Chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes: gluten-free, lactose-free

There are a few inalienable rights in my world: the right to chasing your own happy. The right to surround yourself with only those who help you chase that happy. And the right to cupcakes, always. I’m especially delighted my friends Merrill and Mike found each other to chase their happy together. But, the fact that they’re gluten and lactose-free sometimes interferes with the cupcakes part. Well, no more. Special people deserve special treats, and these cupcakes are treat to see and eat.

Chocolate covered strawberry cupcake
Who knew gluten-free and lactose-free could look this good?

This cupcake has three layers – the crust, the cupcake and the top. Don’t let that scare you, it’s not super involved as desserts go. The layering makes it look WAY fancier relative to the amount of time/effort it actually takes to make. The cupcake layer is naturally gluten-free, and the secret ingredient is quinoa. For the dairy, I used a form of lactose-free milk that’s relatively new to the market called Fairlife. It tastes like normal milk, but is filtered to have more protein, more calcium, less sugar…and no lactose. Because … science.

For the crust, you could use half the amount written and still have a good layer – but everyone loved the thick crust. You could also omit altogether and double the cake recipe (you’d get more than 12 cupcakes, I think.) The topping helps, because the cupcakes will cave in – and obviously, you should fill them with something tasty. For true dairy-free cupcakes, you can sub the chocolate chips with a vegan variety.

Chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes
Yes, I ate this one as a taste test, and no, I’m not ashamed about it.

One more note – normally, you only fill cupcakes 2/3 – 3/4 full. And normally, I ignore this. In this case, I should not have – because the tops dome and collapse, they can be a little hard to get out of the pan (even with the liners.)

You’ll need:

Cupcake layer (from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe):

  • 1 c cooked and cooled quinoa (cook in water)
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 T butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 c cocoa powder
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t baking soda
  • Dash of salt
Crust layer:
  • 2 c chocolate sandwich cookies (Gluten free, if desired), crushed
  • 5 T butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 c chocolate chips
  • 1/3 c milk (Lactose free, if desired)
  • 12 strawberries
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Get cooking:

Crust layer:

  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
  2. Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners, spray with coking spray.
  3. Combine cookies and butter, press firmly into each cupcake liner.

Cupcake layer:

  1. Blend milk, eggs and vailla in food prosessr. Add quinoa and butter, blend until smooth.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in bowl, add wet and mix until combined. Pour on top of crust layer.
  3. Bake 20-25 minutes, until toothpick comes out of cupcakes clean (it will still be wet – this is ok, it just shouldn’t have brown batter on it.)
  4. Let cool completely and dust with powdered sugar.

Topping layer:

  1. Melt choclate chips in microwave, using 30-secnd blasts and stirring after each.
  2. Add milk and whisk vigourously until combined and gliossy.
  3. Pour/scrape mixture into small plastic sandwich bag, cut ff small corner.
  4. Hull strawberries, cut them into slices or leave whole (your call). Place in the middle of cooled cupcakes.
  5. Drizzle chocolate mix over cupcakes. Let it cool and harden compleelty.

Chocolate lasagna

As much as I love cooking, baking and I are more distant friends. Measuring is a pain, I’m not super exact about ANYTHING and really, sometimes, I’m distracted. Also: baked goods are my kryptonite. I LOVE THEM. I mean candy, whatever, it’s ok. You give me a brownie and I’ll give you a kidney.

Whenever I bake something and post it on FB, I get at least one “How do you not weigh 1,000 pounds?” comment. While it seems like a silly question, my dirty secret is: I bake for other people. Like, office people, for example. Dani, one of my awesome friends and coworkers, requested an Oreo lasagna. The recipe called for instant pudding and whipped topping, but I made a few…tweaks…in honor of her awesomeness. And I’m not even kidding when I say this 9×13 pan was gone in 10 minutes.

Chocolate lasagna
Delicious layers of chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate.

Here’s the thing – this recipe has a lot of steps. I know. It looks scary. But 1. You don’t have to do them all at once, 2. You can sub in anything (just please, please make the bottom layer as written, you won’t be sorry) and 3. It’s even better when you have a good friend (in this case, my sweet Carly) keeping you company while you make it.

