This past weekend, I was in a production of “Zombie Prom” put on by my high school’s alumni theater group. The plot is as ridiculous as you’d expect with a title like “Zombie Prom”—high school senior Toffee dumps her bad-boy boyfriend Jonny on the orders of her parents and tyrannical school principal. Jonny dives into a nuclear plant but comes back to life as a zombie, determined to return to school and win Toffee’s heart (I really hate having to explain it to people, because it’s supposed to be an over-the-top, campy spoof of 1950s-era musicals). As silly as the story is, the music is a lot of fun and as co-choreographer, I got to work with some of my closest friends on some pretty awesome dances for the show. Thanks to my dad for taking these videos!


After our final performance on Sunday, our director had everyone over her house for a cast party. My sister and I came up with a brilliant idea for a dessert to bring over: zombie cupcakes with a hidden splash of “atomic green” and topped with a toffee candy. My friend Erin can’t have gluten and we wanted everyone to be able to enjoy our zombie-cakes, so we took our first stab at gluten-free baking.Some gluten-free flours can be hard to locate, but we had no trouble finding the white rice and tapioca flours in our local Asian specialty market. The original recipe called for xanthan gum, but I read that you can substitute unflavored gelatin (which is far less expensive and more readily available) by using double the amount of required xanthan gum. Always fans of the path of least resistance, we used the gelatin and the texture was perfect. I was a little wary of mayonnaise in cupcakes, but they actually didn’t come out all that bad. Erin said she liked them, anyway. 🙂 

The finished “zombie cakes”

Gluten-Free Vanilla Cupcakes
Adapted from All Recipes
Makes 24 cupcakes 

1 ½ c. white rice flour
¾ c. tapioca flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. Knox unflavored gelatin
4 eggs
1 ¼ c. sugar
2/3 c. light mayonnaise
1 c. skim milk
2 tsp. gluten-free vanilla extract 

Preheat oven to 350˚F

Mix both flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and gelatin together and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, sugar, and mayonnaise until fluffy. Add flour mixture, milk, and vanilla and mix well.

Pour batter into lined muffin tin and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Obviously you don’t have to make yours atomic green like we did. We were just trying to be cute. The spoonful of green batter we dropped in the middle of each cupcake didn’t hold as well as we’d hoped in the gluten-free version, but we did make regular cupcakes and the visual is far more impressive:

How the atomic green was supposed to look





To my cast: if any of you are reading this, I want you to know I love you all dearly and I had a blast working with you this summer. “Here’s to all the years ahead, and to our Zombie Prom!”

Toffee & the Enrico Fermi High students (Photo by Frank Gualtieri)
The zombie at the prom (Photo by Frank Gualtieri)


 Any gluten-free baking tips? Share them here!