it’s national cupcake week whoop whoop!

strawberries & cream surprise cupcakes
yes this is our courgette strawberries & cream cupcake!

Yes, indeedie, today is the start of national cupcake week here in the UK! So this afternoon I’m sharing some of our favourite free-from cupcake recipes with a healthy twist! These cupcakes ALL have hidden vegetables in them, as well as being gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free and nut-free, they are are really scrummy. (The vegetables are all well disguised!)

The best vegetables for baking cupcakes with (in my opinion) are root vegetables – for example: sweet potatos, carrots, beetroot and parsnips. So if you’ve never ventured out into the whacky world of vegetables in cupcakes before, stick with one of these root vegetable options. Everyone knows carrot cake works – right? Root vegetables are drier than other vegetables (less water content) and are also full of rooty sweetness which works really well in cakes.

We’ve been experimenting with root vegetables in cakes for a couple of years now, ever since I had my free-from brownie success using sweet-potato in the mix in place of flour and eggs! My BOOM! Brownies got me all excited about the potential of vegetables in cakes and thus my fun-filled, taste-tastic and slightly crazy journey of experimenting with vegetables in cakes began. I hope that you make one of these recipes and it inspires you to start playing with vegetables in cakes. It’s a great way to help children who are scared of vegetables discover that they are bearable and can be part of something yummy!

vegan tropical icing (light & fluffy)
pumpkin cupcake with tropical frosting on top

For cupcakes which I want to be light and fluffy I tend to just grate the vegetables as finely as possible and add them in as a raw ingredient. For richer, denser cakes like my BOOM! Brownies, I tend to bake the root vegetable first and then mash it up before adding it to my cake mix.

Our most often made vegetable cupcakes are the carrot &, maple cupcakes – they are truly gorgeous and don’t need any icing on top they are sooooooo good. However if you do fancy adding a frosting I recommend our tropical vegan frosting!

I progressed from the root veg, in my vegetables in cake adventures to the squashes. These are slightly harder to get right as the moisture content in squashes is much higher than in root vegetables. We love pumpkin cakes at halloween,  and butternut squash in muffins, they work really well, and then there’s the moist and slightly risky/daring courgette cupcakes.

Unfortunately not all of my vegetable-based cakes were transferred over from the old website – like my fancy beetroot battenburg cake, and our simple sweet parsnip cupcakes. I will slowly get them all on this website and on the recipe index.

But for now, here are a few recipes to inspire you and give you an idea of how vegetables can work in your cakes. In order of ease and popularity I would start with the carrot cupcakes – carrot cake is always a winner and yummy with an orange frosting on top ;D. Then go for the pumpkin cupcakes, and if you’re feeling really daring have a go at our bonkers strawberries & cream surprise cupcakes with courgette in them. I have also added a load of our vegan frostings so the you can decorate them to disguise the veg even more! Just make sure that your cupcakes are 100% cold before you start decorating them, otherwise residual heat in their centres will melt your pretty icing!

I hope you enjoy and let me know what you and your children think of vegetables in cupcakes!

On Friday I will share some of our more traditional, indulgent cupcakes – like chocolate cupcakes, mud-pie cupcakes, vanilla cupcakes, fruity cupcakes – all free-from gluten,eggs, dairy, soya and nuts but ram-packed full of oodles of YUM! Yesterday I mailed a newsletter out to those who’ve joined our free2bake revolution a load of other scrummy cupcake recipes for the week! If you’d like to join the free2bake revolution and receive our weekly newsletter subscribe here!

smiles and happy cupcake baking, sharing & scoffing to you!
Rai x

free-from recipes for national cupcake week

ginger & maple muffins (with carrot but shhhhhh don’t tell!)

  • Yield:

    17 muffins
  • Cooking Method:

    baking
  • Prep Time:

    35 mins
  • Cook Time:

    17 mins
ginger & maple muffins (with carrot but shhhhhh don’t tell!)

These delicious ginger & maple muffins are wonderfully good for you - but not if you eat as many as we did the first time I made them! They are incredibly more-ish and if you don't tell your children there's carrots in them - they will never know as the carrot pretty much disappears when baked into the body of the cake. They will happily gobble down these free-from delicious & nutritious muffins. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs ground flaxseed (a.k.a linseed)
  • 1 C m!lk alternative
  • 1 C gluten-free oats*
  • ¾ C maple syrup
  •  ½ C oil (sunflower or melted coconut)
  • 1 Tbs ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 C grated carrots (use finest setting - this is about 3 carrots or 250g)
  • 1 C gluten-free self raising flour*
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan) and line your muffin tins with cases. 

    ginger-&-maple-muffins
    finely grated carrots

  2. Into your mixing bowl add the flaxseed, m!lk alternative, oats, maple syrup, oil, spices, salt and vinegar. Give it a good stir.

  3. Now grate your carrots as fine as you can and add them to the mix followed by the flour, bicarb and baking powder. Give it all a stir so it's just combined then dollop out into the waiting cases and pop into the oven for 20 minutes to bake.

