Gluten and Dairy Free Glazed Gingerbread Mini Cupcakes

Warning:  These cupcakes contain vegetables.  

I made these delicious gingerbread cupcakes for a Holiday Party last night. The first time I made them was for a trial-cupcake-making-session for my son’s birthday party three years ago.  He surprisingly loved them. I am a nutritionist and you’d think I would have the biggest vegetable lover in the world.  But I don’t.  I guess it’s one of the ironies of life. Sigh. My little guy complains and whines. He eats them but he is ‘not happy’, as he puts it.  The older he gets, the harder it seems.  

Lately, I’ve been getting this a lot…‘This is the worst dinner in the world.”  And after a glaring look from Daddy he remembers to be polite and changes it to…‘This is the best dinner in the world that I don’t even like!’ I don’t take offense. I’d like to think of it as a blessing in disguise.  Perhaps if he loved vegetables I would be judging of moms who struggle to serve vegetables or have picky eaters.  Trust me I am not. I am right there with you.  

I am envious of the mom whose kid asks for a steamed artichoke as his ‘dessert’ (Amy!) or devours all his broccoli and cauliflower on his the plate FIRST (Joanna!).  My jaw drops to the floor when I see this.  Nevertheless, I wouldn’t trade my veggie hater for anyone.

But what this has meant for me is that I had to be a little more creative and a little deceptive and extremely firm in my stand FOR vegetables. So, yes, I admit, I use the tactics offered in Deliciously Deceptive by Jessica Seinfeld -- hiding vegetables in unassuming dishes.   

I don’t do it often because I do want him to see he is eating the vegetable so he can get use to it.  But I do usually add something to my baked goods. If anything, to make me feel better - like I’ve secretly won the battle for the day.

Hidden nutrition in a cupcake?

Well… I’ll be the first to admit you are not getting that much nutrition but it still feels good.  These cupcakes have cauliflower and carrots in them.   In total, the batter and the glaze have a little over 1 cup of pureed vegetables.   When you do the math, each cupcake probably gets about a half a tablespoon…which is maybe a quarter of a medium carrot or 1 cauliflower florets -- I’m guessing here. Not a huge amount but it’s something.

The greatest part about putting veggies in baked goods is that it’s fun!  It’s fun to tell other moms there is cauliflower in the icing as they watch their kids devour the tops.  And it’s fun to make them with the kids so you are not actually hiding anything.  

If my son makes them with me, HE pours in the orange puree of carrots and white puree of cauliflower with excitement and pleasure.  Ask a little one to help you pour anything from one container to another and watch their eyes light up.  Never mind that they wouldn’t go near the stuff otherwise!

I adapted the recipe from Jessica Seinfeld’s Gingerbread Spice Cake.  I made it gluten and diary free and changed the oil to coconut oil, a natural saturated fat that is actually really good for you.  I changed one of the vegetables to cauliflower since I am using cauliflower in the glaze.  I also used coconut palm sugar which provides added nutrients.  The coconut sugar actually makes it taste less sweet – which will train your palette to prefer less sweet.  If you are using regular brown sugar, you might want to try ½ cup instead of ¾ cup.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.  They make fantastic Holiday treats! I’ve brought these to two adult get-togethers so far this season and they have been a hit.  Women love getting in some extra veggies with their sweets.

Gingerbread Mini Cupcakes

Makes 24-30 mini cupcakes

  • 2 cups gluten–free flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground clove
  • ¼ tsp. allspice
  • ¼ sea salt
  • ¾ c. coconut palm sugar
  • ¼ c. coconut oil, melted
  • ½ c. cauliflower puree
  • ½ c. carrot puree
  • ½ c. coconut milk (whole fat)
  • ¼ c. molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. grated orange zest

Vanilla Glaze

  • ½ c. coconut oil
  • 1/3 c. coconut milk
  • 1/8 c. cauliflower puree
  • 3 tbsp. powdered coconut palm sugar (*see instructions below)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. orange juice

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Cauliflower & Carrot Puree

  1. Cut ½ a cauliflower into small florets.  Discard stem (the flavor is too strong). Steam cauliflower florets until tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Cut 3 medium carrots into small chunks.  Steam until tender, about 10- minutes
  3. Place steamed florets in a high-speed or immersion blender.  Blend until smooth, adding water as necessary.  Final consistency should be thick but just pourable. Set aside.
  4. Repeat with carrots.

Gingerbread Cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare cupcake pan. Line cupcake tray with cupcake liners or spread coconut oil evenly in each cup (use melted oil with pastry brush) and gently sprinkle flour over with small sieve or colander to coat evenly.  Turn pan over and knock out excess flour. I do this even with the non-stick pans to the cupcakes pop out easily.
  2. In large bowl, combine dry ingredients: flour, baking soda and spices and salt.  Mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer or immersion blender, mix sugar, oil, purees, milk molasses and egg.  Pour into flour mixture.  Mix until smooth.
  4. Pour batter into cupcake liners.  Fill each cupcake about ¾ of the way.  (If you want large muffin tops, fill each to the top.) 
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

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Powdered (Confectioner's) Coconut Palm Suger

  1. Place 3 tbsp. of coconut palm sugar in a nut/spice grinder.  Grind until powdered.

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Diary Free Glaze

  1. Melt coconut oil in a small saucepan. 
  2. Add milk and cauliflower puree.  Stir to combine.  Let mixture come to a boil and then turn heat off.  
  3. Add sugar, vanilla and orange juice. Mix well.
  4. Pour glaze generously over top of bread, cakes, cupcakes, or scones.  Let set for about 30 minutes.


Maria Quintana-Pilling is founder and owner of UrbanSpice Nutrition.  Maria is a nutritionist and natural chef determined to help women get the right food on the table in a fun and practical way.  She is particularly passionate about helping women overcome digestive and women’s health issues without alienating the family. To learn more, check out her website