These tender and light gluten free strawberry cupcakes are flavored with cooked and pureed strawberry syrup, and topped with a strawberry glaze or frosting.
How to bake with strawberries
When strawberry season is in full swing, they smell like strawberries, look like strawberries (red inside and out!) and even taste like strawberries. I never really tire of baking with this lovely fruit, but baking with a berry that has a ton of moisture can be tricky.
These gluten free strawberry cupcakes are made with a strawberry syrup that’s easily made by cooking some strawberries (frozen work great here) with some sugar and a bit of water. Blend the cooked mixture, and you have a concentrated strawberry flavor that adds color, sweetness, and aroma.
Frozen strawberries, like all frozen fruits, are frozen at the peak of freshness, so they’re always perfectly ripe. Since they’re being cooked down in the syrup, and frozen berries are a lot cheaper than fresh, I recommend using frozen berries here.
If you do use fresh strawberries, make sure you’re only using them when the strawberries are at their height. That means that they’re bright red and have a strong smell.
How to make this beautiful strawberry glaze
The thick, opaque strawberry glaze that you see in the photo just above is made with two ingredients. It’s a combination of the strawberry syrup that we made with berries cooked with a bit of sugar and water, then blended until smooth, and confectioners’ sugar.
To make a perfect glaze, the secret is to add liquid very very slowly. Make a super thick paste with the confectioners’ sugar and some strawberry syrup. Then, add water by the drop until you have a thickly pourable glaze.
Adding red gel food coloring
Don’t panic, but if you want the inside of the cupcakes to be pink, you’ll need to add red gel food coloring. You don’t have to use it at all (I often don’t).
Only gel-based food coloring would be of any use (I love Americolor brand for a reliably gluten free option). Liquid food coloring is not vibrant enough to color the cupcakes without using a ton of it. And if you use a ton of it, you’ll taste it—and you’ll have upset the moisture balance of the cupcakes.
Before the strawberry syrup is baked into the cupcake batter, it’s beautifully vibrant in color. But the cakes turn to brown in the oven. If you want a vibrant color in the finished cupcake, use gel food coloring.
You won’t need any food coloring for the glaze or the frosting. Since there’s no baking involved, the colors stay vibrant. In the photo below, the cupcakes were made without adding any food coloring, and they’re a light brown color throughout.
Ingredients and substitutions
To replace the dairy in the cupcakes or the frosting, you’ll need a nondairy substitute for both the butter and the milk. The milk is easy. Just use your favorite nondairy milk; mine is unsweetened almond milk.
For the butter, I recommend Melt or Miyoko’s Kitchen brand vegan butter. They behave the most like butter in baking. I think that Earth Balance buttery sticks would add too much moisture, leading to a denser cupcake.
For the butter in the frosting, if you don’t have vegan butter, try using Spectrum brand nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening. Or just make the glaze instead!
There is one whole egg and one egg white in this recipe. You can try replacing the whole egg with a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel).
For the egg white, try 2 tablespoons of applesauce. Just a hunch!