You’ll need:


  • 1 package chocolate sandwich cookies
  • 1 8 oz. block cream cheese, softened

Pudding (recipe from/inspired by the one, the only, the great smitten kitchen):

  • 1/4 c cornstarch
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • 3 c whole milk
  • 1 c chocolate chips/6 oz. bitter or semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 t pure vanilla extract

Middle layer:

  • 1 8 oz. block cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c whipping cream
  • 3/4 c chocolate hazelnut spread


  • 1 package chocolate sandwich cookies
  • 1 1/2 c whipping cream
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c powdered sugar
  • 2 t vanilla

Get cooking:


  1. Crush cookies in a food processor, then add cream cheese and blend until paste-like (it was so thick it actually stopped my food processor. Don’t be afraid.)
  2. Spread in the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Normally I would line with parchment – don’t make this mistake, it gets too soggy – just spray with cooking spray.
  3. Cover and let chill 2 hours or overnight.


  1. Mix cornstarch, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan, then whisk in milk. Go slowly at first, whisking constantly – you can pick up speed as everything incorporates.
  2. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring/whisking every once in a while so the mixture doesn’t stick and no lumps form.
  3. Once the mixture coats the back of a spoon (about 15-20 minutes for me), whisk in the chocolate, stirring until melted and thickened.
  4. Turn off heat, and stir in vanilla. Pour into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

Middle layer (make when layering dessert):

  1. Mix ingredients together with an electric beater until blended and fluffed, 5-6 minutes. Taste and add sugar if you like. (I like mine a little tart, especially since everything else is so sweet.)
  2. Alternately, mix cream cheese and chocolate hazelnut spread  together. Whip cream separately, and fold into cream cheese mixture. It’s up to you – this way will yield you a little more fluff, the other way a little more heft.

Whipped cream topping (Don’t make until assembling layers):

  1. Whip cream with powered sugar and vanilla until medium peaks form, 6-7 minutes.


  1. Spread pudding over crust layer.
  2. Spread middle layer over pudding.
  3. Spread whipped cream over middle layer and top with hand-crushed cookies.


Spice cake trifle

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve baked, or how much you’ve baked – everyone has their disasters. Some are recipe failures, some are cook failures, most are some combination of both. I was attempting to make a snickerdoodle bundt cake (I know, right?!) and I pulled it out of the oven – beautifully browned, clean toothpick – only to invert it and have it completely fall apart. Apparently the only part of the cake that was actually done was the part I stuck my toothpick in. But I had pitted 2 cups of dates for that bad boy (note to self: pitted dates are worth the extra cash) AND added some salted caramel sauce (or, you know, insult to injury.) I was not about to let my work go to waste. So, I spread the cake (about 1/4 of it done, the rest goo) onto a cookie sheet and baked it flat. And baked and baked and finally (about 40 minutes later) I had an incredibly moist but ugly sheet cake. Which I then crumbled up with salted caramel honey Greek yogurt and candied pecans. Turns out, this was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It was delicious, relatively light and just this side of absolutely addicting.

Spice cake trifle
Layer of cake, layer of creamy, layer of crunchy/sweet – dessert is done!

This is less about a recipe and more about a method. I’ll tell you what I did here, but honestly, you could take any cake (or muffin – breakfast trifle anyone?), any kind of filling (Greek yogurt was actually really good, pudding would be delightful) and some kind of fruit or nut (those pecans will change your life), layer it up in a clear bowl and shazam! You have dessert.

You’ll need:

  • 1 recipe of your favorite cake
  • 1-2 containers Greek yogurt (large), whipped topping or pudding (you can make instant for this, I’d use 2 boxes)
  • 1 pound of your favorite nuts, or 3-4 cups of your favorite fruit (I’d use fresh here)

Get cooking:

Layer 1/3 cake, cream and fruit/nut combo in a clear bowl. Repeat two more times. Serve with a long spoon (so people can get at all the layers.)

Combo ideas:


  • Your favorite muffin (cranberry, blueberry, apple, even chocolate)
  • Greek yogurt (fruit flavored or vanilla)
  • Fruit and/or granola

Chocolate lovers

  • Chocolate cake (seriously, it can be a box, or brownies even!)
  • Whipped topping mixed with chocolate pudding
  • Dark chocolate almonds


  • Spice cake
  • Salted caramel yogurt or cheesecake pudding
  • Cinnamon sugar pecans

Fruit frenzy

  • Angel food cake
  • Whipped topping and vanilla pudding (or yogurt)
  • Berry blend (Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries)