Saturday, May 09, 2009

Babycakes NYC cupcakes

I was totally excited to get my new Babycakes NYC bakery cookbook this week. If you are not familiar with Babycakes, they were one of the big bakery names bragged about during the bizarre Cupcake Craze of 2006 (you know, there were videos, arguments about the merits of red velvet and long long lines on both coasts). Here's the kicker -- Babycakes bakery goods are (mostly) gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free. So, basically, vegan cupcakes went mainstream and hit it big! Whoo hoo!

A few caveats about the cookbook before I get to the actual results. Although the cover says gluten-free, I'm sad to report that not all of the recipes are actually gluten-free. Some of them use spelt flour, which is an heirloom wheat tolerated by some who are intolerant to gluten. For us allergic people, it's no good, spelt has gluten. Bummer. That means more workarounds for me. I'm sure Erin McKenna, the author/baker tried hard to make them all gluten-free, but it IS a difficult job replacing so many ingredients after all, and she does have higher standards than most cookbook authors I've run across. That being said, the pictures are gorgeous and everything looks DELISH so I was excited to dive in. Props to Erin anyhow.

So I made the Vanilla Cupcakes that started it all. Honestly, it was harder assembling the ingredients than actually making the recipe. Some items were completely unfamiliar to an old dog like me -- coconut flour and dry soy milk powder for example. Bob's Red Mill (my hero) makes the first, I'm going to investigate the second, but not too hard since I can't use it anyway. I used almond milk as a replacement for the soy milk and left out the lemon peel since I'm allergic to citrus, otherwise left everything else intact. Anyhow, the cupcakes themselves were WONDERFUL. Moist, springy and light with a natural balance of vanilla flavor -- meaning, they didn't taste like they were supposed to emulate something they weren't. Not too sweet. Really lovely texture. I admit user error and screwed up by accidentally putting in too much baking soda (it was supposed to be the baking powder first!) and most likely that was the reason that the bubbles in the cupcake were so big!

The ingredients were expensive, but she notes that in the opening section. Specialty flours are about $5 for 24 oz., and the coconut oil ranged from $6-$8 per pint or so. Agave is not cheap either. She doesn't note a few details, like whether to use light agave or dark, so I went with the middle ground on those. Also, coconut oil varies widely on the consistency (one was 100% liquid, one was almost solid, and one was a pleasant slurry), so again I took the middle ground to be safe.

The vanilla frosting I was not impressed with. Because I could not use the soy milk powder and had to substitute with coconut milk powder, the texture ended up more like royal icing and the flavor was a little too coconut-y to taste truly like vanilla. However, they worked together pretty well, but the frosting was nice but not as outstanding as the cupcake itself. I took these to work today (I work for a cooking store), and the foodie people I work with were impressed with the taste and texture of cupcakes with all those replacements. One woman whose child has a gluten allergy noted that they were perfect for an adult but would not be sweet enough for her son and would pump up the agave in her version.

Food allergy note: I just discovered from my friend Allergic Girl that coconut is considered a tree nut by the FDA. So technically, I can't call these nut-free. Who knew? :P

On a surreal note, a customer (hi Laura!) walked up to me today at work and said, "excuse, me, can you tell me about the different gluten-free flours you have that I can use in baking?" omg. My mouth just dropped open, mentally and physically, I think! My reply, "Would you believe that I just made gluten-free, dairy-free cupcakes and have the cookbook in the kitchen?" Crazy convergence in the universe today!

Anyhow, I'm posting pictures of the cupcakes. Verdict: thumbs way up on the cupcakes, neutral thumb on the frosting. More to come as I make other recipes. Sweet days to come!


j.cro said...


This is the response I got to a few questions I wrote to Babycakes...

Try using Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Baking Flour instead of
Spelt and add 1/4 teaspoon Xanthan gum per cup of gluten free mix used.

Rice Milk Powder, is a great substitute for soy.

You can use any oil in place of coconut oil you like, except when making
the frosting.

Best of luck.

So I guess I'll try my luck and hope it works out.

Food Allergy Queen said...

J. Cro, AWESOME, thanks! You just saved me at least 3 hours of my life. :) I can't use rice milk powder to replace the the soy powder since I'm allergic to that too, so I used coconut milk powder for the frosting, which is why it didn't turn out creamy and pretty like the pictures. Oh well. Them's the breaks. :)

This must be really frustrating for any cookbook author, to have everyone write in and complain the same week! This stuff is not easy, people!

Anonymous said...

Why is it so many people are willing to write off McKenna saying "gluten-free" on the cover when more than a third of the recipes are not gluten-free?

Food Allergy Queen said...

Anonymous, thanks for your note. She is actually getting a lot of flak for it. I myself complained on her blog. She disclaimed "almost sugar free" on the cover so easily could have said "almost gluten free" as well. What gives? But there have been enough complaints and isses that they've already set up a separate email address on her site for cookbook problems. J.Cro already shared their remedy for making the spelt recipes gluten-free in the first comment. Hope it works for you, I'll try it out this week.

Kristin said...

Hi, I just wanted to let you know if you are looking for additional recipes for food allergies, check out, each recipe is tagged for allergens the recipe is free of and approved by naturopathic doctors for specific health conditions! We also have articles and tips for living a well balanced life, check it out :)

Food Allergy Queen said...

Thanks Kristin, your site is beautiful, I'll check it out!

Anonymous said...

Please tell me anywhere in NYC to buy coconut milk powder? Thanks!

Food Allergy Queen said...

Anonymous, I got the coconut milk powder at an Asian grocery store that carries Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese ingredients. You might also try an Indian food store. Good luck!