Vegan, gluten free, casein free, nut free, lactose free – Cocoa Orange Cup Cakes

Gluten free cocoa orange cup cakes

On Sunday, the vegans of Mumbai met up for a potluck at Monika and Chintan’s house. Our group provides support to new vegans, aspiring vegans and of course we do share good food in good measure. This time I was confident enough to try out the cupcakes on yet another group of ‘guinea pigs’. The response was tremendous! It made me happy to see that people went in for seconds. Jr.P, Jr.H and P have always said that the cakes were great but I was silly enough to suspect a bias on their part!

After yesterday’s success at the potluck I was so stoked with the kind complements that I baked cocoa-orange cupcakes and took it to my workplace this morning. Some of my friends did not realize it was gluten free. It made me grin madly! That is what gives me the confidence to share the recipe with you. It really works! Oh, by the way, the others who realized it was gluten free knew so because I have carried these before (though without orange) and they did not know it then!

Substituting nuts in cakes for the nut-allergic:

I have found that adding ground-nuts such as hazelnuts, cashews or almonds gives a lighter texture and lift to vegan bakes, but since Jr.H cannot consume nuts I had a tough time getting that texture in her cakes. This time I tried adding coarsely ground, dry sunflower seeds and it gave both the texture as well the mouth feel I was looking for. Seeds generally substitute nuts very well in most recipes.

Smitha is one of my close friends and her little boy is egg, gluten and nut intolerant. He also cannot take chickpeas or roasted chana dal / split, husked bengal gram lentils. We were talking the other day and she asked me whether I had a recipe for him. Here it is. I hope it makes her baby smile!

Recipe: Cocoa Orange Cup Cakes – Vegan, gluten free, casein free, nut free, lactose free
Allergy information: This cake contains soy milk. If allergic to soy, use rice milk or coconut milk.
Yield: 12 small cup cakes
Please note that I measure in Indian cups and these measure about 20% less than American standard cups.


Dry portion:
Superfine rice flour – 1.5 cups
(I use home ground rice flour.
Method: Soak rice for 1/2 hr. Rinse and drain. Spread on a dry towel and let dry completely in shade. Grind, sieve and grind till the grains are a fine powder)
Corn starch/arrowroot flour – 1/4 cup(tapioca flour is alright too but we don’t get them here so I cannot really mention the measure for it)
Baking powder (aluminium free/gluten free) – 1.25 tsp.
Baking soda – 1/8 tsp.
Edible gum (I use locally available gum called ‘dink’) – 2 generous pinches
Cocoa powder – 6 tbsps.
Dark brown sugar – 1/2 cup
Salt – 1/8 tsp.


Wet portion:
Extra virgin olive oil (I used ‘borges’ as they sent me a few of their olive oils as samples. They smell good and as good as the normal ‘figaro’ brand I use. I think I use ‘frigata’ for Extra virgin.)
– Just 4 tbsps. (Yes, that less!)
Freshly sqeezed orange juice, sweet one – 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup more if needed
Soy milk – 3/4 cup + 1/4 cup if needed


Stir the dry ingredients together in a bowl. I grind it together in my large mixie jar to aerate and mix. Saves me from sieving together.

Empty back into the bowl.

In the same jar, empty olive oil, 1/4 cup orange juice and 3/4 cup soy milk. Grind together till mixed together.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well till you get a uniform batter. Not very thick, nor runny. If the liquid is less, add the extra orange juice and a little more milk. A runny or pourable batter may sink after baking.

The batter should be easy to mix but remain ‘scoopable’.

Pre-heat oven to 160 deg. Celsius for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile line your cupcake mould with paper cases. Dust lightly with superfine rice flour. Scoopy 1.5 tbsps. of batter in each case.

Bake for 25 minutes. If it seems to be browning in spots, turn the tray midway.


Because it happened to me the first time:
Please do not peek in before 20minutes. The first time I did, my cupcakes sank. A few times after that, even if the taste was good a dimple in the center would invariably appear.

I have found that reducing the quantity of soda helps in getting the proper lift. I wrote my experiences so it helps other beginner bakers. If you are a good one, please ignore. I know you have had your experiences!

I do not fancy sweetness much, so my cakes, desserts and sweets are not really very sweet. If you have a sweet tooth you might want to notch up the sugar here. Or, keep the sugar levels the same and dust with icing sugar if needed.

Due to the use of seeds, these cakes have a mouth feel similar to nutty cakes. The texture is open, not crumbly but soft. It is also held firmly just like a cake made with all purpose flour. That is because the rice is home ground. Soaked, drained and ground makes the flour more moist and superfine than shop bought flour. Brown rice flour may be used but does not turn out as moist as home ground flour. Results will vary if made with shop bought flour. The cakes will simply be drier and not as delicious.

If you are allergic to corn starch use tapioca flour or arrowroot powder. We do not get tapioca flour in India, so I haven’t had the chance to try it. I am waiting for Santa Claus’ second trip abroad to get some!

