If you’re a chocolate lover like myself, these easy gluten-free chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream are the perfect indulgent sweet treat!
These soft and moist cocoa cupcakes are one of my favorite gluten-free desserts because they’re so easy to whip up and full of delicious chocolate goodness. Gluten-free baking can be tricky, but read on for some of the best tips for foolproof gluten-free cupcakes!
These simple cupcakes make a great addition to birthday parties and other celebrations. You can also make a batch and eat it just because you want to – I do it all the time!
✏️ Making a tasty and easy recipe
Gluten-free baking can be a little bit tricky, especially if it’s not something you’ve done before. When I first tried to make a gluten-free chocolate cake, it was a disaster! The cake was somehow too wet and soft to hold under the weight of frosting, whilst also having a dry aftertaste. How can something be wet and dry?!
I was on the hunt for the perfect gluten-free moist chocolate cupcakes. I wanted fluffy cupcakes with a rich fudgy chocolate flavour and no weird cakey dryness.
After trying a few different variations on my favourite chocolate cake recipe, I settled on this super simple recipe. The texture of these cupcakes is so soft and moist, and the chocolate buttercream adds extra sweetness and flavour with each bite.
Before I knew it, I'd snaffled 3 whole cupcakes back to back. You know... for research...
This recipe uses hot coffee (or hot water with instant coffee dissolved in it) to activate the cocoa powder and help to keep the gluten-free cupcakes moist. It also uses quite a bit of milk and vegetable oil (or canola oil) to add even more moisture.
🥘 Ingredients notes
- I recommend starting with room temperature ingredients for these chocolate gluten-free cupcakes. This will improve the ease at which your ingredients mix together.
- Always sieve your flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. I used to be a bit lazy and skip this, but it really does help to give you a lump-free cupcake batter!
- When measuring your ingredients, I always recommend using weights rather than cups where possible for greater accuracy. This is especially important for the amount of flour.
- This recipe uses cocoa powder in the cupcake batter as well as the chocolate buttercream. Using good quality unsweetened cocoa powder is important, as this is different from using a hot cocoa powder (i.e. for hot chocolates) for example.
- I prefer to use vanilla extract rather than vanilla essence. It tends to have a purer vanilla taste as it’s less processed than vanilla essence.
Xanthan gum is often added to gluten-free flour blends to improve the texture. If your flour blend doesn’t already contain this, you can add an optional ¼ teaspoon of xanthan gum to your cupcake batter to improve the texture. I’ve made these cupcakes with and without this extra and both came out great so it's an optional addition.
There are a large number of different gluten-free flours, such as coconut flour, almond flour, rice flour, etc. I find the best and easiest flour to use for baking is a store-bought pre-mixed blend.
I usually use a pre-mixed blend of all-purpose plain flour such as Freee from Doves Farm. I’ve also heard King Arthur's measure for measure flour or Bob’s Red Mill gluten free one-to-one are good blends to use (they’re not readily available where I live).
🔪 Equipment notes
- This is quite a liquid cupcake batter, so I’ve found that instead of regular paper cupcake liners, baking cups are actually a much better choice. I’ve sometimes found that some of the weaker paper liners can peel away from your moist cupcakes after a few hours.
- I like to use digital scales for weighing my ingredients as it's easier and more accurate than other scales. I'm a fan of the KitchenAid or Salter ones.
- It’s good to use measuring spoons for your teaspoon and tablespoon amounts, as your standard teaspoon and tablespoon that you use to eat with won't be the correct volume. Make sure you level off any heaped scoops before adding the ingredient to your mix.
- If you're planning to use a stand mixer, I would recommend using the paddle attachment to make your chocolate cupcake batter and buttercream frosting.
- When using a stand mixer, I usually use a low speed for this cupcake batter as it's very liquid. For the buttercream frosting, I use a medium speed.
- For both your cupcake batter and buttercream frosting, I'd recommend that you scrape down the sides of the stand mixer bowl and the bottom of the bowl to ensure a more even mix.
- You can also get great results by using a medium bowl and hand mixer or even by hand using a wooden spoon or a fork if you don’t have an electric mixer.
It’s best to store your cupcakes in an airtight container. These gluten-free chocolate cupcakes should keep for up to 3 days stored at room temperature.
