As a Midwesterner, I’m no stranger to rough winters. In Ohio especially, we’ve gotten freak blizzards in April on more than one occasion and a couple years where we had so many snow days the school district almost made us take extra days in the summer.  But something about this winter seems like it’s been especially rough. Maybe it’s because I live in New York now and have to actually trudge through the snow and cold instead of driving around in a heated car everywhere. Or maybe it was Hurricane Sandy and the random snowstorm we had after it that threw everything off kilter. Either way, it feels like it’s been winter forever. Like, what do skirts even feel like? What are open-toed shoes?! But I digress.

To make up for the fact that it’s supposed to be spring but it’s still freezing outside (or maybe it’s just my apartment and its temperamental heating system), I made these festive birds’ nest cupcakes to celebrate a coworker’s birthday. And how cute are they, I mean, seriously.

Spring Cupcakes

Who needs the weather when you can make your own spring?!

Gluten-Free Vanilla Cupcakes

From Keep It Simple, Keep It Fresh
Makes 48 mini cupcakes and 1 small, 5″ cake

  • 2 1/2 cups Thai rice flour (or any other finely ground white rice flour)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • Optional: sprinkles
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together milk and vegetable oil and set aside.
  4. In a separate large bowl, beat together, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Pour in the milk mixture and whisk until smooth.
  5. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients and whisk until there are no lumps in the batter. To make these funfetti cupcakes, fold in sprinkles just before pouring into baking pans.
  6. Pour into prepared baking tins and bake 20 minutes for mini cupcakes and 30 to 40 minutes for a 5″ cake.
  7. Remove from pans and let cool to room temperature.

Lime Cream Filling

Makes approx. 3 cups

  • 1 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 4 tsp cold water
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • Zest from 1 lime
  1. Stir cold water and gelatin together in a small bowl until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk heavy cream and powdered sugar on medium speed until it reaches soft peaks. Add in lime zest and whisk to medium peaks.
  3. Microwave or melt the gelatin in a double boiler. Gelatin should be completely dissolved and liquid.
  4. While gelatin is still hot, pour it into your whipped cream. Pouring in hot melted gelatin will break the whipped cream and will give it a curd-like consistency and texture that’s perfect for filling.

To assemble cupcakes:

  1. Cup out the tops of the cupcakes and fill with a dollop of lime cream filling. Place the top back on.
  2. Frost into nest shapes with buttercream frosting.
  3. Roll the frosted cupcakes in toasted coconut (shredded sweetened coconut baked at 350F until crispy and browned).
  4. Top with small Jelly Belly jellybeans.

I’ve been looking for a good vanilla cupcake for a while now, gluten-free or not. This one may be one of the best I’ve ever made. I’m realizing now that, for a self-proclaimed gluten groupie, I’ve gotten really into gluten-free baking. I think it’s because I’m constantly surprised by how good things taste without gluten.

The great thing about this recipe, other than the fact that the cupcakes themselves are killer, is that the batter is absurdly easy to make. No waiting for butter to soften, no sifting, no fancy techniques. Just whisk the dry and wet ingredients separately and then combine them, and there you go. Fluffy, puffy, moist (and not gummy) gluten-free cupcakes! I added some pastel sprinkles to make them more festive, and you could easily add in chocolate chips, nuts, or any other additions you like.

I used lime and coconut to make these even more festive for spring. The brightness of the citrus in the delicately sweetened whipped cream is so delicious you’ll want to eat it by the spoonful, and the toasted coconut is crunchy and slightly sweet and pairs perfectly with the lime.

This might have to be a new tradition – heralding the beginning of spring with these adorable bird’s nest cupcakes.


I pity the fool who doesn’t make these cupcakes


Happy spring and Easter!