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Gluten Free Refined Sugar Free Salted Caramel Cupcakes Recipe

Life is all about choices and compromises. There are things we want to do and things we ought to do an,d often, they are not the same. So we must choose which direction to go or figure out how to bring the two closer together and come up with a compromise we can live with.

I want to eat gluten free cupcakes. I love cupcakes. Cupcakes make me happy. I ought to be eating less refined sugar. Unfortunately, cupcakes are usually packed with refined sugar. But I want a cupcake!!! In fact, I don’t just want any cupcake; I want an ooey gooey, salted caramel cupcake. Sadly, salted caramel cupcakes just may the ultimate sugar-packed cupcake. So what’s a gal to do?

Rather than make a decision one way or the other, I came up with a compromise – an ooey gooey, salted caramel cupcake that is refined sugar free. Compromise – I believe it is the secret to a good marriage, friendship, business and long term eating plan.

I used to make caramel the traditional way, melting sugar until it became deep amber in color, being careful not to stir so as to cause crystals, whisking in cream and butter and risking 4th degrees burns. Lately I have taken to making caramel with Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Raw Blue Agave; it is easier, quicker and safer. Just boil the agave with some cream for 5 minutes, whisk in the butter, let cool and that’s it – since the agave is already in liquid form and already has nice caramelly undertones, half the work is done for you before you even start.

My cupcakes and frosting were made with Wholesome Sweeteners Coconut Palm Sugar, another delicious unrefined sugar. The flavor of coconut palm sugar complements the caramel very nicely.

The actual cupcake of this recipe is light and not too sweet, which makes for nice contrast to the rich, heavenly sweet frosting and gooey caramel center. Once again – compromise!

You need to make the caramel ahead to give it time to cool and thicken. 2 hours is fine but you can make way ahead – store in a jar in the fridge and then just gently heat it up to thin out; I microwave it for a few seconds. Make sure you don’t drizzle the frosting with hot caramel or it will melt. You may have some caramel left over – oh shucks! Dip apple slices in it, spoon it over ice cream or just do what I do and eat it off a spoon!

The cupcakes can be baked a day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and store at room temperature. The frosting can be made up to a month ahead – transfer the frosting to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to a month. Let frosting come to room temperature and beat until the frosting is smooth and creamy again, about 5 minutes.

These Gluten Free Refined Sugar Free Salted Caramel Cupcakes are clearly a compromise I can live with!

Gluten Free Salted Caramel Cupcakes Recipe

Gluten Free Refined Sugar Free Salted Caramel Cupcakes Recipe


Agave Caramel

1 cup organic raw blue agave
½ cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

6 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
3 large eggs whites
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 tablespoons agave caramel

Coconut Sugar Cupcakes

1½ cups all-purpose gluten free flour blend
1½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup coconut palm sugar
1 large egg
¾ cup milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
16 – 18 teaspoons agave caramel


Agave Caramel

Combine the agave and cream in a large saucepan (use one bigger than you think you will need) and bring to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Transfer to a bowl or jar and let cool completely. If the caramel gets too thick to work with, just heat it slightly.

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Combine the coconut sugar with the egg whites in a heatproof bowl of a stand mixer and set over a pan of simmering water; whisk by hand until the mixture is warm and the sugar has dissolved, 2 -3 minutes.

Attach the mixing bowl to the stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat, starting on low then increasing the speed to medium-high, until the mixture is thick, fluffy and glossy and completely cool, about 6 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and caramel and beat on medium high until the caramel is fully incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixture and stir the frosting vigorously with a spatula to knock out some of the air and make sure all the caramel is fully mixed in. Let sit at room temperature if using the same day.

Coconut Sugar Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the coconut sugar with the egg, milk, vanilla and oil. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth and starting to thicken slightly. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin tins and bake for 18 – 22 minutes or until they are golden brown and puffed, the tops springing back slightly when pressed, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Once the cupcakes are completely cool, cut a cone shaped piece about an inch in diameter from the top of the cupcakes. Insert your finger into the holes and widen the bottom a bit. Spoon in about 1 teaspoon of the caramel, cut the tip off the cone and place the top over the caramel. Spread or pipe the frosting on top and drizzle with a little bit of caramel.

The cupcakes can be stored in the refrigerator but are best served at room temperature.


This Gluten Free Refined Sugar Free Salted Caramel Cupcakes recipe makes 12

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog owner’s. This blog accepts free manufacturers’ samples and forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. Affiliate links may be included in this post.

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Categories:    Cupcakes

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Emma Galloway July 13, 2012 at 7:54 am

These looks AMAZING Carol! I don’t use agave, but I have a feeling brown rice syrup would work just as good in the caramel sauce? Yum xx


Carol Kicinski July 13, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Hi Emma, thank you and I think so too. I see no reason why it wouldn’t work – try it and let me know!


Brenda July 14, 2012 at 9:24 am

Oh! My! Goodness! I have just died and gone to gluten free heaven!


Carol Kicinski July 14, 2012 at 9:25 am

Thanks Brenda – they are pretty darn good!


Jeni July 14, 2012 at 10:06 am

Oh yes please!!! I did not know you could make caramel with agave but it does make sense, I am so going to do this!


Carol Kicinski July 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm

yes, and so easy! Enjoy Jeni!


Maggie July 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Oh my cupcake goddess! These are a dream Carol! Fabulous pics and a fabulous recipe. Those gkids must be loving their trip to Florida :)


Carol Kicinski July 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Haha well, I have to keep them spoiled, they tell me it is my job! :) Thank you!!!


Kim (Cook It Allergy Free) July 17, 2012 at 12:11 am

Oh heavens! These seriously sounds divine! I cannot even imagine how amazing these have to be…rather I can imagine, but I am rather afraid to since I think I would never stop eating them if I started! Love this recipe and the crazy awesome photos to go along with it!! :D


Carol Kicinski July 18, 2012 at 9:46 am

Aww, thanks so much Kim!


Sarena (The Non-Dairy Queen) July 17, 2012 at 8:21 am

Caramel cake is one of those cakes I made for my dad’s birthday when I was a kid. I have fond memories of that cake. This looks amazing! I’m a huge fan of caramel and I definitely need to try making it with agave! YUM!


Carol Kicinski July 18, 2012 at 9:45 am

Thanks Sarena! It is easy to do dairy free as well.


Shirley @ gfe July 21, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Wow, how’d I miss this recipe? I’m all over caramel desserts right now. All over as in wanting them whenever I see them, but not making any yet. This looks like a really good one to start with, Carol!!!



Carol Kicinski July 22, 2012 at 8:06 am

Thanks Shirley! They are pretty yummy :)


Kerri December 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Do you have any non dairy substitutes for the heavy cream? Would full fat coconut milk work? Thanks!


Carol Kicinski December 1, 2012 at 2:56 pm

I would use coconut cream – take a couple cans of full fat coconut milk and refridgerate until cold then scrap off the cream that rises to the top. You can use the coconut water in the can for something else, like smoothies. This would be my first df choice but you also just try full fat coconut milk. Hope that helps!!! Carol


liz December 22, 2012 at 6:05 pm

could you make caramel using the coconut palm sugar in the traditional recipe?

i’ve heard that agave is straight up fructose and bad on our systems??? because of the fructose level it wreaks havoc on our bodies like high fructose corn syrup. there is so much info i’m getting confused!


Carol Kicinski December 23, 2012 at 8:28 am

Hi Liz, I think you should be able to. I have yet to try but see no reason why it would not work. Good luck!


Tanna April 15, 2013 at 9:07 pm

I can comment on this one – I’m a holistic health consultant with a raging sweet tooth so I’m very knowledgable about sugar :) Agave nectar is a less processed and often raw form of natural sugar and easier for your body to recognize and process.
High fructose corn syrup is made from corn, (which is most like genetically modified and not a real food with no nutrients) and is highly processed. It is so far away from a natural form of food that your body does not know how to process it. So although they might seem like very similar options, they are indeed very different and agave is a much better alternative since your body recognizes it as food and can process it more easily. Hope that helps!


Carol Kicinski April 15, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Thanks Tanna! Appreciate your knowledgable answer.


Tanna April 15, 2013 at 9:03 pm

OMG Carol – thank you! I have recently gone gluten-free and eliminated refined sugar but I am a serious cupcake-a-holic, so I was afraid of caving in to cravings. I am so grateful I found your website and this particular recipe – I love anything salted caramel so I immediately ran out and got all of the ingredients and made these today. The caramel is so easy and yummy and the cupcakes are moist and light. But I messed up on the frosting somehow – the butter curdled and the mixture turned to liquid. Very delicious liquid, mind you. I tried again and the same thing happened. What am I doing wrong? I used the delicious liquid to glaze the cupcakes so it wasn’t a total loss but I would love to top them with rich, fluffy frosting next time. I appreciate any guidance you can give me – thank you Carol!


Carol Kicinski April 15, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Hi Tanna – the only thing I can think to ask is did you let the caremel cool completely? If so then what you need to do is but the frosting back into the mixer and beat the daylights out of it until it no longer looks curdled. Do you have a stand mixrer? If notm you may need to beat longer with a hand mixer. Walk me through what you did exactly a bit more and I can help better.


Tanna April 17, 2013 at 11:41 am

Hi Carol – looks like my reply from yesterday didn’t go through…thank you for your reply. I did let the caramel cool completely – I made it several hours before the frosting. I put the sugar and egg white mixture over the simmering water until the sugar dissolved, then moved it to the mixer (I do have a stand mixer), then put it on low speed, then medium speed. It seemed to be getting fluffy and shiny and I was feeling the outside of the bowl to see if it was cooling off, but I was afraid to mix it too long and have the air beat out of it. As soon as I started adding the soft butter, it started to deflate and when I added the last tablespoon of butter was when it curdled. I then put it back over the simmering water to melt the butter, then put it back on the mixer stand to beat some more but it was just liquid. It did work nicely as a glaze, but I am hoping to actually get a frosting consistency next time. Did I do anything wrong? I so appreciate any suggestions or corrections you have for me. Thank you Carol!


Carol Kicinski April 17, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Hi Tanna. In most cases if you had just kept beating the fristing after you added that last bit of butter it would have corrected itself. It can take up to 15 minutes to fully beat the frosting so no worries about over beating it. But here is another tip you can try – take about 1/4 of the frosting out of the bowl and transfer it to a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 10-15 seconds and then stream it back into the bowl while the mixer is running on low. Increase the speed and whip until it become fluffy. Hope this helps!


Tanna April 26, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Hi Carol – I finally had time to try the frosting again and…success! I had to use your microwave suggestion since it curdled again but I let it beat for quite a while and it finally turned out rich and fluffy – thank you again!

Candice August 18, 2016 at 3:20 am

Hey can I use all your cupcake recipes as cake recipes as well? I’m doing a multi layered cake gluten free and with crazy flavours and wanted to know of these can be used the same


Carol Kicinski August 19, 2016 at 9:55 am

Hi Candice,
Yes, that should be fine. I would use a 9 inch pan and just oook it a bit longer, but probably start testing it around when the cupcakes would normally be done.


Carol Kicinski April 26, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Oh good! I am so happy you had success this time :)


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