The first stop on our worldwide gluten-free tour is Boston, MA. Please welcome Laurie Edwards of A Chronic Dose as she takes us on a trip to a bakery with gluten-free treats. Laurie blogs about life with celiac disease combined with other chronic illnesses and is the author of the book Life Disrupted-Getting Real About Chronic Illness In Your Twenties And Thirties
378 Highland Avenue
Somerville, MA 02144
Gluten-free baked goods and restaurant offerings continue to expand beyond the pale of national chains in the Boston area, and I decided to jump into the gluten-free dining scene with the product smallest in scale but arguably packed with the most punch—the cupcake.
(PHOTO: The rows of carefully decorated cakes are the first things you see when you enter the bakery. The gluten-free cupcakes are in their own box.)
Expectations were high when Kickass Cupcakes, Boston’s first exclusively cupcake bakery, opened last September. It had the hipster name (even more valuable in the distinctly hip Davis Square), the mouth-watering display cases, and the unusual flavors. But it didn’t have anything gluten-free until repeated customer requests prompted owner Sara Ross to add gluten-free options to the Kickass repertoire.
Now, there are four gluten-free flavors in rotation: chocolate, vanilla, mojito, (rum-soaked cake with sugarcane lime frosting and fresh mint), and the lucky cupcake (lemon cake with white chocolate buttercream frosting, candied ginger, and a fortune tucked into the frosting for good measure). Your best bet is to call ahead to see which of the four flavors is available on a particular day.
(PHOTO: The only irony here was that my fortune was about drinking beer—clearly not relevant!)
Finding the right combination of gluten-free flours was an exacting process, but Ross is happy with the final product. She says some customers have rated her cupcakes as tastier than those at Babycakes. (I’ve never been, so I can’t weigh in on that debate).
Each cupcake is baked in a stand-alone mold, and the gluten-free batches are always baked separately. You should know that they do not have dedicated equipment just for the gluten-free cupcakes, but they sanitize all utensils and equipment thoroughly and “take due diligence to prevent cross-contact, as we do with our nut handling and vegan batches of cupcakes,” Ross says.
The secret to the gluten-free cupcakes’ consistency is that, just as with her regular cupcakes, Ross doesn’t skimp on the rest of her ingredients. “There’s a whole lot of butter and sugar in there,” says the baker, who doesn’t use trans-fats in any of her products.
She wasn’t kidding. I sampled the lucky cupcake, whose lemon flavor was subtle and really refreshing. The texture wasn’t at all dense or gritty, which is always a litmus test I use when trying out gluten-free baked goods for the first time. In fact, it was surprisingly light and airy.
With Ross’s butter comment still fresh in my ears, it made perfect sense to me why she’d devise such a light cupcake—the white chocolate buttercream frosting was thick, sweet, and dense with buttery goodness. The candied ginger looked pretty but didn’t add too much—this is a bonus if ginger is too strong for you—and the neatly wrapped fortune was a fun touch.
Much like the cupcake itself, the atmosphere at Kickass Cupcakes is fun and light. Everything is open, so you can see the mixing process as it unfolds. Since the place is tiny—three red swivel stools flank the front window and that is it for seating—the wide-open space in the back does a lot to relieve congestion.
(PHOTO: She might not be mixing a gluten-free batch, but it’s still neat to watch.)
The downside? These tasty treats come at a hefty price—one relatively small cupcake is $2.75, so if you’re looking to bring home a dozen, prepare to shell out some serious money. Still, dreaming about that white chocolate buttercream frosting two days later, I’m convinced it is worth the splurge now and again.
Thank you, Laurie! Does anyone else have any recommendations for eating gluten-free in Boston? Please let us know in the comments. Also, if you would like to contribute an article (complete with photos) about a gluten-free restaurant, bakery, or store in the area where you live, please email me! I’d love to make this more of an ongoing community art project. -Kelly