03/29/2013 01:43 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Easter Basket cupcakes

I love Easter treats. They remind me of the joy of finding colored eggs in the yard or around the house, new dresses and bonnets for church, and my magical Easter basket full of candy. This year I wanted to make a treat that evoked all of that nostalgia while being quite a bit healthier. These tasty cupcakes look like little Easter baskets and taste of sweet coconut.

I created a light coconut-scented cupcake -- refined-sugar-free, gluten-free, and vegan -- then topped it with fluffy frosting, naturally colored coconut grass, and candy-coated almonds. While there is a little sugar in the almond coating, they are far less sugary than jelly beans or other Easter treats. And for kids or grandkids who can't have gluten or dairy, these are super cute. Enjoy and happy spring!

Easter basket cupcakes
Makes 24

1 C. sorghum flour
1 C. oat flour
1 C. brown rice flour
1/4 C. coconut flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. psyllium husk powder OR xanthan gum
1 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda

3 T. flax seeds
6 T. filtered water
1 C. agave syrup
1 C. unsweetened applesauce
1/4 C. coconut oil
1 T. vanilla extract
1 T. coconut extract

1 C. plain or lemon-flavored fizzy mineral water

Preheat oven to 325F. Line two muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.

Sift and measure the flours into a large bowl. Whisk or sift all the dry ingredients together (the sorghum flour through the baking soda).

Put the flax seeds in a dry blender and grind them until they look like coarse flour. Add the ground flax seeds to the filtered water in a large mixing bowl (the bowl for a stand mixer if you have one) and let it stand five minutes.

Add the agave syrup, applesauce, coconut oil, vanilla, and coconut extract to the mixer bowl and blend until fluffy. You want to add as much air as possible to help create a tender, fluffy cake. Turn off the mixer in between each addition: add in the flour mixture a bit at a time until it is thoroughly mixed. Add in the mineral water and mix just until you have a smooth, pourable cake batter.

Using a measuring cup or ice cream scoop, fill the cups no more than 2/3 full.

Bake for 11 minutes. Turn the pans 180 degrees so they bake evenly. Bake another 8 minutes, or until the tops crack a little and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and set on wire racks to cool. When the pans are cool to the touch, remove the cupcakes and set on the wire racks to finish cooling completely.

Creamy frosting
Makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes

14 fl. oz. coconut cream
1/2 C. rice milk powder*
1/4 C. amber agave syrup
1 T. vanilla
1 T. lecithin granules

Refrigerate the coconut cream to help it set.

Scoop out the hardened coconut cream, leaving behind the watery liquid in the bottom of the can. (Use that for smoothies.) Add the coconut cream, rice milk powder, agave syrup, vanilla, and lecithin to the blender. Start on low, then turn it up to high. Run it for about four minutes, until the lecithin is completely dissolved and it's a creamy consistency.

Pour out the frosting into a medium-sized bowl. Refrigerate it for about an hour until it's thick but spreadable.

Coconut grass
Makes enough to decorate 24 cupcakes

2 C. shaved or large flake unsweetened coconut
4 t. parsley juice or green food coloring

Pulse the coconut flakes in the food processor until they are small pieces. Mix them with the parsley juice or food coloring, stirring well, until uniformly green. Spread out on a silicone sheet or parchment paper lined baking sheet to dry.

Frost the cupcakes, then top with green coconut grass. Add one to three candy-coated almonds to the top of each.

Notes: If you cannot find rice milk powder, you can use soy milk powder or powdered sugar. If you don't have a juicer just run some chopped parsley through your blender, then strain it before using. I found these almonds at Williams-Sonoma (pricey!) and they say they might contain traces of wheat, dairy, or egg. So read your labels if you avoid any of those foods.

Stephanie Weaver blogs as her alter ego, The Recipe Renovator. All her recipes are gluten-free, sugar-free, and made with plant-based ingredients.