If it’s hot where you live (I’m very jealous!), you might prefer to store your cupcakes in an airtight container in the fridge. These should also keep for up to 3 days stored this way, but they will start to dry out so it’s best to eat them fresh where possible!
If you want to freeze your cupcakes, you can wrap the unfrosted chocolate cupcakes in plastic wrap / cling film and freeze them.
Your buttercream frosting can also be frozen in an airtight container.
Both should keep for up to 2 months in the freezer. Defrost and use as normal per recipe. The buttercream may need to be beaten again to whip up to nice and fluffy before use.
💭 Top tips for success
- I find that the best way to mix your ingredients is to slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. This helps to reduce the lumps in your mixture giving you a smooth batter as it’s beaten together gradually.
- When pouring your cupcake batter into the cupcake liners in the muffin tin (I quite like the Wilton muffin pans!) you only need to fill each of your cupcake cases to roughly ⅔ full. If you fill it more than this, you might have your cupcakes looking a bit more like muffins as they may spill over!
- I always position my cupcake pan in the centre of the oven on the middle shelf when possible. This usually gives a more even bake and my baking temperatures specified in the recipe are based on using this part of the oven.
- Don’t open the oven mid-bake. You may have heard this before, but it’s such an important factor that it bears repeating. We’ve all been there and nobody likes their cupcakes with a sinkhole!
- You’ll know your gluten-free chocolate cupcakes are cooked once they’re risen, springy to touch and an inserted toothpick or skewer comes out clean from the center.
- Once your cupcakes have baked, it's best to remove them from the muffin tin and move them to a wire rack to cool. Using a cooling rack prevents moisture from gathering on the outside of your cupcake cases, which I've found can cause them to peel away from the cupcakes as they cool.
Gluten-free baking tips
- When making gluten-free cupcakes, overmix the cake batter. Unlike with cake sponges that contain gluten, beating your gluten-free batter for several extra minutes will really help to improve the texture of your cupcakes.
- After overmixing your batter, you should then rest for 30mins before baking. Again, this is the opposite of what you would expect to do when making a cake. It will allow your flour to have more time to develop structure.
- I also like to beat the cake batter a few times after it’s rested to make sure it’s an even mix and hasn’t separated before I pour the batter into the baking cups and pop them into the oven.
- For gluten-free cake success, you should bake your cake for longer than you otherwise would. This is because gluten-free cakes tend to contain more moisture to help prevent a dry texture, but it means your cakes will need to cook for longer before they’re done. To stop them from burning, the temperature is also less than for many other cake types.
- For a gorgeously creamy buttercream frosting, start by beating your butter until it’s light and fluffy. It could just be me, but this always seems to take longer than I think. It should be several minutes of beating the butter if using a stand/electric mixer. This will go a long way in giving you creamy and light frosting.
If you’ve got any specific questions on making the best ever gluten-free chocolate cupcakes, please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll try my best to help out!
🎂 Decorating ideas
I think these gluten-free cupcakes look delicious just with a big helping of chocolate buttercream on top. In the photos here I’ve used a Wilton 1M piping tip and piping bag to pipe a large swirl of chocolate buttercream over the top of my cupcakes.
There are loads of different ways you can pipe your frosting onto your cupcakes for cute and classic effects. This 3-piece set from Wilton has the ones I use most often for my cupcakes. For more cupcake buttercream piping ideas, check out this great tutorial by Cupcake Jemma.
Or, if you don't have a piping bag / pastry bag, you can use a plastic sandwich or freezer bag with the corner cut off to pipe a big round buttercream swirl on top of your cupcakes. I usually find this looks like a big ice-cream top!
Alternatively, you can go back to basics and use a spatula, spoon or knife to spread a generous portion of frosting on your cupcakes. Simple and delicious!
On top of your frosting, you can sprinkle sea salt for a salted chocolate flavour! This also helps to cut out some of the sweetness of the American style buttercream if you’re not quite that level of sugar addict (unlike me!). It also looks pretty darn cute!
Or why not try drizzling over a tasty sauce, like salted rum dulce de leche – a delicious boozy treat!
