Loyal readers of my blog are likely sick and tired of the gluten-free cupcake reviews, but it's where my head is at right now, and it didn't make sense to write about Magnolia, Georgetown and Tu-lu's without giving a nod to BabyCakes in the same week. First, a bit of advice -- BabyCakes may be very crowded on Saturday afternoon, but it's a good time to go if you want lots of options. I'd been there a few times recently and not seen the amazing array of treats they had for sale today. Next a warning -- it's pricey. At $4.75, this was two dollars more than the similarly-sized cupcake I had at Georgetown Cupcake. That being said, I love BabyCakes. I've loved them for a long time, even before I went gluten-free. It's got such a cool, retro vibe, they have a smart sensibility about flavors and styling, and even though not everything there is gluten-free, everything is vegan. It's hard to explain why, but I love their vegan frosting. Lately I've been ordering their gluten-free cookie sandwich, made with a shmeer of frosting in the middle. I can't vouch for all of the cupcakes, but they call this one a "brownie cupcake," and it's my idea of perfection. The texture of the cake is moist and rich, and the top portion of the cupcake has a nearly crispy texture around the edges. I'm not complaining about any of the other cupcakes I tried this week, far from it, but I'd gladly pay the extra buck or two for a BabyCakes cupcake any day, as long as I don't mind walking down to the Lower East Side.
Three wheat-free cupcake reviews in three days? Yeah, that's how I roll. Actually this treat from the famous Magnolia Bakery came to me via "special delivery." At first I'd heard Magnolia makes this cupcake only on Fridays, but this one was bought on a Tuesday, so my first bit of advice is to call ahead. And in line with a comment on my last gluten-free cupcake post, I should mention that Magnolia is a really small bakery. I can't say this for sure because I didn't ask about how they prepare them, but there's got to be a pretty high chance of cross-contamination if these are baked on premises. So try this at your own risk -- you probably know best how sensitive you are. In fact I don't think Magnolia uses the term "gluten-free" at all because they likely don't want to over-promise. It's sold as a "flourless cupcake." I felt just fine eating it though. So how did it taste? I'd say this is another treat for people who can't have wheat but are missing their cupcake fix. If I had to complain, it would be about the frosting. I bet that looks like a lot of frosting, right? I think it's meringue buttercream, so it's actually really light, more like whipped cream. My complaint or confusion is why they don't just top it with their famous (pastel-colored) frosting. Love it or hate it, the frosting is what Magnolia is best known for. I bet they'd say the cupcake itself is too soft for the firm, signature frosting. But if you're in the area and don't mind the lines, it's worth a try. Note, I don't know if this cupcake is available at all Magnolia locations.
Truth be told, this was the first gluten-free cupcake I tried after going gluten-free about seven weeks ago, not the cupcake I had at Tu-lu. I stopped by a Cupcakes Take the Cake event at the new Georgetown Cupcake in Soho with my friend Melissa, but I'd just planned to say a quick hello. I snapped a few photos and almost accidentally glanced at the menu, spotting the Gluten-Free Lava Fudge cupcake photographed above. What a nice surprise! Fortunately I'm not so worried about cross-contamination (at least not yet), though I have to say the staff was extra careful about not touching my cupcake with gloved hands which had just touched a traditional cupcake... very cool on their part. If you've ever been to the original bakery in D.C., you probably know how gorgeous the treats are here, but I'm all about the taste, which did not disappoint. Yes, it has that gluten-free texture to it, but I don't think you'll mind at all. In fact, because the cupcake is filled with chocolate-gooey yum, all of your attention is likely to be focused on licking every drop from your lips. It's a winner for sure. And perhaps best of all is that this cupcake isn't too large. I love sweets, but I don't want to feel stuffed by them. Likely because the cupcakes are a little on the smaller side, they keep the price under $3, which I think is just right. According to the menu, they don't make this particular cupcake every day, which is a shame, but I went back the next day and they had it again, so maybe it will become a regular thing... hint, hint.
Something tells me this will be the first of many gluten-free dining-out posts on my blog in the months and years to come. I'm still going to write about cookbooks and what I'm cooking at home, but I'm on a quest to find the best gluten-free options for eating out in New York City, so why not document it, right? I'll keep an alphabetical tally of the places here so you don't have to search my whole blog for them. First-up is Tu-lu's Gluten-Free Bakery. In the interest of full disclosure, I know the founder, Tully, personally. Last time I visited though, I wasn't gluten-free -- I was simply curious to see what the treats were like. In fact, Tully has no idea I stopped having gluten and that I came in for a visit over the weekend. I paid for my meal, and there was no special treatment. I have to say that if you're looking for gluten-free baked goods, Tu-lu's is a delight. They've got an amazing array of desserts including cookies, brownies, cupcakes, and more. I opted for the chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting, a little bit of heaven. It's gorgeous too.The real reason for this trip was lunch. I hadn't had anything even remotely resembling a sandwich since going gluten-free about 7 weeks ago. In fact, I was happy to write off sandwiches forever, but then I heard Tu-lu's had paninis. The sandwiches (three on the menu that day) are pre-made and stored in the refrigerator, but they put them on a panini press for you, which is why this grilled cheese sammy looks so melty and yummy. If you're gluten-free, then you probably know sandwich bread made without traditional wheat is always going to be a little different than what you're used to, but don't let that scare you away. This really satisfies. Of course I'm not comparing it to anything yet, but I think it's fair for me to say, as long as you understand why this might be a little bit pricey for what it is, you're going to enjoy it as much as I did. In fact, I'm already thinking about when I can go back and try the other paninis. I also have to mention how nice the staff is at Tu-lu's. Unlike a lot of New York City bakeries where you're herded like cattle, the people at Tu-lu's make you feel extremely welcome.
Note: This drawing is now closed. It's time again for another behind-the-scenes post, this time for the brand-new The Butch Bakery Cookbook. David Arrick and Janice Kollar are the geniuses behind these concoctions, spiked with booze, punched up with chili powder, and topped with bacon. These ain't your grandma's frilly, sprinkled, pink cupcakes. All of the photos are my own snapshots from the shoot, and you'll have to check out the actual book for the real photos. And, of course, I'm doing a little drawing for a copy of the book, open to anyone in the U.S. or Canada. Just post a comment before the end of Tuesday, November 2.The propping is thanks to Martha Bernabe -- that's her making some careful adjustments. It was my first project working with her, and boy did we have fun. How often do you get to work with props like poker chips, vintage trophies, pennants, flasks, and pool balls on a cookbook photoshoot?Jason Wyche was the photographer, and I've raved about his work before. He's so great at shooting small objects like this (actually, as cupcakes go, these are pretty hefty). But remember, these are just teaser snapshots -- please do check out the book if you want to see Jason's stunning photos for yourself.Brian Preston-Campbell did the food styling (with co-author Janice Kollar helping out with all the baking). The sheer quantity alone was staggering, but Brian really works magic when it comes to styling desserts, and he never loses his cool.If you needed proof that this was an unusual dessert cookbook shoot, here it is -- raw bacon on the same cutting board in the kitchen as the cupcakes. You don't see that very often.If you want to try out this recipe called Beer Run -- a chocolate stout cupcake with vanilla stout buttercream -- it's posted on the Amazon book page.And here are a few more teaser snapshots from the shoot. Thanks to Jason, Brian, and Martha for doing such great work and producing one of the coolest books I've ever worked on. If you're a cupcake lover, and a creative baker, I'd say this is a book you really want to check out.