Autumn is by far my favourite season for baking with seasonal fruits and vegetables. I love those wholesome spiced desserts that are perfect for warming up the colder dark nights and these pumpkin cupcakes make the cosiest of desserts. These soft and flavoursome gluten-free cupcakes are bursting with aromatic pumpkin spices and have the fluffiest crumb which is then topped off with a fresh dollop of pillowy clouds of meringue, toasted for a wonderful wintery feel!
Hokkaido pumpkin is perfect for baking with and especially perfect for gluten-free bakes. Gluten-free bakes often risk being too dry or crumbly, but adding fruit or vegetable purees such as pumpkin or beetroot, can bring back that missing moisture and create a beautifully soft and fluffy texture. Making your own pumpkin puree may be time consuming but it is very rewarding when you see the amount of delicious bakes you can get out of it. Take a look at my Pumpkin Cupcakes, my super simple Pumpkin Roll or my perfect Pumpkin Pie for more ideas of what to bake with pumpkin puree. Not forgetting, the whole pumpkin can actually be used so nothing goes to waste, such as the seeds which can be roasted with salt for a healthy snack!
As with all of my recipes, these cupcakes are no different in that they’re made using standard pantry staples, come together easily and are simple to bake and decorate. If you’re using a gluten-free plain flour blend such as that from Doves Farm (not an ad), baking this will truly be a piece of cake (mind the pun!). I love a good thick slice of cake and it pains me when people associate gluten-free baking with a dry, crumbly and flat piece of sad-looking cake. As you can see, with all of my cakes, I like a decent slice and that’s what you get with my recipes. Have a look at my simple coeliac-friendly recipe below and give it a go!
What ingredients do you need?
Oil– I often use a good quality olive oil in recipes which require a vegetable-based oil rather than butter just for the fact that I like to use up the ingredients that I have in the kitchen readily available rather than buying new. I’ve tried this recipe with a vegetable oil and olive oil and both worked a treat, so go with whatever you’ve got in.
Sugar – A mixture of white and brown sugars works best in this recipe, both of which add layers of sweetness and structure to the cupcakes.
Eggs – Medium free-range eggs are best, just be sure to use them at room temperature. Eggs add structure to the cake and act as a leavening agent to help the cake rise. Egg whites at room temperatue are essential for the meringue topping.
Gluten-free flour – A gluten-free plain flour blend, or all-purpose flour, such as Doves Farm Plain Flour will work wonders in this recipe. If it already contains Xanthan Gum you may omit the extra Xanthan Gum from the recipe. Always go for a flour blend rather than one type of grain as this will guarantee a much better result.
Pumpkin Puree*- Homemade or tinned puree is fine for this recipe. The most important thing is that any excess water has been removed either through the blotting or the straining method (see Tips & Tricks below).
Xanthan gum – Xanthan gum is essential for most gluten-free recipes and there are no exceptions here. Doves Farm is my preferred choice but you can use any. If your flour already contains Xanthan Gum, you can choose to leave out the extra 1/4 teaspoon. Xanthan Gum adds that missing elasticity which binds wheat-based cakes together.
Baking powder – Any will do, just check that it is definitely gluten-free as not all baking powders are. Baking powder acts as a leavening agent which helps the cake to rise in the baking process. Be careful not to add too much and stick to the quantity stated in the recipe, as this could actually have a counter effect on the rise.
Mixed spices – This recipe wouldn’t be complete without the warming winter spices of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper and turmeric. I have listed them all separately, but you could also choose to add two teaspoons of a pumpkin spice mix instead.
Cream of Tartar – Cream of Tartar is the key ingredient in meringues, this essential component helps to stiffen the meringue into stiff peaks and hold the structure of the whirls. Lightly toast it with a culinary blowtorch to finish!
What equipment do you need?
- 12-hole muffin baking tray
- Cupcake or muffin cases (I prefer slightly larger cases for a good-sized cupcake!)
