Even if you’re thousands of miles away from New York City, or even on the other side of the world, I’m willing to bet that you’ve at least heard of Babycakes, the 100% vegan bakery that also caters to celiacs, diabetics, and above all else, people who really just want good cake. Seeming to be the answer to an unspoken question, this hot spot has been thriving since it opened in 2005, and is in fact doing so well that there are plans to open a west coast outpost in Los Angeles in the works. That’s not the most exciting morsel of news Erin McKenna, the proprietor and baker extraordinaire, has to share with her fans: No matter where you live, you can now enjoy all of those wonderful offerings found at Babycakes, thanks to their newly released cookbook that divulges all their secrets.
So, what’s the secret, you may wonder? I certainly did, and quickly flipping through the pages in a mad rush not unlike a sugar-high, my first thought was that it must be all that coconut oil. Yes, what was truly striking was how much coconut oil these recipes called for, and pretty much no other type of fat at all. That, plus the special gluten-free flour mixes, powdered soymilk, coconut powder, and so on make each recipe a fairly expensive venture. At the very least though, it certainly explains the relatively steep prices that the bakery charges. You’re definitely paying for quality here though; There are few ways around such expenses if you want to make a dessert without refined sugar or flour that’s still edible.
Immediately I was drawn to the cupcakes, the focal point of this little bakery, and especially the frosting. The book would have been worth buying if only for the frosting recipe, but unfortunately, I never could get it quite right. After turning into a lumpy, curdled mess, only an overnight stay in the freezer and then a vigorous second blending helped smooth the mixture out at all, but even then it was far too thin to consider piling on top of a cake. It pains me to think of the the whole 1 1/2 cups of coconut oil that was wasted. [Hannah, writer of this review, has now reworked this recipe into a delicious frosting – see her recipe for Coconut Oil Frosting here]
At the very least, the Chocolate Cupcakes worked out just as written, rising just above the papers to achieve nice flat tops. Alone, they weren’t much to talk about, and did have a slight bean-y flavor thanks to the garfava flour, but overall were decent gluten-free cupcakes. Frosted, I’m sure these would be downright delicious.
While they may look like short cupcakes, these are actually gluten-free Blondies. Curious as to how such a creation might be possible, I couldn’t resist these round little sweets. Strongly flavored with vanilla, I loved the taste, but the texture left a bit to be desired. Much more like a moist cake than a blondie, I would simply call these tea cakes if serving them to an unsuspecting crowd. Unfortunately, these may not be for everyone, as my mom announced that her “favorite part about these were the chocolate chips” after trying one.
Going for one of the non-gluten-free recipes, the Raspberry Scones seemed promising. Very simple in construction and made with hearty spelt flour, these are something you don’t need to feel guilty about eating for breakfast. Again, they were much like tea cakes in texture, and not exactly what I would think of as a scone, but over all I truly enjoyed these little treats along with a strong cup of coffee in the morning.
If you’re looking for healthier, less-processed baked goods with classic flavors, or gluten-free desserts, this is the book for you. Despite having a fair share of hits and misses, it’s ultimately a beautiful cookbook with lots of helpful tips and ideas for creating your own sweet masterpieces, no matter your dietary restrictions. I’ll admit that it probably won’t be the first book I’ll turn to myself, but it will still hold a prominent place on my bookshelf.