Winning Gluten-Free Cupcakes

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Meet Kyra Bussanich, 4-time champion of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars

Kyra Bussanich

Photography by Tim Horel

Kyra Bussanich baked more than 6,000 (not a misprint) gluten-free cupcakes while competing on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. The four-time champion and cookbook author knows her way around a kitchen. Often on many top ten U.S. bakery lists, Kyra’s Bake Shop has helped make gluten-free baking mainstream.

“It takes a village” says Bussanich about the competitions. “Making more than 1,000 cupcakes in two hours for each episode required a team. Without those helpers, it just couldn’t be done. Someone has to do those dishes!” she jokes—but only partially. Baking, filling, frosting, styling and presenting exceptional cupcakes all in the span of a single episode was a team effort, says the show’s only four-time champion and two-time runner up.

Bussanich’s gluten-free cupcakes competed with gluten-full cupcakes. Win after win, her team’s delicious cupcakes wowed the judges.

But it almost didn’t happen. When Bussanich was a young adult, she was severely underweight and seriously ill with Crohn’s disease. Her physicians insisted she have life-altering surgery to reverse her decline but Bussanich decided to try going gluten-free first. Within a short time, her symptoms abated and surgery was no longer necessary. She’s never looked back.

Gluten-Free Cupcakes

Photography by Tim Horel

Bussanich was working as a formally trained restaurant pastry chef at the time. She began experimenting with gluten-free baking after hours, turning it into a cottage business. With more than enough clients to keep her busy, Bussanich eventually left her restaurant job to focus full time on the expanding enterprise.

Back then, she and her husband Jason regularly watched Cupcake Wars. During one of the many episodes when Bussanich was yelling advice to the bakers on TV, her husband told her with all seriousness that she should compete already. And by the way, he added, she’d probably win. It became a dare. She filled out the application and produced a short video. A couple of weeks later, Food Network came calling.

The publicity from the championships and a growing following allowed Bussanich to launch Kyra’s Bake Shop in Lake Oswego, Oregon, which today offers a variety of delicious gluten-free baked goods, as well as breakfast and lunch items. She also authored Sweet Cravings (Ten Speed Press) in 2013.

Gluten-Free Orange Clove Pomander Cupcakes

Photography by Tim Horel

Gluten-Free Orange Clove Pomander Cupcakes

MAKES 12 GLUTEN-FREE GLUTEN-FREE CUPCAKES

For a special touch, dust frosted gluten-free cupcakes with a pinch of clove sugar (1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves). Rotate pans halfway through baking for best results. This gluten-free recipe can be doubled. It can be made egg-free; see instructions.

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Gluten-Free Vanilla Chocolate Mint Cupcakes

Photography by Tim Horel

Gluten-Free Vanilla Chocolate Mint Cupcakes

MAKES 12 GLUTEN-FREE CUPCAKES

For a special touch, drizzle chocolate sprinkles around the bottom edge of the frosting of each gluten-free cupcake. This gluten-free recipe can be doubled. It can be made egg-free; see instructions.

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Gluten-Free Cinnamon Caramel Pear Cupcakes

Photography by Tim Horel

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Caramel Pear Cupcakes

MAKES 12 GLUTEN-FREE CUPCAKES

For a special touch, top each frosted gluten-free cupcake with a drizzle of caramel sauce. This recipe can be doubled. It can be made egg-free; see instructions.

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Recipe Notes

Gluten-Free Flour Blend Combined tapioca starch and rice flours tend to settle and separate over time; mix them well when preparing the recipe. To measure, scoop flours and starch into measuring cups and level them off with a knife.

Eggs Eggs are easier to separate when they’re cold. But bring yolks and whites to room temperature before using them in the recipe.

Butter If using butter in these recipes, choose salted butter. If using Spectrum Organic Shortening in the Italian Meringue Buttercream Frostings, increase the salt by ¼ teaspoon and increase the vanilla by 2 teaspoons for better flavor. Never add cold butter to the Italian Buttercream; the frosting will curdle. These recipes are not formulated to work with dairy-free buttery sticks.

Gluten-Free Frosting As an alternative to the Italian Meringue Buttercream Frostings, prepare your favorite frosting and add the spices indicated in the recipe.

Gluten-Free Baking Rotate cupcakes halfway through baking for best results.