These moist, light, passion fruit cupcakes are tropical, tart and sweet with a rich cream cheese frosting. They are gluten-free and can easily be made dairy-free too.
What does Passion Fruit Taste Like?
Passion fruit is a tropical fruit (known as lilikoi in Hawaii) and definitely has that tropical flavor you would expect. If you ask five different people, you’ll probably get five different descriptions.
For me, passion fruit has hints of mango and pineapple. Some people say that it also tastes a little bit like citrus. It is tart and sweet. It’s texture is not like your average fruit with its gooey, seedy, juicy center.
When is Passion Fruit Ripe?
The skin should be a little wrinkled and have some purple visible. If the outside is very dark, almost green looking, and smooth, the nectar will be sour. If you can’t find ripe ones, let them sit on the counter for 3 days or so,
These cupcakes use a base of gluten-free flour blend. My favorite gluten-free flour for baking is King Arthur Measure for Measure flour. It works in almost all of my baked goods and is widely available. It is also the most affordable of the gluten-free flours I’ve tested.
Pamela’s All Purpose Artisan Blend yields similar results and works in this recipe. I have not tested with Cup4Cup (contains milk powder) or Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 (not GF certified).
Regardless of which gf flour blend you use, if yours does not contain xanthan gum, guar gum or inulin, add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum to the recipe.
Pure passion fruit nectar is available packaged but is difficult to find. There are several juices and nectars that contain passion fruit but are not pure passion fruit. I highly recommend using pure passion fruit nectar. So if you can’t find the packaged stuff, whole fresh passion fruit will do the trick.
The recipe calls for just one quarter cup, so two to three passion fruits is enough to get the amount needed. Simply cut the fruit in half and empty the contents into a mesh strainer over a measuring cup. Then use the back of a spoon to push the pulp and juice through. The seeds are relatively large and very crunchy so I prefer to leave them out of the cupcakes.
I use oil as the moisture and rich ingredient in gluten-free baking. It does a much better job of keeping gluten-free baked goods moist for a couple of days. I do prefer the taste of butter, but butter has a high water content which can evaporate easily in baked cupcakes.
Any neutral flavored vegetable oil will work. Avocado oil is my favorite, but canola sunflower, safflower, corn or even light olive oil are all good options.
Even though the flavor of these cupcakes is passion fruit, I still add some vanilla to the recipe. Vanilla is an excellent flavor enhancer and gives a lovely background flavor. My favorite vanilla is Cook’s vanilla Powder. It’s alcohol-free and has excellent flavor. Vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste will also work.
Unfortunately vanilla has become crazy expensive lately. So if you can’t afford the real stuff, go right ahead and use imitation vanilla extract. The cupcakes will still taste amazing.
The recipe card below includes a my pipeable cream cheese frosting. If you prefer something different, these cupcakes would also be delicious with my pink strawberry buttercream frosting (no food coloring) and classic vanilla buttercream frosting.
Passionfruit Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (Gluten-Free)
Passion Fruit Cupcakes
- 1¼ c gluten-free flour blend gluten-free-rice-free flour option
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2-3 passion fruit (more if you want to drizzle frosted cupcakes)
- 2 large eggs (room temperature)
- ¾ c +2 Tbsp sugar
- ½ c oil – avocado, sunflower, canola or other neutral flavored vegetable oil
- ¼ c milk or dairy-free milk substitute
- 1 tsp vanilla
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 oz, or half of a standard block of cream cheese, room temperature
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 c powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp vanilla powder or extract
- 2 pinches salt
Make the Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
- If your eggs are cold, place them in a bowl of warm water while you prepare the other ingredients. If the milk is cold, heat in the microwave for 10 seconds.
- This recipe can easily be mixed by hand with a wire whisk and rubber spatula. Use a stand or hand mixer if you prefer.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together.
- In a small bowl, beat the sugar, egg, oil, milk and vanilla together.
- Place a mesh strainer over a liquid measuring cup that has a measurement for ¼ c. Cut 2 of the passion fruits in half and empty the gooey center into the strainer.
- Use the back of a spoon to press the juice and pulp through the strainer. Press until you are left with mostly seeds. Some of the pulp will remain. You should have close to ¼ c nectar. If it is under, cut the third passion fruit in half and press the contents through the strainer until you have ¼ c. Discard the seeds.
- Add the passion fruit nectar to the liquid ingredients and beat until smooth.
- Pour the liquid into the flour mixture and beat until smooth.
- Divide the batter evenly among the paper liners, filling them about ¾ full. Once all 12 are full, gently shimmy the pan left to right and forward, back to level the batter.
- Bake the cupcakes for 18-21 minutes or until the tops are set and bounce back from a gentle tap. While the cupcakes are baking and cooling, make the frosting,
- Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Frost when cool.
Make the Cream Cheese Frosting
- NOTE: It is very important that the butter and cream cheese are soft and at room temp otherwise the frosting will be lumpy. If they are not soft, you can slice them into 1 inch slices, place on a plate and microwave on high in short 5-7 second bursts. The butter and cream cheese should be heated separately.
- Place the butter and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium high for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl after 1 minute.
- Add about half of the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low until most of the sugar is incorporated.
- Add the remaining sugar, vanilla and salt and beat on low until most of the sugar is moistened. Turn the speed to high and beat for 10 seconds.
- Store these cupcakes at room temperature for 48 hours, then refrigerate in a closed container.