Cha-Cha-Chia for Valentine’s

Anyone old enough to remember Chia pets?  They came in many different animal forms from sheep to bears and even the likeness of famous people.  You soak the planter in water and when they are water logged, apply the little black seeds.  The directions say they are easy to grow but mine never did.  Hummmm…..

Well after all these years, and trust me it has been a few, I now have found something that I can do with chia seeds.  Bake!  Yes, chia seeds can be used in baking.  The seeds are a great source of omega-3 and fiber.  When combined with liquid they produce a glutenous gel that can be used in gluten free baking in lieu of gums.  I have done a few things like making muffins which I’m still working on.  The muffins were a little drier than I would have liked and now I have made cupcakes and just in time for Valentine’s Day.

I took a pretty typical recipe for the cupcakes, reduced the ingredients by half, added in a few gluten free items and we had a wonderful gluten free dessert.  The recipe made 12 cupcakes and were then topped with a quick and easy cream cheese frosting.  The tops of the cakes were a little flat.  There could have been many reasons from the batter being to wet, the baking soda being old or my overfilling the cups.  I will be making these again but for now here is the recipe.

Gluten Free Red Velvet Cupcakes
1 1/8 cups gluten free brown rice flour blend* 
2 tablespoons Expandex Modified Tapioca Starch
2 tablespoons buttermilk powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon chia seeds
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 ounce red food coloring 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 12 cup muffin tin with liners and spray the liners lightly with a gluten free cooking spray.  Set aside.

In a medium size mixing bowl, add the flour blend, Expandex, buttermilk powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.  Whisk with a wire whisk to thoroughly combine.  

Measure out 1/2 cup water and add the chia seeds.  Let stand while creaming the butter and sugar.  In a large mixing bowl cream the butter, gradually add sugar and continue beating until incorporated.  Add in the egg, extract and vinegar.  Mix in the chia gel and beat well.  Add in the flour mixture and continue to beat on medium speed until combined.  Finally add in the red food coloring and mix on medium low speed to incorporate.  

Divide the mixture evenly into 12 cupcakes, place in oven and bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Once the cupcakes test done remove from oven and allow to stand 5 minutes.  Remove from muffin tin to wire rack and cool completely.  When completely cool frost.

Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk

In a small mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter.  Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla.  Gradually add in milk to spreading consistency.  If you are going to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes you will need to add less milk and have the frosting a little stiffer.

*Please note:  The brown rice flour blend can be found on the King Arthur Flour website.


  1. Gee, Paula, this is interesting. Your photo is just wonderful — totally professional. Gorgeous.

    The only thing that always bugs me about “red velvet”-anything, is the use of the artificial red colouring. Sometimes I read about using beet juice ….

    Anyway — this was great reading, thanks!!

  2. Thank you Zuri. I tried beets in a bread recipe and the color didn’t hold. I ended up using red food coloring as well. I haven’t tried the beet juice in cakes. Redd velvet anything is a real treat for us.

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