Chocolate Hostess Cupcakes (Gluten-Free Dupes)

When Kate of Gluten-Free Gobsmacked hosted this month’s Gluten-Free Ratio Rally, the challenge was cake. Yes! Who doesn’t love cake?! As a Celiac, cake is one of those baked items I miss on a regular basis. Since I usually have to make it from scratch, cake and cupcake end up being a special occasion baked item. Usually just for myself. Since this was the challenge, I felt obliged to put in more of a concerted effort. Something nostalgic, a real treat, a chance to reinvent a classic and take it up. My choice was the Hostess Chocolate CupCake. The most critical components are a deep, rich, spongy devil’s food cake topped with a classic chocolate ganache. The marshmallow based filling should be mixing with just enough vanilla icing to pipe into the cupcakes. For the decorating icing for the distinctive white squiggles on top, a simple royal icing is made.

Sponge cake ratio (sponge refers to the method/order of addition) in Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio is 1:1:1:1 / egg : sugar : flour : butter. This sponge is started by whipping the eggs followed by gently folding in the sugar, flour, and melted butter. The end result is more like a butter cake which is delicious. I was more set on mastering a devil’s food cake; therefore my recipe/ratio differs significantly. For the best devil’s food cake, I found it critical to use cocoa powder for the intense dark chocolate flavor and color. Make sure to only use Dutch processed cocoa powder. Why? Because it is treated to make it more pH neutral with a process called broma alkalization. Yes, it sounds nasty, but the result is a wonderful thing. “Natural” cocoa tends to be extremely harsh and bitter and does not go into water well. Whereas Dutch cocoa goes into water more readily (easier to bake with), has a very mild flavor, and a darker color. I will only use Dutch cocoa. Try it! My recipe ratio turned out to be 0.8:1:1:1 / egg : sugar : flour : butter. However, I had some outlayers that affected my ratio such as my processing where I gelatinize the flours with boiling water, using cocoa powder, and sour cream to add to the richness. This recipe is a winner, definitely worth the work. And so cute! My husband paid the best compliment saying that this was the best devil’s food cake he had ever had, including box cake mixes. Granted, I must give this recipe its props. These take Hostess CupCakes to a new level. This devil's food cake is super moist, spongy, chocolaty without being cloyingly sweet. The ganache is refined, not a sweet icing. Overall, this is a gourmet redo of the classic with a more sophisticated palette.

Devil’s Food Cake:
  • 250 grams (1 cup) boiling water
  • 115 grams (4 ounces) Dutch process cocoa
  • 115 grams (3/4 cup) brown rice flour
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) tapioca flour / starch
  • 45 grams (1/4 cup) teff flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 240 grams (1 cup) vegetable oil
  • 1 teapsoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon Nescafe (optional)
  • 250 grams (1 ¼ cup) brown sugar
  • 125 grams (4 ½ ounces) sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (to neutralize acid from brown sugar & sour cream)
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature, whipped until light yellow and fluffy, a few minutes 

  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered/confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 2 cups marshmallow fluff / creme

 Chocolate Ganache Icing: 
  • 150 grams heavy (whipping) cream
  • 150 grams semi-sweet chocolate chips 

Royal Icing: 
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered/confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk, room temperature


Devil’s Food Cake:

Preheat oven to 325F. Combine the cocoa + flours + salt in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low until mixed. Add in the boiling water all at once into the mixer with the powders. Allow to mix until thoroughly mixed. Slowly add in the oil, the vanilla and Nescafe, followed by the brown sugar, then the sour cream, and the baking soda. The batter will probably separate and will look like a mess. No worries, the eggs will bring it together. Slowly add add in the whipped eggs. Once it comes together and looks uniform, scrape down sides, and mix for an additional 30 seconds. Portion into a lined muffin tin and bake for about 25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely before filling.


In a medium bowl, mix together the butter + powdered sugar + vanilla until smooth and uniform. Gently stir in the marshmallow fluff and mix until homogeneous. Fill a piping bag with a small round tip. When cupcakes are cool, pick up the cupcake holding palm of hand, press tip into the center and squeeze ½ tablespoons of the filling into the center. Repeat for all cupcakes. Remove any excess filling from the tops using your finger or small spatula.

Chocolate Ganache Icing:

In a small sauce pan, heat the cream until simmering. Remove from heat. Add in the chocolate and stir until smooth and uniform; this may take some time. Spread ganache while still warm over the tops of the filled cupcakes. Allow to set/cool before decorating. I put in fridge for a couple of minutes.

Royal Icing:

In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients together until smooth. Fill a piping bag, allow setting in fridge for a couple of minutes, and pipe the squiggles down the middle. Use your creativity!

