Customer Reviews: Gluten-Free Cupcakes: 50 Irresistible Recipes Made with Almond and Coconut Flour
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on July 12, 2011
This is a beautiful book. The instructions for each recipe are clear and concise, and the photos are scrumptious. It makes me excited about making grain-free, sugar-free cupcakes. I look forward to making all the cupcakes and muffins in this delightful little book -- triple chocolate, red velvet, vanilla fig, apple spice, banana split...YUM! Thanks Elana!

My one small quibble with the book is that Elana uses agave nectar in all but one recipe. I won't use agave nectar because of its high fructose content which is a strain on the liver and creates insulin resistance over a period of time. It's absolutely true that honey and agave can be substituted 1 to 1 or 1 to 1.25 (agave to honey) depending on your preference for sweetness. I would rather use a granulated sweetener that does not raise my blood sugar much at all, though.

For every 1/2 cup of agave nectar that a recipe calls for I substitute 5/8 cup erythritol Zsweet All Natural Zero Calorie Sweetener, 1.5-Pound Pouches (Pack of 2) + 1-2 scoops of KAL stevia extract powder Pure Stevia Extract Powder - 3.5 oz - Powder + 1/2 cup of a liquid like coconut milk or almond milk. I also increase the baking temp by 25 degrees. Everything else in the recipe stays the same. For those of you who have trouble getting unusual ingredients where you live, you can use any granulated sweetener in place of the erythritol. Just skip the stevia if you're using sugar, since sugar is sweeter than erythritol.
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on February 18, 2012
Due to my health condition and food allergies, I must eat grain-free and dairy-free and am thus limited to nut flours and coconut flour. While others love almond flour, I only like it somewhat, and it is very expensive. So, I was very interested in starting to cook with coconut flour. From what I have read, coconut flour is quite healthy. It has a high fiber content and decent protein content. It is also less expensive than almond flour. Finally, coconut flour seems healthier to me than the (high-glycemic index) rice-flour, potato starch, gum combinations that so many gluten-free individuals can turn to. My digestive system cannot function with the typical gluten-free rice flour mixes anyway.

I wondered how the coconut flour would taste. I think that its flavor is very subtle and not like that of coconut, but rather it has a very caramel(ized) flavor, which is delicious. The `cupcakes' (I prefer the word muffin...since I don't frost them) are extremely moist. Yes, they are slightly denser that what you might have been used to with wheat-flour muffins/cupcakes. But they are also moister. A definite plus, in my opinion. As I read in another cookbook, one has to stop expecting non-wheat products to taste like wheat-products. Wheat has a taste that we are used to and other flours will not have that taste.

So far, I have made the following recipes from the book (I am an experienced baker):

-Lime cupcakes (but I substituted lemon zest for the lime zest and added poppy seeds). The recipe was a ½ almond flour, ½ coconut flour recipe. Very good. One of my favorites.

-Chocolate banana cupcakes. A coconut flour only recipe. Very moist and good. I am not sure that I love this flavor combination, though. Next time, I will just use Elana's banana muffin recipe.

-Basic Vanilla cupcakes. A coconut flour only recipe. Moist and delicious. As I said, there is almost a caramel flavor to them that seems to come from the coconut flour (or from the agave too?). I tried to do a calorie count for one muffin and came up with: 192 calories for one muffin. Another favorite.

-Apple Spice cupcakes. A coconut flour and arrowroot starch recipe. Good. Elana's recipe called for 1T of cinnamon, which seemed like a lot to me. I reduced it to 2t and it was still powerful. These cupcakes taste less sweet than the others I've made despite having the same amount of agave. Not as moist as the other recipes....could it be due to the arrowroot? Next time, I am going to leave out the arrowroot and see what happens. Also instead of chopping the apples, I think I will shred them on food processor disk.

-Strawberry cupcakes. My least favorite of the cupcakes. I just didn't like the texture of the fresh strawberries once cooked (to me, they are mushy and stringy...the flavor changes too). I might try strawberries again...but I would perhaps cook them to reduce them down and bit before adding. And I would use the coconut cupcake recipe base.....again, this strawberry cupcake recipe had arrowroot starch and I find that the recipes with arrowroot are less moist. Also, this recipe had no oil in it. Surely another reason that I didn't like them. I ended up throwing this batch out.