  4. When they come out of the oven leave them in their tins for 5 minutes before placing on a cooling rack.

Notes:

*if you are ok with gluten this recipe also works with regular flour & oats

pumpkin muffins (sweet & spiced)

  • Yield:

    18 muffins
  • Cooking Method:

    baking
  • Prep Time:

    35 mins
  • Cook Time:

    17 mins
pumpkin muffins (sweet & spiced)

These pumpkin muffins are really subtly flavoured with spice, making them very nice for little ones. You don't need to grate the pumpkin too finely for it to disappear into the muffin and become invisible when your children eat them. If you struggle to get your children to eat veg this is a great and yummy way to do it! 

Ingredients:

  • ¼ C ground flaxseed (a.k.a linseed)
  • 1 C water
  • 1 C gluten-free oats*
  • ¾ C maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 C grated pumpkin flesh (about ¼ of a small pumpkin)
  • ¹⁄3 C oil (sunflower or melted coconut)
  • 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1¼ C gluten-free self raising flour*

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan) and line your muffin tins with cases. 

    pumpkin muffins
    these thick shreds of pumpkin disappear when baked!

  2. Make your flax egg by combining the ground flaxseed  and water in a mug, stir occasionally so that it can congeal into an gloopy egg-like consistency.

  3. In a bowl combine the oats, maple and spices. Then grate your pumpkin and add it to the mix along with the oil & vinegar. Combine these together before adding the flour & bicarbonate of soda.

  4. Spoon into the waiting cases and pop into the oven for 17 minutes to bake. When they come out of the oven leave them in their tins for 5 minutes before placing on a cooling rack. 

Notes:

*if you are ok with gluten this recipe also works with regular flour & oats

These are really scrummy with our vegan orange icing - recipe is here

strawberries & cream surprise cupcakes

  • Yield:

    12 muffin sized cakes
  • Cooking Method:

    baking
  • Prep Time:

    30 mins
  • Cook Time:

    20 mins
strawberries & cream surprise cupcakes

These delicious strawberries & cream cupcakes do hold a couple of wonderful surprises!  Firstly they are muffin sized as this makes them less fiddly to make than cupcakes; also the world seems to have upscaled sizes, so shops sell muffins decorated with icing as cupcakes. The main surprise is the little dot of strawberry jam hidden in their centres. The final surprise that eaters rarely discover is that these scrummy cupcakes are also full of courgette!! The courgette makes them healthier than other sweet muffins so no guilt necessary when indulging in a muffin sized cupcake!! 

Ingredients:

  • 1 C gluten-free oats
  • 1 C m!lk alternative (we've used both almond m!lk and koko- a coconut m!lk)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 medium sized courgette*
  • 2 Tbsp heaped soft brown sugar
  • ¼ C vegetable oil (we use sunflower)
  • 1 C self raising gluten-free flour (we use Doves)
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • strawberry jam

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (fan oven) and prep your muffin tin with muffin cases.

    strawberries & cream surprise cupcakes
    courgette ready to be mixed in

  2. In a mixing bowl combine the oats, m!lk, vanilla, mix will then leave the oats to soak whilst you prepare your courgette.

  3. Top, tail then peel the courgette, then grate on the finest side of your grater (see pic) it should make 1C of grated courgette.

  4. Add the cup of grated courgette to the oats and stir in.

  5. To the oat and courgette mix add the sugar, oil, flour, baking powder and bicarb of soda. Mix so that they are just combined - lumpy is the best way for this mix to be.

  6. Carefully place enough mix to cover the bottom of each case in your muffin tray.

    strawberries & cream surprise cupcakes
    dots of strawberry jam

  7. Then add a little blob of your families favourite strawberry jam. (see photo)

  8. Cover the lot with another dollop of mix.

  9. Pop into the oven for 20 minutes.

  10. When you get them out of the oven, leave the cakes in their tins for the first five minutes . Then get out to cool on racks.

  11. Once the cupcakes are 100% cold, you can prepare your icing** (it's worth it) 

Notes:

* 200g is a good guide for a medium sized courgette!

** we have iced ours with orange vegan icing (photographed) and our yummy strawberry vegan icing. We like to scatter some freeze-dried raspberries or strawberries over the top to the icing. They cupcakes work really well, especially when served with fresh strawberries on the side. YUMSVILLE!

and some frostings

vegan strawberry frosting

  • Yield:

    ices 24 cupcakes (fully as pictured above)
  • Cooking Method:

    beating!
  • Prep Time:

    20 mins
  • Cook Time:

    0 mins
vegan strawberry frosting

This vegan strawberry icing is delicious and full of strawberries rather than chemicals! You beat the air into it, so I recommend you use a machine like a kenwood chef and a K beater to do this tiring job for you. That said it is worth the time and effort as it's another lovely vegan frosting. I invented it to top my free-from strawberry shortcakes and my free-from strawberries & cream surprise cupcakes!

