Meatloaf, like Brussels sprouts and kale, has enjoyed a culinary renaissance in the past years. Meatloaf cupcakes are one such incarnation. They’re cute and trendy, and have the perfect amount of sauce coating topped with fancy mashed potatoes. Serve them at dinner parties where you will wow your guests and eliminate the hassle of cutting individual portions, or make them for your family and store the conveniently sized lunch leftovers. Either way, they are delicious.
Whether you make meatloaf as cupcakes or in a large loaf, my meatloaf is moist and delicious. The recipe is based on a recipe given to me years ago by my former boss and her sister.
First, get mashed potatoes going. I’m not going to go into a recipe for this, as I assume you all have a recipe for mashed potatoes, and you all think your recipe is better than any other recipe. No matter your chosen method, it will be best, at least for this recipe, if you first peel your potatoes and you make them as unlumpy as possible.
Now on to the main event.
Start by getting the oven going and cubing four pieces of gluten-free bread (or three pieces of regular bread). I used Udi’s Whole Grain bread here. Gluten-free bread is significantly smaller, which is why you add more.
Add milk and let the mixture sit together until the bread is mushy. This liquid-infused binder is the key to the moist meatloaf.
While the bread and milk are doing their thing (or thang as we say it in Texas), it’s time to prep. Shred a bunch of cheddar cheese and carrots (or be lazy like me and use matchstick carrots), and thinly slice the white and green parts of some green onions. Yes people, this meatloaf has flavor.
After just a few minutes, the bread looks like this. I used a fork to mush up the bigger pieces.
Mix together the bread, two pounds of lean ground beef, two eggs, some salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. You want to mix this by hand because it can easily become over-mixed in a stand mixer. That would result in thick, solid, and brick-like (read: sad) meatloaf. And that’s not what we’re going for here. So roll up your sleeves, wash your hands, and dig in.
After the base is mixed, add the veggies and cheese and mix just until everything is incorporated. I didn’t photograph this part, as my hands were a bit icky.
Now your hands are clean and beautiful once more. Lightly oil a regular-sized muffin pan. I use a spray oil. (Gluten-free beginners: spray oils can sometimes contain gluten, so make sure to read the label).
Add meatloaf to the muffin pan. Make sure to pack the meat in tight and make a domed top to give the appearance of a cupcake. Remember, meat does not rise.
This recipes yields 12 cupcakes.
While the meatloaf is cooking, make the topping. This is an unholy union of brown sugar, ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
After about 25 minutes, pull them out. This is where you might say, “Oh look, my meatloaf cupcakes are gross and ruined.” Have no fear! They’re not. The fat has cooked out of the meatloaf. I used 93/7 meat, which is quite lean and still the cupcakes looked like this. They’ve also shrunk. Don’t worry.
Spoon each cupcake out and put on a cookie sheet. The cupcakes still have five minutes to cook until they should reach their internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, so do this step quickly – you don’t want the meat to begin cooling down, and carefully – you don’t want to burn yourself.
Liberally spoon the ketchup mixture on the cupcakes. Imagine a bundt cake with lemon frosting perfectly oozing down the sides of the cake. That’s the look you’re going for here. Back in the oven they go for about five minutes. When you remove them, they should be at temperature.
Now they look like this, which is pretty close to perfection. But in the words of my infomercial friends…but wait, there’s more!
Oh yes. Potato frosting. Fill a frosting bag or frosting gun with the non-lumpy mashed potatoes and using a large tip, frost the cupcakes. When they’re all frosted and lovely, put them back in the broiler until the tips of the potato are slightly golden.
Serve with extra potatoes and salad and look like a domestic goddess. You’re welcome.
Gluten-Free Meatloaf Cupcake Recipe
1 cup milk*
4 slices gluten-free bread (I used Udi’s Whole Grain Bread)*
2/3 c. finely chopped green onions, white and green parts
2/3 c. shredded (or matchstick) carrots
1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 lbs. lean ground beef
2 large eggs
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
* If you’re not using gluten-free bread: 3 slices of bread and 2/3 c. milk
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. ketchup
1 tbsp yellow mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Preheat oven to 350 and lightly oil a regular-sized muffin tin that makes 12 muffins.
Make a batch of mashed potatoes, opting for peeled potatoes. When mashing the potatoes, make them as unlumpy as possible.
Slice bread into approximate inch-by-inch squares, place in a bowl and cover with milk. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, or until the bread is soaked through and mushy.
Shred the carrots and cheese, slice the onions.
Once the bread is soaked through, in a large bowl, mix the meat, bread and milk mixture, eggs, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Just mix with your hands, so as to not over work the meat. Add the vegetables and cheese and mix just until combined.
Fill each cupcake cup with meat so that it is packed in the cup and mounded on top to look like a cupcake.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the center of the meatloaf is nearing 160 degrees. While the meatloaf is baking, make the topping. You can microwave it for a few seconds if the brown sugar is not mixing in well.
Remove cupcakes from the oven and carefully transfer each cupcake to a cookie sheet. Quickly spoon a liberal amount of sauce over each cupcake and return to the oven for about five minutes.
Place mashed potatoes into an icing bag with a large tip. Remove the meatloaf cupcakes from the oven and “ice” with potatoes. Place under broiler until the potatoes are slightly golden on the edges. Serve.
Yields 12 cupcakes.
You can also make this as a loaf. To do that, line a large rimmed baking dish with foil. Put the meatloaf on the pan, forming into a loaf shape. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Top with sauce and bake for 15 minutes more. When making as a loaf, the topping measurements are: 1 c. brown sugar, 1 c. ketchup, 4 tsp. yellow mustard and 3 tsp Worcestershire sauce. No potato topping.
Cooking on a large pan and forming the meat into a loaf (as opposed to a loaf pan) allows the grease to move to the sides of the pan. Remove the loaf and serve on a fresh platter for a beautiful dinner.