Gluten-Free Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting & Shiny Royal Icing

Posted on November 6th, 2011 in Cupcakes, Gluten Free, Recipes, Tutorials

Happy Monday! Hope you had a great Saturday and Sunday! I’ve been meaning to make gluten-free cupcakes and was happy to finally get down to it this past weekend. I also had a chance to experiment with making royal icing shiny. You may have seen me chat about it in the comment section of my cookie decorating tutorial or other posts. Royal icing is glimmery and glossy when you first apply it, {and in fact some of my photos are taken while the icing is wet}, but it dries to a matte finish. I don’t actually mind the matte look, but the good news is, for those of you who prefer a shinier finish, there are options.

Okay, first to the gluten-free cupcakes!

These are gluten-free coconut cupcakes with coconut frosting. The cupcake toppers are royal icing transfers copied from Apple Cider Thanksgiving stickers. I’m so happy with how they turned out! Rich flavour but light texture, coconuty sweetness and scrumptious smooth vanilla coconut frosting. OH my! The recipes are courtesy of Taylor, who has worked in a Gluten-Free bakery and cooks and bakes gluten-free at home. I’m so grateful she shared some simple recipes with me, one of which I’ll share with you today. She happens to be the lovely counterpart to my web designer Arthur, and I’m so thankful to both of them, I decided to make these cupcakes for them and their daughter Joyce, with a bit of a thankful theme in the royal icing cupcake toppers. Perfect for you at this time of the year too, if you live in the United States and would like to try making them for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

Taylor shared an easy-to-make recipe from The Cake Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free recipe book, which mostly uses gluten-free prepackaged cake bases (which can be found at most local grocers now in the baking aisle. i.e: Betty Crocker), but still adds different ingredients to bring out favourite cake/cupcake flavours! If you’d like to try the royal icing transfers, click on this link to see a tutorial.

The cupcakes are made with cake mix base and pre-made frosting, and although I usually make everything from scratch, they were useful for my busy schedule this weekend, and really ended up tasting very nice! Taylor has lots of from-scratch gluten free recipes that she’s generously offered to share with me in the future too (yay!).

Here are the recipes for the cupcakes pictured here:


Gluten-Free Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting  

{Click here for a printable version}


For the Cupcakes

1 package (15 ounces) of yellow or white Gluten-Free cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)

2/3 cup of coconut milk (must be full fat/regular)

1/2 cup butter flavoured vegetable shortening sticks (regular is fine if you can’t find butter flavoured)

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon coconut extract

*Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit

**Place cake mix, coconut milk, vegetable shortening, eggs and coconut extract in a large bowl and mix/beat on alternating low and medium speeds.

***Fill each liner (makes approx 14-16) 3/4 full

****Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean

*****Make frosting as cupcakes bake


For the Frosting

2 containers (459 g) of Duncan Hines Whipped Frosting (read fine print to find gluten free)

2 tsp coconut extract

**you can also try a coconut flavoured buttercream by adding the coconut extract to your favorite buttercream recipe


Another Option – Pineapple Frosting

1 container (8 ounces) of frozen whipped topping

1 cup of finely chopped pineapple

**allow topping to thaw and then continue to mix pineapple, keep in fridge until ready to serve

**note that royal icing transfers would be affected by the moisture in the frozen topping – eventually bleeding and/or disintegrating

**for other garnishes you can top with toasted coconut or a pineapple slice

More tips:

  • For consistency in cupcake size, use an ice cream scoop (level the amount in scoop) for filling the cupcake liners
  • To turn a cupcake recipe into a cake, be sure to have at least 3 1/2 cups of batter.
  • Lowering your oven temperature and baking longer will allow for evenly baked cupcakes/cakes and often times allows for a more desirable eating texture

Okay, now on to making royal icing shiny!

I have to say, this really was an exercise in icing experimentation. I don’t usually take the steps needed to result in shiny royal icing… I do like the dried matte finish, and either way enjoy the soft crunch of the icing and the sweet sugary taste on a cookie. While taking a class at the Bonnie Gordon College years ago, I learned that there are ingredients you can add to the icing to help result in a shinier surface, and although I knew it, I never really used the information. Now I’m finally putting the knowledge to the test, and will be sharing the results of my experiment here.