I also really love chocolate sprinkles, chocolate chips, mini chocolate buttons or a hearty drizzle of melted chocolate. Be sure to check that your toppings are definitely gluten-free, whatever you decide to go with.
♻️ Alternatives and substitutions
This recipe calls for a neutral flavoured oil, such as vegetable oil, canola oil or sunflower oil. However, you can also mix it up and give some slightly more flavoured oils a try like coconut oil or avocado oil.
If using coconut oil, I’d recommend melting it in the microwave for 15-30secs first before using it in this recipe.
If you’re looking to make dairy-free gluten-free chocolate cupcakes, you can swap the milk used in this recipe for a dairy-free milk alternative, such as coconut milk, cashew milk or soy milk. Be sure to pick an appropriate milk alternative if you’re looking for nut-free or soy-free options too!
For the buttercream, swap the butter for a dairy-free baking block / margarine. Be sure to beat this until smooth before adding your other buttercream ingredients, as it can take a bit longer than regular butter sometimes.
For extra decadence, why not swap the 3tbsp milk in the buttercream for 4tbsp heavy cream instead? Your chocolate buttercream will be even more creamy and delicious!
You can also switch up the flavour of your buttercream if you’d prefer. For example, you can exclude the cocoa powder in this buttercream recipe and have a simple vanilla buttercream instead.
Self-raising flour option
I usually use gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour in this recipe for gluten-free chocolate cupcakes, but alternatively you can swap this for gluten-free self-raising flour. Use the same quantity (140g for 12 cupcakes) of flour and reduce the baking powder by 1 ½ tsp.
🧁 Other goodies
So, I definitely recommend that you whip up a batch of these best ever easy gluten-free chocolate cupcakes with a simple chocolate buttercream frosting! But as an avid home baker, I’m sure you’re asking yourself “what next?”.
Or if you’re after more gluten-free goodness, why not check out my tequila rose and white chocolate gluten-free cake? Badass skull topper optional, but super creepy/cute.
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Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes
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- 1 egg (large)
- 55 g (¼ cups) oil
- 130 ml (½ cups) milk (semi-skimmed or whole)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 160 g (¾ cups) caster sugar (granulated sugar)
- 140 g (1 cups) plain / all-purpose gluten-free flour (blend)
- ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (optional and only if not already included in flour blend)
- 3 teaspoon baking powder
- 40 g (½ cups) cocoa powder (unsweetened)
- 100 ml (½ cups) hot coffee (or 2tsp instant coffee dissolved in 100ml hot water)
- 175 g (¾ cups) unsalted butter
- 350 g (3 cups) icing sugar
- 35 g (2 ½ tablespoon) cocoa powder (unsweetened)
- 3 tablespoon milk (semi-skimmed or whole)
- Pinch of salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla together until fully combined.
- In a separate bowl, sieve in the cocoa powder, flour, xanthan gum (if using) and baking powder, then add in the sugar and whisk them together.
- Gradually pour the wet ingredients into the dry, beating thoroughly as you pour until fully combined.
- Slowly add in the hot coffee, beating your mixture until the liquid has fully combined. Keep beating for an extra 5mins.
- Allow the cupcake batter to stand for 30mins while you pre-heat the oven to 170°C / 150°C (fan) / Gas 3 ½ / 340°F.
- Give the mixture a good stir and then divide the mixture evenly between the cupcake cases in the muffin tin and bake for 25-30mins until risen and springy to the touch. Allow the cupcakes to cool on a wire rack while you make the buttercream.
- Beat the butter (either by hand, using an electric mixer or stand mixer) until pale, light and fluffy. This could take several minutes.
- Sieve half of the icing sugar into the butter and beat until combined, then repeat this with the remaining half of icing sugar and all of the cocoa powder.
- Add in the milk, salt and vanilla extract, mixing until smooth.
- Once your cupcakes have fully cooled, add your buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle and pipe large swirls onto each cupcake. Alternatively, spread your buttercream generously on top of your cupcakes with a knife.
- You can swap the plain gluten-free flour blend in this recipe for the same amount of self-raising gluten-free flour blend and reduce the baking powder by 1 ½ tsp. Scale this up as needed for a larger batch size.
Nutritional information is an estimate based on an online nutritional calculator, actual values may vary.