Elana Amsterdam releases Gluten-Free Cupcakes

GFCC Marble Cupcakes (image p 26).jpg
Marble cupcakes with vegan chocolate frosting.
Elana Amsterdam had been baking healthy, high-protein desserts since the early '90s -- and then in 1998, she was diagnosed with celiac disease. One thing seemed to lead to another, and the delicious result is the local author's latest work, Gluten-Free Cupcakes.

The cupcakes created by these recipes are light and fluffy, even without gluten, and a handy guide shows how sweet the different recipes are (there are some savory 'cakes in the mix, too). We recently caught up with Amsterdam to ask about the inspiration for the book, her favorite recipes and more.

Westword: What is your background with baking in general?

Elana Amsterdam: I started baking healthy, wholesome, high-protein desserts back in the early 1990s. At that time, I was in a three-year Ayurvedic training in which we studied the healing properties of food, herbs and yoga asanas. Almost twenty years later, I am still implementing what I learned in that training and applying it to my work as a baker in order to take care of my family with healing, nourishing foods. Not an easy thing when it comes to feeding preteens. All of the children in the neighborhood come to my house for snacks. They think they're getting dessert, while I know I'm getting super foods (such as almond flour) into them in the sneaky form of cookies and cupcakes.
How did you first become interested in gluten-free baking? What has your journey through the gluten-free world been like?

I was diagnosed with celiac disease during the dark ages of gluten-free living, back in 1998. I went on a really simple gluten-free diet and didn't give it much thought. When my son was diagnosed at age three, I made it my mission to turn all of my favorite recipes into gluten-free classics so that he would not be deprived of any of the delicious treats that I had growing up. That's why my book has everything from Cream Filled Cupcakes -- they're like those cute little Hostess cupcakes my mother used to get for us at the grocery store -- to Baseball Cupcakes, which are chocolate cake with cream-cheese frosting and reddish baseball stitching piped on top: I bring those to all of the boys' baseball team potlucks, and no one knows the difference, that they're gluten-free.
We know it's hard to pick, but do you have any favorite recipes in the book?

We definitely have our favorites. My older son loves the Marble Cupcakes. My younger son asks me to make the Raspberry Cheesecake Cupcakes (made with healthy, organic, high-protein goat cheese) every week; and my husband loves the Triple Chocolate, which are a chocolate cupcake base with dark, milk and white chocolate chips. I love them all!
Do you have any tips for high-altitude gluten-free bakers?

My recipes work at all altitudes. I test them here and at sea level. If your cupcakes won't rise and are too moist, then it indicates a lack of flour. Because there are different methods for measuring flours, I have included the Measuring Tips section in the book, which is a guide on how to measure your flours so that you have lovely, fluffy cupcakes.
What's next for you -- in cooking or in life?

I'm working on three more cookbooks simultaneously, though I'm not sure which one will make it to the finish line first.
Keep reading for Elana's Marble Cupcakes recipe -- with Vegan Chocolate Frosting, straight from the cookbook.

To win a copy of Gluten-Free Cupcakes, leave a comment below with your best gluten-free or high-altitude baking tip.

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Hector Octavio
Hector Octavio

Amaranth, buckwheat & chia are my favorite ingredients while making bread. They add so much vibrancy!


My best GF baking tip is learn to work with coconut flour! It's amazing and you won't be giving up a thing ;)


I've been gluten free for almost 8 years, and learning to cook and bake gluten-free is an ongoing process. My advice is to keep it simple (like Elana's recipes). When I was diagnosed, I bought half a dozen different types of flour, and I've thrown half of them away. Best wishes to all those who have been diagnosed recently -- hang in there, it DOES get easier!


I don't have any tips yet! I just got diagnosed a month ago.


This isn't actual gluten free baking per se, but when it became evident that my grandson was gluten and cow dairy intolerant, I was determined to come up with a good homemade mac and cheese - because no kid should be denied this comforting treat. I worked it out using brown rice flour and goat butter for the roux, goat cheddar and goat's milk for the cheese sauce, and rice pasta for the final product. He loves it!!!

Holly Heiman
Holly Heiman

I had to change my diet starting 5-6 years ago - but went gluten-free almost 2 years ago.

Its challenging because not only is it high altitude here, but having to change-out ingredients.

A good tip I could share is to get to know your flours - they all taste different and some add more pleasing textures for say cookies versus cakes. For example, I finally figured out that to make a REAL butter cookie (like for the holidays), to get the pure flavor and delicate texture, I use sweet rice flour for maybe 1/2 the flour mixture - this can be found in almost any Asian or international market.

Also, I've figured out that you can interchange most gluten free flours for a basic baking mix - just in 3 equal parts. So if you need a cup of flour, you'd use 1/3 cup of sorghum, rice, and tapioca. It works. Just make sure you have your Xanthan gum.

I have wanted Elana's cookbooks forever - I want to start using almond flour instead of many of the others - it adds amazing flavor, and nutrition instead of all the starches normally used.

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