Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake & Cupcakes (RECIPE)


New Year Intention Cupcakes


Because my Father-in-Law’s birthday falls on the day after New Year’s, his birthday is often overlooked. We decided to have a birthday party for him in combination with a New Year’s Day party with friends. While I was preparing cupcakes for the party, I wondered how I could make them more New Year’s celebration-friendly. I had these beautiful cupcake liners that I was planning to use from the Chronicle Books “Pretty Cupcake Kit,” which included some pretty cupcake flags (that I’d previously ignored). But as my toddler was playing with them, it dawned on me that it could be fun to write special messages on them for New Year’s intentions. They were a huge hit!  To my surprise, guests were very excited to choose their favorite intention – most opting to even take their flags home!

The cupcakes are gluten-free and casein-free (GFCF) from a recipe I created through months of trial and food chemistry study (when to use baking powder vs. baking soda), etc. I’m quite pleased with the results – the cake is fluffy and no one even knew it was gluten-free – I got a “wow” when I mentioned it.

For low salicylate use white sugar, sunflower oil instead of coconut oil, and cashew milk or rice milk.

For low oxalate, have a small serving size to remain low in oxalate.

Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake

2 cups rice flour (white or brown)

2/3 cup potato starch

1/3 cup tapioca starch

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon GF baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum

1 cup coconut oil (flavorless, expeller-pressed)

4 eggs, room temperature

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract (gluten-free)

1 ½ cups milk (dairy or non-dairy – preferably unsweetened)



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Batter makes enough for two 8 or 9-inch rounds or 24 cupcakes or 48 mini cupcakes.  Grease and flour pans or get muffin tins and cupcake liners ready.

Place all dry ingredients in bowl starting with the sugar, then sifting in the flours and baking powder, baking soda, and xanthan gum.

Gently melt coconut oil in pan barely hot enough to melt. As the oil cools slightly (just enough not to “cook the eggs” when combined), in separate bowl combine the eggs and vanilla, then add the coconut oil.

Once ready to combine everything, work swiftly at this point (attempting to have everything in the oven in 10 minutes). Alternate back and forth on the milk and flour by first adding half of the milk to the liquids and mix. Then add half the flour mix and blend.  Add the final half of the milk while blending, then the remaining flour.  The batter is a little thicker than gluten-containing cake mixes that most people are familiar with.

Bake mini cupcakes about 14-17 minutes, regular cupcakes a little longer, and cake pans will take about 30-35 minutes to back.  Check them early to make sure they do not over cook.  They are done, when a toothpick comes out clean.  Once out of the oven, wait 10 minutes and then remove cake/cupcakes from pans and place on a baking rack to cool.


Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting

This recipe can be made dairy-free using coconut cream that you can either buy from Wilderness Family Naturals or make buy using only the thick cream from a couple cans of coconut milk (not the watery liquid).

1 cup of whipping cream or coconut cream (chilled)

4 tablespoons cocoa (non-alkali or dutch processed)

2 Tablespoons of sugar


Add the cocoa and sugar with a small amount of cream and mix into a paste.  Once all the powder is incorporated, add all the rest of the cream and mix with an electric mixer on high until whipped to form firm peeks.  Once cupcakes or cake is cool, pipe from a cake decorating bag or spread on with a knife.

To make “Intention Cupcakes,” either use these cupcake flags from Chronicle Books or create some of your own with paper and toothpicks, then write messages in permanent pen.

In the photo, all of the cupcake liners are from the “Pretty Cupcake Kit” except the hearts (which I believe are from Wilton), and are the minis.  I love the cupcake liners from Chronicle Books, the regular-size has straighter sides that make them fit perfectly in to the muffin tins without crushing inward like many of the thin-papered and wide ones do (see photo, the Chronicle is on the left).  The minis don’t rest of the bottom of the muffin tin, but because it’s firm paper and you only fill these 3/4 of the way, they work great too.

12 servings
45 minutes



More Photos




Photo credits: Julie Matthews


Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant who received her master’s degree in medical nutrition with distinction from Arizona State University. She is also a published nutrition researcher and has specialized in complex neurological conditions, particularly autism spectrum disorders and ADHD for over 20 years. Julie is the award winning author of Nourishing Hope for Autism, co-author of a study proving the efficacy of nutrition and dietary intervention for autism published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, and also the founder of Download her free guide, 12 Nutrition Steps to Better Health, Learning, and Behavior.


  1. Fabulous cupcakes. I am making them for the second time and I cannot get over how wonderful they are! Thank you!

    • Thanks Alisha! So glad to hear it!! Julie

  2. Hi,

    This is a fantastic recipe, and great fun to make with the kids. Thanks so much for posting it.

    All the best, Alex

  3. What about all that sugar? I know it’s a treat but….!
    They look delish! 🙂 can’t wait to try it out!

  4. Can the coconut oil be replaced with sunflower oil? We’re on the Failsafe diet and I think coconut oil is not allowed, but everything else looks okay. Would love to try these! Will have to figure out something else for the frosting, but we are not CF anymore and some cream cheese frosting would be yummy!

  5. I’m so excited to try this recipe! I find GF baking to be very hit and miss, and so i generally avoid baked goods altogether, but oh my the temptation is great! Love the pictures here too 🙂


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