-Lemon-blueberry muffins. Very moist, very lemony, and bursting with blueberries. The second time I made these, I reduced the blueberries from 1 cup to ¾ cup and I eliminated the lemon zest, since I wanted more of a pure blueberry taste w/out the pronounced lemon flavor. I loved the result w/ my changes.

-Coconut Cupcakes. A coconut flour and coconut oil recipe. I replaced the agave with coconut sugar syrup (boil 1 ½ cups coconut sugar with ½ cup water...and then measure. I got this idea from a comment on one of the reviews here..thank you!). I wanted an all coconut muffin (coconut flour, coconut sugar, coconut oil) WITHOUT a pronounced coconut flavor, so I left out the shredded coconut in the recipe. Result: extremely moist, caramel flavor. A rich, buttery taste on the palate and not too dense. They are great with jam. Also, it would be delicious with the shredded coconut as called for in the recipe...I like coconut but don't always want it. It would be easy to add some zest, chocolate shavings or something to jazz it up. This will be my go-to recipe, but I will add mix-ins to vary them. I tried to calculate nutritional info for my version using the info on the packaging of ingredients and doing the math. I came up with this info per muffin: 211 calories, 3.8g protein, 15g (healthy) fat, 13g sugar, 2.5g fiber. Just right for me as a snack/dessert/treat.

-Vegan Buttercream: For me, the result was inedible and it went into the trash. I followed the recipe exactly, with the brands Elana recommended. I should have known that I would hate the final product since I didn't like the taste of the Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread (soy free). This product is very salty. So, for me, the "buttercream" was way too salty and just had a bad taste (the taste of the Earth Balance product). I tried to save it by adding homemade vegan caramel that I had on-hand and then melted dark chocolate. Nothing helped cover the taste of the Earth Balance spread (salt!). Next time, I will try her Vegan Chocolate Frosting recipe, which does not contain the Earth Balance spread.

It is very easy to make substitutions for those who don't want to follow the recipes to the letter. In the recipes, I used virgin coconut oil. Coconut oil does not make the muffins/cupcakes taste distinctly like coconut. If there are any flavorings (zest, cinnamon, fruit), the coconut taste disappears. Some disagree, but I think that coconut oil is healthy. As for agave, I do use it sometimes (and find it delicious). But I have also used honey in its place. I would use maple syrup, but it is very expensive. I am planning on mostly using coconut sugar syrup (1 ½ cups blonde organic coconut sugar with ½ cup water boiled, which makes 1 cup of coconut sugar syrup. Then measure it like you would agave.). The coconut sugar syrup costs me about 15% of what agave or maple syrup costs me, is organic and seems like a good choice.

Elana says in the introduction that she doesn't recommend freezing the cupcakes once they are made. I must freeze them, because I try to not eat more than one a day and absolutely no more than two a day. I have found that they freeze just fine.

The fact that the cupcake recipes are dairy-free is very helpful for me since I have a dairy allergy.

Criticisms: My only real criticism is that the ingredients are only given in cup measurements and not given by weight. Elana does give you the flour weights for one cup in the introduction, but I still have to look up weights for all other ingredients and calculate the weight of flour for each recipe. I LOVE cookbooks that give a weight for every single ingredient, like Rose Levy Bernanbaum's fabulous books (from the time of my life before I knew about my wheat and dairy allergies!). I believe that all cookbook writers should follow Mrs. Bernanbaum's lead. Finally, one does usually need to sift coconut flour since it naturally clumps in storage. I weigh and then sift (4oz coconut flour = 1 cup). I didn't see sifting mentioned in Elana's book. But this is just nitpicking! The book is great.

