GF pumpkin spice cupcakes
GF pumpkin spice cupcakes photo by Alicia Woodward

Confession: I cheat when I bake. These aromatic Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes use a gluten-free cake mix.

I was driving home from the airport yesterday, enjoying the morning chill and the vibrant colors of the autumn trees. Just back from several days in warm, sunny San Diego, the seasonal contrast was welcoming—and it got me in the mood for pumpkin spice cupcakes. Which is fortunate, because I had the assignment to concoct a super-easy way to make gluten-free pumpkin spice cupcakes.

“Super easy” means a baking mix to me. My plan: Get a standard gluten-free cake mix and go from there. My first challenge: I live in a rural area. The closest town is Charlottesville, Virginia, about 45 minutes from my place. Even in Charlottesville, the grocery stores don’t offer a huge variety of gluten-free baking mixes. Still, I was optimistic I could adapt just about any GF cake mix, so I entered the Giant supermarket in Charlottesville with high hopes. There was no GF spice cake mix (my preference) but there was Pamela’s Vanilla Cake Mix. Perfect!

At home, I laid out my ingredients on the kitchen counter. Pamela’s mix is gluten-free and dairy-free and it makes 14 cupcakes. It calls for 3 large eggs, ½ cup of vegetable oil, 2/3 cup of water and some optional almond flavoring.

Pamela's Vanilla Cake Mix

My second challenge: I wanted a vanilla cake mix to turn into pumpkin-spice cupcakes. Obviously, I was going to have to add or replace ingredients. Pumpkin puree is considered a liquid ingredient. For successful results, I knew I had to keep the dry-to-liquid ingredient ratio basically intact. With that in mind, I figured I could replace some of the vegetable oil with pumpkin puree. I also figured I could replace some of the water with pumpkin puree.

I wanted a lot of pumpkin in these GF pumpkin spice cupcakes, so I decided to go for this double replacement. I replaced half the oil (¼ cup) with ¼ cup of pumpkin. Then I replaced half the water (1/3 cup) with 1/3 cup of pumpkin. I used ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract instead of the optional almond flavoring. (I wanted to avoid a nut allergen; I didn’t have any almond flavoring in the house anyway.) Then I added 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice and 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the dry mix.

GF pumpkin cupcake ingredients
GF pumpkin cupcake ingredients

Guided by the mix directions, I preheated my oven to 325 degrees F. Then I whisked the eggs, oil, water, pumpkin and vanilla together in a bowl.

GF pumpkin cupcake batter
GF pumpkin cupcake batter photo by Alicia Woodward

I dumped the dry mix into a separate bowl and added the pumpkin pie spice and the cinnamon, whisking them to combine.

GF pumpkin spice cupcake dry ingredients
GF pumpkin spice cupcake dry ingredients photo by Alicia Woodward

Then I blended the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, quickly stirring everything together to make a batter.

GF pumpkin spice cupcake batter
GF pumpkin spice cupcake batter photo by Alicia Woodward

I scraped the batter into cupcake liners and baked the cupcakes in my preheated oven until done, about 22 minutes.

GF pumpkin spice cupcake batter
GF pumpkin spice cupcake batter photo by Alicia Woodward
gluten free pumpkin spice frosting
Gluten free pumpkin spice frosting photo by Alicia Woodward

To make quick and easy pumpkin spice frosting, I stirred pumpkin pie spice and ground cinnamon into some readymade Duncan Hines’ Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting. (I called Duncan Hines and was assured that this frosting is gluten-free.) When the cupcakes were cool, I frosted a few of them and piled a bunch on a cake plate (both frosted and unfrosted).

These cupcakes are moist and sweet with a wonderful pumpkin aroma and definite undertones of spicy pumpkin flavor. Here’s how they look:

GF pumpkin spice cupcakes
GF pumpkin spice cupcakes photo by Alicia Woodward

For stronger pumpkin-spice notes, use a GF spice cake mix instead of a vanilla cake mix. I couldn’t find any GF spice cake mix in my area grocery store but they are readily available online.

Happy eating! Happy autumn!



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