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Gluten-free Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes

Baby Vienna is turning one year old next week and I'm probably even more excited than she is! Actually, I'm quite sure I'm more excited than she is. I've be
Sep 3, 2016 | Joy McCarthy

Baby Vienna is turning one year old next week and I'm probably even more excited than she is! Actually, I'm quite sure I'm more excited than she is. I've been creating birthday party Pinterest boards and collecting cute party items for months!

But party items aside, the menu for her first birthday party is also something I've been planning for quite some time. These cupcakes are one such yummy item I've had on the menu because I know they will be a crowd-pleaser. I've taken my Chocolate Quinoa Cake recipe and modified it so it could be made into cupcakes. I wanted little, bite-sized cupcakes because kids (and those who are still kids at heart) know that everything tastes better when you can eat it with your hands! 

Since I've been set on keeping Vienna clear of junk food and refined sugars since I started introducing her to different foods , I also created an orange vanilla version of this cake as well so that she can also enjoy it. No chocolate for her yet! I don't want her to be bouncing off the walls. And if an orange cake and chocolate cupcakes weren't enough, I'm getting her an official birthday cake made with love by my friends at Tori's Bakeshop -- which is my official go-to whenever I need a birthday cake.

Let's get back to these cupcakes though... The quinoa in these cupcakes not only keeps things gluten-free and grain-free (although it's often treated as a grain, quinoa is actually classified as a pseudo-grain because it's technically a seed), but also keeps this cake deliciously moist. Instead of refined (and often GMO) white sugar, I've used a combo of maple syrup and coconut sugar to sweeten things up for a cake that will satisfy any sweet tooth, but keeps things more natural and health-conscious.

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  • 2 cups* cooked quinoa
  • 1/3 cup nut milk (I used coconut milk)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp liquid vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled (or extra-virgin olive oil)
  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 cup cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp mini chocolate chips, Enjoy Life brand
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a mini muffin pan or use mini muffin cups.
  2. Combine the milk, eggs and vanilla in a food processor. Add 2 cups of cooked quinoa, maple syrup and the cooled melted coconut oil and continue to blend until smooth.
  3. Combine together in a medium bowl the coconut sugar, cacao powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix well. Add this mixture to the food processor and mix just until blended.
  4. Pour the batter into muffin cups. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Place on the middle rack in the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a cake tester or a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  5. Cool completely before removing from muffin cups.


*If cooking quinoa, 2/3 cup dry with 1 1/3 cup water yields approximately 2 cups. Don't worry if it is off a smidgen.
Makes 50-60 mini cupcakes!

I hope Vienna enjoys her birthday as much as I've enjoyed planning it for her!

What's your favourite birthday cake recipe or memory? Share it with me in the comments below!

Sheri   •   September 3, 2016

If we don't have a mini muffin tin, can we use regular muffin tins? Would any of the ingredients or bake time need to be adjusted? Thanks! ??

Heather Allen   •   September 5, 2016

Nicole   •   September 4, 2016

Will you be posting the recipe ( orange vanilla cupcakes) that you made for Vienna to try? I would love to try making them! I have a 16 month old and I don't want her to have chocolate either! Thank you

Shawna   •   September 8, 2017
Joy McCarthy   •   September 12, 2017

Michelle   •   September 4, 2016

I have made two batches of these as regular cupcakes and both batches sunk considerably in the middle to the point that I had to throw them out. What am I doing wrong? I followed the recipe and used all the same ingredients.

Heather Allen   •   September 5, 2016

Sara   •   September 5, 2016

This cupcakes may be the most delicious yummy thing I´ve ever tried!! So amazing :)

Heather Allen   •   September 5, 2016

Nicole   •   September 6, 2016

Made them on Saturday and they are sooo good!!!

Heather Allen   •   September 6, 2016

melissa goulet   •   September 7, 2016

Hi Joy great recipe can I substitute chia eggs rather than regular eggs? Thanks so much Melissa

Heather Allen   •   September 7, 2016

Judy Kroetsch   •   September 8, 2016

Hi Joy, I am not a choc-aholic so I would be very interested in the orange vanilla version. Love that it's gluten free. Thanks so much for all your wonderful tips and recipes. I met you at Goodness Me in Waterloo when you did a presentation which I enjoyed very much. Smiles, Judy


Hope   •   September 9, 2016

Do you think it would be okay to store the batter in the fridge for a couple of days as I don't want to make all 50-60 cupcakes at one time. Thanks! The recipe sounds delish!!

Heather Allen   •   September 9, 2016

Anna   •   September 11, 2016

This actually turned out as 30 muffins :D I don't know is it me or do I have bigger muffin cups :D Anyway, these muffins were excellent! Oh and I used a full cup of coconut milk because I love it. I usually overdo when it comes to coconut milk :D Thanks for sharing this recipe


Kyla   •   September 14, 2016

Is there any other sugar I can substitute for coconut sugar ?

Joy McCarthy   •   September 16, 2016

Fran   •   January 31, 2017

I can't seem to see the measurements on the recipe now that the website has been updated....which is beautiful by the way :)

Rachel Molenda   •   February 1, 2017

Cha   •   July 10, 2017

Hello! I'm looking for a birthday cake recipe for my soon-to-be 1 year old. I'd like to bake his cake from scartch with whole foods and for it to be as delicious and healthy-conscious as possible. The orange cake you mentioned sounds great! Any advice?

Rachel Molenda   •   July 11, 2017

Melissa   •   October 21, 2017

These are decadent and sooo delicious! I might leave out the coconut sugar the next time, just to cut down on the sweet stuff!

Rachel Molenda   •   October 23, 2017

Liz   •   June 22, 2019

Hi! Did u use coconut milk from can or is it the one you can drink? Like in tetra packs.

Joy McCarthy   •   June 23, 2019

Christina   •   August 6, 2019

Hi joy! Have you tried this with an egg substitute? They look amazing!

Joy McCarthy   •   August 7, 2019

April   •   September 5, 2019

I found your recipe from a search because I wanted to make my son quinoa muffins. The only way he will eat quinoa. These were very good. I halved the recipe and used honey instead of maple syrup. We also added coconut flakes to the batter. My son loved them! Thanks so much.

Joy McCarthy   •   September 6, 2019

MELANIE CECCHETTO   •   February 19, 2021

Good day...AMAZING RECIPE!!!! Quick question...have you tried freezing this cake for later use or refrigerate for a few days? If yes, how did they turn out!!! Hope all is well during these crazy times!!

Joy McCarthy   •   February 19, 2021

Alana   •   May 30, 2022

Do you have the recipe for the orange vanilla cupcakes? My baby is turning 1 year old this weekend and I'm looking for something to make her

Joy McCarthy   •   June 6, 2022

Maria   •   August 2, 2023

Hi joy, do you know how long they last in the frindge? Made them last wednesday and went on mini vacation; its wednesday again so they been in frindge for a week! Dont want to trow them away😭

Joy McCarthy   •   August 8, 2023

Maria   •   April 30, 2024

Looks like a great recipe...ehat would be a good quinoa brand? Thx.

Joy McCarthy   •   April 30, 2024

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