P.S. Note on below photo: It was ooey, gooey, moist, spongy, and all yuminess.  However, if I had been more patient in allowing the filling and ganache to set up, it would be more "set" looking..... Matter of semantics. These were so good, they would not have lasted that long. Makes 20 standard size cupcakes.

For a complete wrap-up of this month's #GFreeRally (on Twitter), go to our host for August, cake, Kate of Gluten-Free Gobsmacked. Want to know more about gluten free pasta ratios creations? Check out all the posts by the participants in the Gluten Free Ratio Rally!

Banana Rum Cupcakes with Rum Glaze (alcohol-free!) by Claire @ Gluten Freedom
Basic White Birthday Cake by Kate @ Gluten Free Gobsmacked
Boston Cream Pie by Britt @ GF in the City
Chocolate Pistachio Pound Cake by Amie @ The Healthy Apple
Coconut Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes by Gretchen @ Kumquat-Blog
Confetti Cake by MaryFran @ FrannyCakes
Czech Cherry Bublanina by Rachel @ The Crispy Cook
Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes by Caroline @ The G-Spot
Frangelico Cupcakes with Nutella by Lisa @ Gluten Free Canteen
Fresh-Squeezed Lemon Cake by Caneel @ Mama Me Gluten Free
Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins by Marla @ Family Fresh Cooking
Lemon Tea Cake by Kate @ KateAlice Cookbook
Mocha Buttercream Yellow Birthday Cake by Dr. Jean Layton @ GF Doctor Recipes
Nina’s Hot Milk Cake by Charissa @ Zest Bakery
Tiramisu Cake by TR Crumbley @ No One Likes Crumbley Cookies
Traditional Birthday Cake by Karen @ Cooking - Gluten Free!
Vanilla Cupcakes by Winnie @ Healthy Green Kitchen
White Cake with Apricots & Blueberries by Brooke @ B and the Boy
White Chocolate Cupcakes by Caleigh @ Gluten Freek(k)

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure


Britt said…
These are a dead-ringer for the original...though, I have to say, they look like they taste even better--so rich and moist! Nice work.
cuteness! looks like the right amount of ooey and gooey to me. as always I appreciate your scientific approach to developing the recipe. Good work!
Unknown said…
oh, erin... these look dangerously delicious! will be trying them... super yum.
Claire Berman said…
Ahh, I want nothing more right now than to eat one (or more...) of those cupcakes. I love it when recipes are born out of nostalgia! :) Great job!
Erin these cupcakes would have to be waaayy better than any of those packaged Hostess ones. Fun to be in the GFRR with you this month!
Unknown said…
These look so much like the Hostess cakes while also looking so much better than them at the same time! Always love what you do in the ratio rally.
Erin Swing said…
You guys are too sweet! I have to say they were pretty freaking amazing. Everyone's cakes looked awesome! I'm so glad we're doing this GFRR together. XOXO.
brooke said…
You know, I don't even like chocolate cake or hostess cupcakes, and I want me one of those. So pretty!
Karen said…
I am sure my kids have never had Hostess Cupcakes in their lives, what a great opportunity to give them that tradition in what is sure to taste a million times better!
Caneel said…
Oh yum! I haven't had anything similar to this in a very, very long time - I love this version and I'll have to make it for my kids, so they'll actually have an idea of what those things in the store are like, only better!
Cakebrain said…
Holy cow! This looks like a great recipe! Thanks for sharing! I love how nostalgic this looks! I have the Ratio book, but I have yet to make anything with it! I am so lazy! It looks like math to me!
Anonymous said…
This will certainly be a recipe I can refer to when talking to my Healthy Gluten Free Kids support group.
Who doesn't love the combination of chocolate and marshmallow?
Thanks for reminding me of simple joys.
Angela said…
These look so good- much better than the original!

I have a question about the ratio rally that I hope is okay to ask here. Is there a way to join in and who would I contact to ask? I have a gluten and dairy free blog (for 5 years) and would love to join in on the fun. Baking is my thing!

Again, thanks for sharing all the deliciousness you do.
Erin Swing said…
Thanks Angela! If you would like to participate in the GF Ratio Rally, email me & Jenn at We'll give you instructions of how to get you started!
Anonymous said…
any idea what one could use in place of teff flour? cant find it locally and really want to make these!
Erin Swing said…
Since the recipe is in weight, it can be swapped w/ any flour of your choice for the same weight. Maybe buckwheat could be a nice sub.
Tanzania Man said…
You, lady, are decidedly gifted. I thought it was the case till now, after seeing these, I know it!!! May God bless you, even more than God already has!
Basia said…
I can't wait to bake these. Don't know teff flour but hope my local natural foods store will have it!
Ihjaz Ahmad said…
Oh my goodness, this looks delicious! I’m definitely making this! thanks for sharing!