So let’s get to it!

How can you make royal icing shiny?

There are three ingredients that have been said to add that little bit of shine to royal icing when it dries. They aren’t meant to be added together into the icing, each one on its own in the icing is said to add that slight gleam.

They are corn syrup, glycerin (specifically for confections not craft glycerin), and glucose. If you’re interested in knowing a little bit more about what each item is, or what it is made of, you can check them out in my glossary here.

Here’s a photo of all the items, so you can see which brand etc. I used. I’d love to hear if you have a different result than mine with different brands. The PME lustre spray I’ll talk about near the end of the post – that gets sprayed on when the icing is dry.

I thought I’d try each one individually and compare the results. I added 60 g of corn syrup to the royal icing recipe I use {click here for the recipe}, 60 g of glycerin to another batch and 60 g of glucose to the last batch. It’s the same measurement ratio as recommended in the Bonnie Gordon recipe, so I thought I’d stick to a similar amount. If you’ve used more or less and have different results than I’m about to share, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below. (*Please excuse the spelling mistake in the following photos. Glycerine should say glycerin).

Sweet and simple apples piped with royal icing seemed to be the best bet to compare the shininess of the icings. Here they are just after the outlines have been flooded with the various batches.

And 24 hours later:


Interestingly, when dry, the icing with nothing added to it (to help make it shine), looked like the icing which had the glucose and corn syrup added to it. The icing with the glycerin in it actually looked even duller, although when put in the sun, seemed to have extra sparkle. Overall, the added ingredients didn’t really seem to make a difference in adding shine.

There are a few other options to consider if you’d like your royal icing to have a little more shine. PME pearl lustre spray can be lightly sprayed on after the icing is dry. Here’s an example of what it looks like:

I’d love to hear from you if you had ‘shinier’ results with your royal icing. Maybe more of each item (glucose, glycerin or corn syrup) needed to be added?

Others have had greater success than I had here, saying that added corn syrup or glucose really does make the icing look shinier, although the icing doesn’t necessarily dry 100% (as the ingredients themselves never ‘dry’ 100%).

One other option to consider, which I didn’t try, is to dry the icing under a heat lamp. Have you tried it? I would love to hear about the results!


Gluten-Free Chocolate Topper & Edible Icing Image

Aside from the icing experiment, I did try something new with royal icing transfers. This one (below) is on gluten-free chocolate.

To make these, first melt your chocolate and using a bench scraper, spread the melted chocolate out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I used two colours, red and white, and smoothed them together so it ended up looking like swirls. Let the chocolate cool and cut shapes as desired.

Then spread a thin layer of corn syrup on the chocolate with a paintbrush used only for food purposes. Lightly press your edible ink image onto the chocolate and you’re done! For a more detailed tutorial on edible ink images, click here.

A couple of other things I wanted to mention. What do you think of the rustic cake tier? I saw it on Pinterest a few months ago and was instantly smitten! {If you follow me on Pinterest you may have already seen it pinned to my ‘Cake Tier Obsession’ board.  Anyways, the tier costs next to nothing – even better! It has managed to turn into something sentimental for me as well, as two wonderful people in my life, my husband and my father, had a hand in making it. Dad, thanks for picking out and cutting the wood, and DH, thank you for putting it together on Sunday {with a one day notice!}.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to drop me a line in the comment section below, on Facebook or twitter.

Happy gluten-free, shiny icing, thankful baking and decorating to you!



p.s. You can find a video on how to make the cupcake swirl here.


93 Responses to “Gluten-Free Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting & Shiny Royal Icing”

Leave a Reply

Sweetopia's Free Subscription Options

Post Updates

Whenever a new post is published on Sweetopia, you can get notified by email updates. This email is just a short excerpt of the latest post with a link if you'd like to read further.

You can sign up for both the Newsletter and Post Updates if you like; simply submit your email in both spots. Once you sign up you will recieve an email asking for confirmation of your subscription.

You can unsubscribe from this service at any time.

Sweetopia Newsletter

Subscribe to Sweetopia's free Newsletter for more tips, tricks and updates. You can sign up for both the Newsletter and blog updates if you like; simply submit your email in both spots.

Once you sign up you will recieve an email asking for confirmation of your subscription. You can unsubscribe from this service at any time.