It was the last full day of school for my two boys (yes, school ends late around here) Taking advantage of the time, I trekked into New York City for a little fun on my own. One of my stops was a bakery I first visited last summer: Babycakes NYC™. Found on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Babycakes Bakery serves
“all-natural, organic and delicious alternatives free from the common allergens: wheat, gluten, dairy, casein and eggs. Rest assured, all sweeteners have been chosen responsibly and used sparingly. White sugar will never be found in our bakery, nor will we ever use toxic chemical sweeteners. Instead, most products are sweetened with agave nectar—a natural syrup from a cactus which is low on the glycemia index and often a safe alternative to most non-insulin dependant diabetics. Occasionally, unprocessed and unrefined sugar is used in certain goods, although sparingly.”
As someone with food allergies and intolerances, as well as some strong preferences, I greatly appreciate owner Erin McKenna’s vision. She set out to create a bakery that would serve, not a “vegan” cupcake, but a delicious cupcake that just happens to be vegan. I love that.
Let’s take a peek inside and learn a little more about Babycakes.
The interior of the small bakery was charming.
Here’s a look at their drink sign. Notice you can order a sarsaparilla soda (cool) as well as Kombucha (very cool).
My drink choice, to go with a gluten-free cupcake, was one of the Stumptown Coffee Roaster’s Cold Brews. They put it in a cup for me so I could add some cream. Even though I have been a big fan of Stumptown Coffee for several years, this was the first time trying the unsweetened Cold Brew but it was amazing (good thing since it was $4!) – nice and strong with caramel notes. Highly recommend.
The dedication to their vision is evident throughout the bakery. Here’s the enormous wall sign:
The Good News
So the good news is Babycakes offers some delicious vegan cupcakes, donuts and cakes. They have gluten-free and spelt (not gluten-free) options. They do not use white sugar and they avoid soy products which, as someone who loathes soy, I certainly appreciate. If you have an egg allergy you need not fear a cupcake here. There are no artificial food dyes, no trans fats, no artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup either.
Because the FDA has labeled coconut as a tree nut, Babycakes Bakery is unable to claim to be a “nut free” facility due to their use of coconut oil. They also use Bob’s Red Mill Flours which are not made in a nut free facility. Unless you have a severe nut allergy or an allergy to coconut, I think you could feel fairly safe eating a treat from Babycakes.
In my own baking, due to major dietary restrictions, I have had to do a lot of experimenting in order to come up with great treat recipes. It takes a lot of creativity and resourcefulness to make delicious desserts without using wheat flour, eggs or dairy. Thus Ms. McKenna garners my respect.
HOWEVER, there are a few problems….
The Not-So-Good News
This gluten-free chocolate cupcake is gorgeous, is it not?
I would love to believe eating this cupcake is, at least, a healthier alternative. In the case of someone with a gluten allergy it is definitely better than eating something chock full of gluten. However, the not-so-good news might be considered bad news if you follow the paleo diet. Some of the ingredients used to create the popular cupcakes and donuts are less than optimal and some are downright unacceptable. For instance, there is a heavy reliance on garbanzo fava bean flours in the gluten-free offerings. Canola oil, a highly processed industrial seed oil, is used in many recipes as well. Agave, which is considered low-glycemic, is not really a healthier alternative given its negative effect on insulin.
But it’s so pretty…
Here are the ingredients for the gluten-free chocolate cupcake:
CAKE: Agave, garbanzo fava bean flour, canola oil, unsweetened cocoa powder, pear, brown rice flour, potato starch, vanilla extract, arrowroot, baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate), kosher salt, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), xanthan gum
FROSTING: brown rice starch , corn starch, tapioca starch, cold pressed coconut oil, agave nectar, rice milk, coconut milk, coconut flour, lemon extract, calcium carbonate (vegan) , sea salt, xanthan gum, guar gum, inulin, vitamins c, e, b6, a, folic acid, and vitamin b12
My oldest son has a legume allergy as well as a nut allergy. While I would feel fairly safe with the nut situation I could never feed him a cupcake from Babycakes based on their use of garbanzo fava bean flour. It is in almost everything. Guar gum, found in several recipes, is also a bean derivative that causes problems for some folks. Babycakes also uses a lot of spelt for their cupcakes. Spelt may be easier on digestion than wheat flour but it is NOT gluten-free so the bakery has to be careful to minimize the risk of cross-contamination. And anyone with a gluten intolerance should steer clear of spelt.
Paleo Spirit Verdict on Babycakes
Overall I thought the cupcakes were decent. The gluten-free chocolate cupcake was moist and chocolatey and the frosting was good. My youngest son scarfed, in nothing flat, the vanilla cupcake with strawberry icing I brought home for him. (That boy can eat!) Personally, I thought it was rather dry and tasted more like a corn muffin. G’s brownie cupcake with chocolate frosting was tasty – especially the frosting. But it was sweeter than I generally prefer.
Obviously you can’t please all the people all the time. This bakery is dedicated to providing products with higher quality ingredients that are vegan-friendly. And they definitely succeed in that area. If your major concern is avoidance of gluten, you don’t have a legume allergy and you are willing to accept a few less-than-optimal ingredients for a tasty treat on occasion, then Babycakes Bakery might be an option.
The higher quality ingredients make these bakery products more expensive than most. I would not mind paying a premium for a high-quality cupcake but, unfortunately, Babycakes falls a bit short for me. I prefer to make my own paleo treats for the rare times that I do indulge. And I long for the day when there are more options for healthier treats with paleo-friendly ingredients on the market. Who knows, maybe I’ll open my own bakery! Any investors out there?
For some paleo treat alternatives check here for a few Paleo Spirit Dessert Recipes.
What do you think? Have you tried Babycakes? How do you feel about their use of some less-than-ideal ingredients?