I'm hoping that Elana will write a coconut flour cookbook that goes beyond cupcakes, but I thank her A THOUSAND TIMES for this book, that has made following a difficult diet so easy. Muffins are just about the only portable `fast food' (well, besides portable fruits, nut/seed mixtures, and Larabars) that I can have, and as a working mom, I need that convenience. This book helps me add to my repertoire and gives me the knowledge that I need to improvise on my own.
Elana is fabulous!
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on July 17, 2011
Ok, so the first thing anyone who buys this book HAS to know, is that EVERY SINGLE RECIPE uses agave nectar instead of sugar, and that the book DOES NOT EXPLAIN HOW TO SUBSTITUTE regular sugar for the agave.

[*UPDATE* As several people have asked about this in the comments, I want to clarify that AGAVE NECTAR DOES NOT CONTAIN GLUTEN, and it was never my intention to claim that it does. My problem with it has to do with the fact that I don't normally use it or have it in the house, and that I understand it is quite controversial for other reasons. However, it is gluten free **End Update** ]

Frankly, this is pretty annoying, and it is particularly annoying because this was in no way made clear in the advertising for the book. There is one line in the blurb about the recipes "not containing any refined sugar", which is easy to miss and a little ambivalent. Other than that, it really isn't stated clearly anywhere. It really would have been nice if in the front cover, where it says "recipes with almond meal and coconut flour", it would have also said "and agave nectar", to make it clearer to the potential buyers. The recipes also, by the way, use grapeseed oil, but that really isn't a big deal considering that you can easily replace it with canola or vegetable oils or any other relatively flavorless oil.

Ok, so I got this book, realized that it was all agave and debated if to just return it outright to Amazon, since I have no intention of starting to regularly bake with agave. After consulting with some people, however, I decided to give it a try using regular sugar. It was suggested that I use a little bit more sugar than agave (because agave is sweeter) and that I add a bit more water to make up for the liquid of the agave, and a bit of lemon to make sure there is enough acidity in the recipe to allow the rising agents to work (as agave also has acidity in it). I ended up making a simple syrup using 1 cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of water and a squeeze of lemon juice (cooked together until the sugar melts), and just used it in the same quantity as agave nectar. This worked out pretty well, although the recipes came out perhaps a little less moist and less sweet than I would have liked, so next time I will use extra simple syrup in the recipes.

Ok, so now that we resolved that problem, back to the book itself. The book is pretty, and offers both classic cupcakes and some pretty exciting original recipes, many of them quite mouth-watering and maybe just a little "sinful". Unlike most gluten free recipes that use multiple flour mixtures and many strange ingredients, most of these recipes are pretty straightforward and use only coconut flour or only almond meal. I was a little concerned about the coconut flour because it initally had a very dominant coconutty smell, but the cupcakes themselves did not actually taste like coconut at all (except for the coconut cupcakes). The recipes are simple and so far the results have been beautiful and delicious.

So, bottom line, if you are gluten free and want to cook with Agave, and you enjoy a cupcake, this is definitely the book for you.
If you don't want/like to use agave, be warned that all of the recipes in this book do use it, but if you are willing to try a workaround, then it may still be a good book for you, as the recipes are quite simple and interesting.
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on April 26, 2011
To start off, I am a HUGE fan of Elana and her work. I have made several recipes from the Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook and all are amazing. What I like even more about this cookbook is she branches out from almond flour and uses coconut flour, chia seeds, and flax meal. As much as I love the AFC, they can tend to taste very similar. In this book, there is much more variety, yet still keeping the ingredients list short (love) with most dairy free with even a vegan cupcake. I had to try a recipe as soon as I got the book, so I made a very small batch of the almond poppy seed cupcakes sans frosting. They were amazing. I'm glad to see her use of almond extract too. Honestly, this is gluten free baking at its finest, and I cannot WAIT to try all the recipes. Red velvet cupcakes, goat cheese scallion muffins, souffle cupcakes?! I'm in heaven! And for all you agave haters out there, she even has a honey recipe, and 1:1 substituting has never been a problem for me (I use liquid coconut sugar). Enjoy!
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on January 30, 2012
I am not Elana, nor do I work for her, but I want to comment on some of the negative reviews about this cookbook. There are complaints about the use of certain ingredients and I say if you haven't worked with them before give them a try and see what you think. If you can't get a hold of agave nectar, try using maple syrup or honey. Read about Elana's story to find out why she does not use gluten and dairy products and you'll understand her reasoning for the ingredients she chooses.

