Today is my gluten free son’s 11th birthday. Happy birthday, Jonathan! He’s still in grammar school (5th grade), and in our town that means that we still have the option of bringing in a birthday treat to serve to the class (yes, even homemade—I know). Whenever anyone else in his class celebrates a birthday, if the teacher hasn’t remembered to tell me it was coming (which is often, thanksfornothing), Jonathan gets stuck with a gluten free granola bar from an “emergency” stash kept in the classroom. *womp womp womp* So when his birthday rolls around, he needs me to bake something so at the very least, we know this will be a granola bar-free classroom birthday for him. This year, that something is these gluten free cookie dough cupcakes. I think they make a statement, and that statement is this: my mom’s gluten free cupcakes are better than the gluteny ones your mom bought.
To make these Statement Cupcakes easier to transport to school, and neater for children to eat in the classroom, I don’t pile on the frosting for the few dozen I’m bringing to school this morning. I just dollop a wee bit of frosting on top of the cooled cupcakes and top them with a chocolate chip cookie chip. It was worth the extra effort to make sure these cookie dough-filled cupcakes don’t just taste special but also look special. Can you tell I’m on a mission?!
As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, these cupcakes have a big ball of edible cookie dough in the center. It actually really pays to make the cookie dough ahead of time, too, since it has to freeze. That’s how it stays soft and mostly unbaked in the oven, even as the moist yellow cupcakes bake perfectly all around. If you’re serving these pretty cupcakes at home, or just not to a bunch of children you’re trying to keep mostly clean, go ahead and frost them for realz. The brown sugar in the frosting means it tastes … like cookie dough. Yup.
My kids always say that they hate it when anyone sings the happy birthday song to them. So I had to ask Jonathan: why do you want to celebrate your birthday in school? The answer came back swiftly: To show off your cupcakes, mom. Happy birthday, you little charmer. You don’t look a day over 10 1/2.
First, make the cookie dough. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with wax paper and set it aside. In a large bowl, place the flour blend, xanthan gum, salt and granulated sugar and whisk to combine well. Add the brown sugar, and whisk again, working out any lumps. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the butter, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of milk, mixing to combine after each addition. Knead the dough together with your hands, adding more milk by the quarter teaspoonful as necessary for the dough to hold together without crumbling. Add the miniature chocolate chips and mix until evenly distributed throughout the dough. Divide the cookie dough into about 18 pieces, each about 1 1/2-teaspoons. Roll each tightly into a ball and place on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Place in the freezer until firm (about 10 minutes), and keep frozen until the cupcake batter is ready. The cookie dough can be made weeks ahead of time, frozen and then stored in a sealed freezer-safe zip-top bag.
Make the cupcake batter. Grease or line a standard 12-cup muffin tin and set it aside. Preheat your oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt and granulated sugar, and whisk to combine well. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the butter, milk, eggs and vanilla, mixing to combine after each addition. The batter should be very thickly pourable.
Assemble and bake the cupcakes. Fill the wells of the muffin tin about 2/3 of the way full with batter. Place a ball of frozen cookie dough in the center of the batter in each well, and press down firmly to immerse. Top each piece of cookie dough with another teaspoon of cupcake batter. Smooth the top of each cupcake with wet fingers, covering the cookie dough in a smooth layer of batter. Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes (but not the cookie dough in the center) comes out mostly clean (about 22 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the muffin tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a separate bowl with a handheld mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and salt, and beat until well-combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix on low speed until the sugar is absorbed into the butter mixture. Add the milk and vanilla, turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). The frosting should be thick, but not dry. Add more milk by the half-teaspoonful and mix to combine if necessary to bring the frosting to the proper consistency.
Frost the cupcakes and decorate. Place the frosting in a large piping bag fitted with a 2-D piping tip (or your favorite tip). Pipe a small mound of frosting on top of each cupcake and sprinkle with a few miniature chocolate chips. Alternatively, place a very small amount of frosting on top of each cupcake (about a teaspoon) and press the underside of a chocolate chip cookie chip onto the frosting to adhere.