Drunken Chocolate Cupcakes, Gluten-Free

Big fat confession: Last year Cap’n Awesome totally forgot my birthday for the first time since we were 15 years old.  His brain was operating in a vapor-state called stupor-world.  His job had vanished just a couple of days before when the start-up company he worked for closed their doors without notice. I’d say in the scheme of all things birthday, he gets a pass.

I actually made it until late afternoon before asking him to check his calendar. Looking at his phone, he replied that it was the 10th.  Then the penny dropped. He was instantly pained (because he is a nice guy) and sorry (probably because I was kind of teary).  He promised to make it up to me. The fact that he landed a good job before long and we weren’t having to live in our car pretty much made up for missing my birthday.

But that was not a typical birthday celebration B.E.B.  That would be Before the Economy Busted.

Since we were teenagers, our tradition was to take the day and hang out with each other.  Later on, between the starving student years and before the economy-circling-the-drain years we used to try to make the day ridiculously outrageous by thinking up crazy schemes – dinner at Joël Robuchon in Paris, or The French Laundry in Wine Country.  For many years during that silly era, we even added the challenge of shopping for the perfect gift on that day.  Think Hallmark moment brought to you by Stephen Colbert.


But hey, we got older, wiser and way more frugal.  This year turned out to be the best birthday ever.  First, I was ever so grateful to wake up breathing – with my family history, that is always a plus.  Then I was eternally grateful for the coffee that appeared next to me before I’d finished waking up.  And apparently there was one more surprise that will forever be etched in my brain filed under spectacular moments in a hundred years of being married.

Cap’n Awesome baked.  For the first time ever.  He made me unbelievable GF chocolate cupcakes using not a recipe, but a ratio. He baked with weights (except for the butter-cream).


He added all sorts of interesting flavors including slugs of various liqueurs to make the cupcakes stagger a bit.  There was butter-cream frosting that contained something from the drunken simple syrup and my favorite India Tree Chocolate Sprinkles.

They were better than anything I’ve tasted in a long time and the butter cream would make even Cakespy spin with cake-glee.  Think subtle hints of vanilla with reduced Luxardo Cherry, Kaluha and Crème de cacao liqueurs surrounded by deep dark chocolate flavor.

I thought dinner at Joël Robuchon was a birthday memory that I might never top, but the sight of Cap’n Awesome piping butter-cream while humming Arcade Fire beats that one.  By an ocean.

I am one happy birthday girl.  But a challenge looms ahead.  His birthday is in a few weeks.

Oh oh.

Drunken Chocolate Cupcakes, Gluten Free: For Lisa's Birthday
Recipe type: dessert
Makes about 20 regular cupcakes.
  • 8 oz. sugar
  • 2 oz. unsweetened cocoa
  • 7 oz. GF flour (a mix of GF Oat, Potato Starch, superfine brown rice)
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 8 oz. unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted
  • 8 scant oz. buttermilk or sour cream
  • 4 large eggs (almost 8 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 heaping teaspoon brewed coffee
  • 2 teaspoons each of liqueurs (cherry, crème de cacao, kaluha)
  • 6 oz. mini chocolate chips (optional)
Simple Syrup for Butter-Cream Frosting
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ½ cup liqueur (use a mix of cherry, crème de cacao, kaluha)
Drunken Butter-Cream Frosting
  • 8 oz. unsalted butter, very soft room temperature
  • 3 cups (yes, volume measure) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • The reduced drunken simple syrup
  • 1-4 tablespoons water, if needed
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Place cupcake liners in cupcake pan(s) (about 18-20).
  2. In a one large bowl weigh sugar, cocoa, flours and add baking powder, baking soda, salt. Whisk mixture to incorporate.
  3. Weigh butter in a microwave-safe glass bowl and melt (35 seconds). Cool slightly.
  4. Weigh buttermilk into same glass bowl and add eggs, coffee, flavorings (liqueurs) and mix well.
  5. Add liquid ingredients to dry. Whisk until no lumps remain. Add optional chocolate chips and stir.
  6. Fill each cupcake liner about ⅔ full. Rap pan on counter to remove air bubbles.
  7. Bake about 10 minutes and rotate. Bake 5-6 minutes more just until a toothpick comes out easily with few crumbs.
  8. Remove cupcakes to rack and cool.
Simple (staggering) Syrup
  1. Bring sugar and liqueurs to a slow simmer. Stir for a few minutes until slightly reduced and thick.
  2. Cool.
Drunken Butter Cream Frosting
  1. In a small bowl, whip butter and sifted powdered sugar until well blended.
  2. Add simple syrup reduction and vanilla and whip again.
  3. Depending on thickness desired, add water by teaspoonfuls until thick, but spreadable.
  4. Pipe to frost cupcakes or use a small offset spatula or spoon. Add sprinkles before the frosting sets.
If you don't want to use liqueurs, just use vanilla and a little bit of coffee. Peppermint would be a nice switch, too.


  1. I love this guy! and happy birthday again!

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      aw, thanks. I love him, too. he certainly has the ratio and weight thing down.

  2. Wow, those are some AMAZING cupcakes!! That would be hard to top. Happy Belated Birthday!

  3. You had me at ‘Drunken’! If my husband tried baking, I can picture him cutting off the handle of the whisk, then inserting it into his cordless drill.

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      too funny. I didn’t mention that he sifted the powdered sugar using the hand mixer in a mesh strainer…sort of like a power tool…

  4. What a sweet story, and even sweeter looking cupcakes. Cap N’ Awesome, really does sound awesome. 🙂

  5. Hi. I’m making these this weekend. Wondering if you think it’d be best to melt the chocolate chips first since they don’t melt when you add them to the batter and tend to fall to the bottom. Also, what if you slightly decreased the flour and increased the cocoa powder.

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi Katie – Melting the chips creates additional liquid to the recipe which would throw off the ratio. Try saving a teaspoon of flour and mixing the chips with that before adding to the batter. That should keep them from sinking. Another trick I use is to add 2/3 of the chips into the batter and save the remainder for sprinkling on top as they go into the oven which usually keeps them suspended in the batter. Also, the cocoa and flour mixture are not necessarily interchangeable because they both absorb liquid differently. Cocoa has a tendency to dry out the crumb so increasing it might make the cupcake crumbly and a little powdery tasting. Hope that helps.

  6. These sound delicious! What are the exact measurements of your flour mixture in this recipe. I see it varies from your “Canteen Mix.” Thank you!

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi, Nicci. That’s an oldie for sure (I used potato starch which I would never use today). That flour mixture is going to absorb the liquids differently than today’s Canteen mix. If I were experimenting (which changing the flour would be) I’d probably use 225 grams to 260 grams (1 3/4 to 2 cups). You can add more flour at the end if the batter seems to liquidy, so I’d start with 225 grams and go up to 260 grams if necessary. But remember, it’s an experiment when you change any ingredient. There are more recent chocolate cupcakes on the blog using only the Canteen blend – you can always drop in the liqueur to replace flavoring like part of the vanilla, for example. Hope that helps.

      • Thank you so very much! I’ll have to experiment and let you know how it went. I CANNOT wait to try these! Thanks again and God bless!


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