It makes me very happy that our children don't miss out just because they cannot have butter cream. I love that vegan food can be both naughty and nice. Looking at the photo below you can see that you don't have to smother cupcakes in icing to make them look cute and pretty!

Ingredients:

  • 2 C fresh strawberries (topped!)
  • 1½ Tbs sugar
  • 1 Tbs water
  • ¼ C trex
  • ¼ C sunflower spread
  • 3½ C icing sugar

Method:

  1. Pop your topped strawberries into a pan with the 1½ Tbs sugar and water. Slowly heat them up, and as they warm mash them into a pulp. Once the sugar has dissolved keep them simmering on a medium heat to reduce for about 10 minutes. Then remove from the heat.

    strawberry shortcake gluten free
    mmmmmm strawberry

  2. I place a muslin in a bowl with pegs holding it up, on the edges. Pour the strawberry pulp into the muslin and leave to cool and drain into the bowl. (see photo)

  3. Once it has cooled sufficiently I squeeze the juice out, through the muslin. Then pop into the fridge so it gets cold.

  4. Once the strawberry mix is cold you can make your icing. In a mixer beat the trex & spread until they are well combined and fluffy (this takes about 4 minutes in my kenwood chef with a K beater).

  5. Once its soft and well combined add the cool strawberry juice  (it's about ¹⁄3 C of juice) and beat into the fat.

  6. Now add the icing sugar and beat in. I do this in ½ C measures with the lid on my kenwood chef to avoid a icing sugar storm!

  7. Once all the icing sugar is mixed in beat the icing for another for about 7 mins until really light and fluffy. Pop the lot into the fridge for at least half an hour to cool before icing your cakes. 

Notes:

It's really important to ensure your cakes are cold when you ice them, if they have any internal warmth still they will melt your lovely frosting. 

This icing goes especially well with my strawberries & cream surprise cupcakes and my strawberry shortcakes, both of which are gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free & nut-free and VERY yummy! Both of them are great with fresh strawberries a top the icing.

orange vegan frosting

  • Yield:

    ices 14 muffins (28 cupcakes)
  • Prep Time:

    15 mins

Allergens:

no allergens
orange vegan frosting

This orange vegan frosting is really easy to make and great a-top vanilla cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes. The citrus flavour is refreshing and light. Let us know what your fave flavour combination is with this vegan orange frosting. When I ice cupcakes for an event, I tend to do tiny little dots of icing on half the cakes and then full-on smothering (as pictured here) for the other half. It gives people the option of how much sugar they want to eat with their cupcake! 

Ingredients:

  • ¼ C vegan cream cheese (we use violife as it's dairy-free & soya-free)
  • ¼ C sunflower spread
  • 2 C icing sugar 
  • 1 tsp orange extract

Method:

  1. Cream the fats together until they are throughly combined and smooth.

  2. Then add the icing sugar, I do this in half cup measures with a lid on the mixer to avoid a sugar storm!

  3. Once the icing sugar is beaten in add the orange extract and beat for a couple of minutes and get ready to pipe.

Notes:

Always make sure that your cakes are 100% cold - with no residual heat in their centres before you start decorating them with this fresh and fruity icing! 

tropical vegan frosting (light & fluffy)

  • Yield:

    ices 24 cupcakes (fully as pictured above)
  • Cooking Method:

    beating!
  • Prep Time:

    20 mins
  • Cook Time:

    0 mins
tropical vegan frosting (light & fluffy)

This vegan tropical icing is lovely and light and fluffy. You beat the air into it, so I recommend you use a machine like a kenwood chef and a K beater to do this tiring job for you. That said it is worth the time and effort as it's another lovely vegan frosting. I invented it to top my free-from tropical cupcakes.

It makes me very happy that our children don't miss out just because they cannot have butter cream. I love that vegan food can be both naughty and nice. Looking at the photo below you can see that you don't have to smother cupcakes in icing to make them look cute and pretty!

Ingredients:

  • 4 stem ginger balls & syrup (or 4 Tbs of diced stem ginger & syrup)
  • 4 pineapple rings
  • ¼ C trex
  • ¼ C sunflower spread
  • 3 C icing sugar

Method:

  1. In a liquidiser blitz the stem ginger & syrup, when it is pulverised add the pineapple rings and blitzt until the whole lot is basically liquid.

    vegan tropical icing (light & fluffy)
    you can drop a dot on the cupcakes or smother them

  2. In a mixer beat the trex & spread until they are well combined and fluffy (this takes about 4 minutes in my kenwood chef with a K beater).

  3. Add the ginger & pineapple mix and beat until it's combined - this takes less than a minute.

  4. Now add the icing sugar half a cup at a time this takes about 4 minutes.

  5. Once all the icing sugar is mixed in beat the icing for another for about 7 mins until really light and fluffy. Pop the lot into the fridge for at least half an hour to cool before icing your cakes. 

Notes:

It's really important to ensure your cakes are cold when you ice them, if they have any internal warmth still they will melt your lovely fluffy icing. 

This icing goes especially well with my tropical cupcakes which are egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free & nut-free and VERY yummy! 

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