If you are interested in this book, I highly recommend checking out her website/blog first. She has a ton of recipes, cupcakes included. It will give you an idea of what her books are like and if it's your cup of tea.
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on May 20, 2011
I have both of Elana's cookbooks (the other one is the Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook) and they are great! I have insulin resistance (Pre-diabetes) and if I do not watch what I eat I could easily end up on insulin some day. Many of Elana's recipes include almond flour making the foods low-carb high-protein. I no longer have to cringe when my kids ask for a cupcake or almond flour cookie because I know they will not have the drastic sugar high and crash.

My daughter loves Red Velvet Cake - but it is loaded with sugar and calories. This cookbook has a recipe for Red Velvet cupcakes, while this recipe does not have almond flour - thus doesn't have the higher protein count. It is made with significantly less sugar and yet still tastes great - my daughter didn't even notice the difference. She liked them so much she didn't even want the frosting to go with them - she just ate them plain!!

Do know that following her methods of cooking will require an initial investment as most people do not usually stock the ingredients she calls for. But know the investment is worth it.
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on October 23, 2011
First I make my own almond meal. I just can't afford to buy what she recommends. Buy the almonds and run them through a food processor. Now you have almond meal. When I got the cookbook I almost returned it I was so disappointed. Second I am NOT cooking with Agave. That said I really really like this cookbook. I use maple syrup for almost everything as a direct substitute. Rarely the recipes are just okay, but most of the time they are fabulous. I would never have thought of some of these recipes. I am getting my children to eat gf without complaining or feeling left out. If you don't have access to what she recommends still give it a try. I am thrilled! The triple chocolate cupcakes remove any temptation I have when faced with gluten treats! The strawberry cupcakes don't even need icing. I could go on and on.
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on April 26, 2011
My four (yes, four) copies of the book came in the mail today. Based on the Almond Flour Cookbook and the blog I knew I could trust Elena to put out a spectacular second book and I am not disappointed. The photographs hit you right away - they are beautiful shots and suck you right in to wanting to bake. The variety of items is also amazing. I knew I was in love when I saw the entire chapter devoted to chocolate cupcakes. Not a chocoholic? No problems, there a chapter on fruity cupcakes, warm and spiced and even savory treats with recipes for Spinach Feta muffins or Chive Pepper. Can you say "brunch!"? The effort that went into these recipes is evident on every page.

Not only does Elana use super healthy almond flour but the as-good-for-you coconut flour which has huge health benefits and drives down the glycemic index of anything it is used in. That makes it perfect for those with gluten issues but also for anyone interested in a healthy diet. Her recipes are so far above the standard gluten free cooking that no one in my extended family even knew I cooked gluten free at Thanksgiving this year.

My kids are pouring over the books now, trying to decide which one to try first. Based on all the "Wows!" they are also impressed. I'll have to rip them out of their hands to give the extra copies to my family. Got to go ... I have some baking to do!
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on June 9, 2011
I bought a lot of coconut flour and didn't find too many recipes to use it in. I bought this book when it came out. It is great to see so many cupcake recipes for the gluten free population. They are easy to make, bake wonderfully at altitude, and taste great.
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on May 31, 2011
After getting Elana Amsterdam's first book, The Gluten-free Almond Flour Cookbook, I could not wait for this one to come out. I think I have made 8 or 9 of the cupcake recipes out of it so far and each time no one has guessed that they were actually grain-free, let alone gluten-free. This is the cookbook that will help to take away the stigma that gluten-free baked goods are unhealthy. All of the recipes in this book are actually grain-free because they only use almond flour or coconut flour, so they are actually full of additional protein (and in the case of the coconut flour, full of fiber as well) and all are low in sugar. I like that she has even included some savory muffin recipes at the end that are a perfect pairing for breakfast or dinner. This is a perfect gluten-free cupcake cookbook, especially since almost every recipe only has about 8 or less ingredients in them. They take no time at all to whip up!
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