If the orange juice is bitter, discard and use a fresh one! I always use fresh fruits while baking and they are what I recommend. The orange juice imparts a fresh flavour.

Let the cakes cool in the mould for a few minutes. Lift it onto a tray and let cool to room temperature. Serve soon. Do not store in an air tight container till completely cool. They sweat and also turn rubbery by evening according to Jr.H. Ok, those are her observations! I found nothing wrong, but then, the gluten free girl won’t accept anything less than perfect. She must have a point there! I am told cakes go extremely well with tea but I love them with fresh fruit juice.


Look here! Jr.H found a heart and gave me half of it. Just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Gluten freen cocoa orange cupcakes
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Have your say

  1. Your baking tips are always a huge help Harini! It is you who encouraged me to bake … and also with baking soda … for which am hugely thankful to you. 🙂
    Love love the look of those cupcakes. 🙂

  2. The cup cakes look delicious. Can't believe that's it's gluten free 🙂

  3. Thanks for the recipe. I have bookmarked it and will make it for my daughters 3rd b;day. I think she has not had a cake in her life till now 🙁 gluten, dairy free life is difficult. I hope it makes her 3rd b'day a little special for her. 🙂

  4. Sharmila, you are so sweet with your complements, always! Thank you very much:).

    Paaka Shaale, thanks!

    NC, I know how difficult it is in the beginning but over a period of time it will get much easier! I hope your daughter has a lovely birthday, complete with cake! You can write in to me at sunshinemomsblog at gmail dot com if you have any difficulty following the recipe. I will be glad to help!

  5. Your post made a wonderful read….Loved all those small details you include. I wanted to try baking with rice flour. And your recipe looks perfect.

  6. Can't believe it is gluten free, love the cracks which run in all ur cupcakes!

  7. this is a good one- have friends who keep asking me for lactose, gluten free recipes– will pass it on !

  8. Nothing can beat the cocoa orange combo. Deep, rich yet refreshing. Need I say more about the photographs? am in LOVE with them.


  9. aaaargh! that was me signed in with A's account ..LOL

  10. Sensible Vegetarian

    Harini, this sure is an awesome recipe for people with Gluten and Lactose problems. I do lot of gluten free baking, sometimes with rice flour but mostly with almond flour because of the taste, but making the rice flour at home never sank in. That sure is a wonderful idea.

  11. Thanks everyone!

    Priya, thanks for recommending:).

    Soma, I guessed so because I have seen this name in your flickr account, I think!

    Sadhana, am glad you liked. I like using almond flour too. These days I prepare two batches – one with it and one without!

  12. Oh..these cup cakes look so cute! Gluten free and so gorgeous, can't believe they are baked with rice flour..what is the edible gum,Can I get it in India, Harini?
    Love the orange flavors in it.

  13. I'll forward this recipe to my sister.
    I was just wondering if dink is same as gum arabic.
    This link might help you know:
    and the picture:
    Would be great if you could clarify. Thanks!

  14. PG, yes:). It is acacia gum. I somehow forgot all about that detail while writing the post but thanks to you, I will update! It is like what the picture shows but a bit lighter.

  15. Hey Harini, your blogs are very very informative. I liked your other blog trivial thoughts too……so, are you a kannadiga too……

  16. Smitha, thank you:). I am glad the endeavour shows! Also happy that your read "Trivial Thoughts" as well. I hardly have updates there anymore though the wish is always there! No, I am not a Kannadiga but I have spent so many summers there that I qualify to be one:)!!

  17. H,Love the recipe. Love oranges in bakes and the cocoa orange combo is a sure hit.Can't believe its a no apf,no nuts no dairy recipe. Have never used gum as I can't find it here. Any idea where it is available in banglore?
    It happened to me too. The cupcakes have sunk.So during baking u can find me prancing around the oven with heart in mouth.
    How u ground rice for the flour? The traditional soak rice, drain, roast like the puttu style or simple took rice,roast and powder? What type of rice? Sorry for too many q?

  18. Sweatha, I have given the method in the recipe. Please check. I use any rice variety, preferably kolam as that is the variety I use for food daily. I am sure you will enjoy this cake a lot.

  19. lovely post harini, you really work hard to prepare baking alternatives. read this in detail and will try as soon as i get around… another thing about tapioca flour. we buy tapioca, peel, chop and sun dry them. then my dad gets it powdered in the flour mill. so my tapioca flour is sourced home made from kerala.

  20. Hey Rajani, thank you so much for that tip on preparation of tapioca flour. I can do that too as we get kappa here.

  21. Sorry H, missed the method line. I just read till home ground flour and then went to arrowroot line.

  22. Guessed so, Sweatha:).

  23. The Cup cakes looking so good and very very yummy, but can`t believe it`s gluten free, anyhow your baking tip is very nice i love it.
    MD Life
    Thank you for the nice sharing.

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