- Stand-mixer or handheld electric whisk (essential for whipping up the meringue into stiff peaks)
- 1M open-star piping nozzle
- Disposable piping bags
- Culinary thermometer
Tips & Tricks
Room temperature ingredients are essential for this recipe to work. Room temperature ingredients ensure that they can all be mixed together thoroughly. If you forget to take your eggs out of the fridge beforehand, place them in a bowl of lukewarm (not hot, you don’t want to cook them!) water 15 minutes prior to baking to bring them to room temperature more quickly.
Blotting or draining – It’s imperative to blot or drain the pumpkin puree beforehand so as to remove any excess water before baking. Too much water will make the cake soggy and wet and has the potential to ruin the whole thing. If you’re using a tin of pumpkin puree, you may not need to do this, but for freshly made puree, it’s a must. I tend to use a cheesecloth tea towel to squeeze out the excess water as much as possible. I would suggest weighing the pumpkin puree after draining to make sure that you have the correct amount as you may lose some during the draining process.
The toothpick test is a great way to check whether your cupcakes are done. As all ovens are calibrated differently, the baking times stated are always suggested as a rough guide. To check if the cupcakes are done, insert a toothpick into the centre and if it comes out with no crumbs stuck to it, you can assume that the cupcake is baked through and ready to come out.
I use grams for weighing almost all of the ingredients in my recipes as it is what I am most used to when cooking and baking on a daily basis. I use measuring cups for simple ingredients such as spices or smaller amounts as it can be much easier to measure. I would recommend sticking to what the recipe suggests as there is no guarantee that converting into cup measurements or vice-versa will have the same outcome.
- Mini Strawberry Pies
- Sunken Apple Frangipane Tart
- Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
- Coconut and Jam Cupcakes
- Pumpkin Roll
- Pumpkin Traybake
Pumpking Cupcakes with Toasted Meringue
For the pumpkin cupcakes
- 420 g pumpkin puree fresh or tinned
- 260 g gluten-free plain flour blend
- 150 g brown sugar
- 150 g caster sugar
- 4 medium eggs room temperature
- 250 ml olive oil
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp Xanthan Gum
- 3 tsp pumpkin spice mix (see notes)
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
For the meringue topping
- 4 large egg whites room temperature, (see notes)
- 200 g caster sugar
- ½ tsp Cream of Tartar
For the pumpkin cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 160° C Fan and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.
- Combine the flour, salt, spices, Xanthan Gum and baking powder in a bowl and whisk together.260 g gluten-free plain flour blend, 2 tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp Xanthan Gum, ¼ tsp salt, 3 tsp pumpkin spice mix
- In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin puree, oil, brown sugar, caster sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk until completely combined.420 g pumpkin puree, 150 g brown sugar, 150 g caster sugar, 4 medium eggs, 250 ml olive oil, ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and then pour in the wet mixture. Fold in until no pockets of flour remain.
- Use an ice cream scoop to transfer the mixture into the cupcake cakes, evenly dividing the mixture between them.
- Bake on the middle shelf for around 16-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Once baked through, transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature before preparing the meringue topping.
For the meringue topping
- Combine the sugar, egg whites and cream of tartar in a bowl and whisk thoroughly.4 large egg whites, 200 g caster sugar, ½ tsp Cream of Tartar
- Set the bowl over a pan of simmering hot water, making sure the bowl does not come in contact with the water. Whisk continuously as the sugar dissolves and until a frothy texture forms. The mixture should be smooth and the sugar should have dissolved completely. You can test this by rubbing a tiny amount of mixture between finger and thumb to feel for grains. Be careful here, as the mixture is extremely hot!
- After around 4-5 minutes, the mixture should no longer contain any grains of sugar. If desired, check the temperature with a culinary thermometer. Once you have the correct consistency, pour the mixture into a stand-mixer and whisk on the highest setting for around 8-10 minutes, until stiff white peaks have formed and the meringue looks thick and marshmallowy.
- Allow the meringue to cool down before transferring to a piping bag fitted with a large open-star tip. Pipe in a swirl on top of each cupcake. To finish, use a kitchen culinary blowtorch, to lightly toast the meringue, taking care not to burn the cupcake cases underneath.