitute?? I know there’s a science as to which flour does/has what so I am never sure what to replace it with when recipe is using multiple flours. thank you & they look amazing!
I totally understand autoimmune issues. You could use oat flour instead of almond flour, which I tested, the texture is just a little more dense. But they still turn out and taste great.