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September 11, 2008

Kickass Cupakes: Gluten-free, and With Attitude In Boston

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  -Kelly

Kickass Cupcakes
378 Highland Avenue
Davis Square
Somerville, MA 02144

Kickasscupcakesglutenfree1_2Gluten-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.

Kickasscupcakesglutenfree2_3 (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.

Kickasscupcakesglutenfree3Much 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

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Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain has wonderful food, and knows what to do to make it Gluten Free - they don't have a set GF menu, but everything's made on site so they know and control what's in it. Our server checked with the cook to confirm my selections were clear, and when we ordered the antipasto, they segregated the gluten-based items without us having to remind them. It's out of the way if you're focused on downtown and Cambridge, and expensive, but worth the trip.

The Elephant Walk is a French and Vietnamese restaurant in Cambridge and Brookline. They have a gluten free menu with a lot of very good options. They have a good GF choclate truffle cake for dessert.

Flatbread Pizza Company has gluten-free pizza! I haven't been yet but at least one friend of mine has, I plan on going soon. They don't have a location in Boston yet but a couple that are not too far outside the city. I would love to go sometime soon and write a review to post here!

Boston's Gluten-Free Cooking Spree is this Saturday:

They look great but unfortunately the high sugar makes it a problem for a lot of us who eat gluten free :-( That is one of the reasons why babycakes rocks. It is not just that it is GF but it uses a better sugar alternative, which we need more of in the world of GF baked goods.

Just tried thee for the 1st time last night. You. Best cupcake evah. Of course I haven't had one in 10 years or so but still.

They had all 4 GF varieties last night so how could I not buy one of each. I managed to eat only one, but I REALLY wanted to have another. At least I have dessert for the next 3 nights! Now they just need to develop some of the filled varieties as GF (my wife had a mocha that was filled with carmel).

When Pigs Fly Bakery next door now has GF bread so I bought some of that as well. Unfortunately not terrific. I'll stick with the Whole Foods frozen stuff for now but they did say they are still experimenting with the recipe.

For other GF places in the area, Oxford Stret Spa used to have GF sandwiches but they lost their baker. It might help to have some pressure on them to find another.

Tasca in Brighton is a Tapas place with a GF menu and Boynton Pizza in Worcester has a GF pizza (and special GF dinners on Wednesdays).

Just to add to the list of restaurants with GF menus in Boston:
-Elephant Walk (French/Cambodian) in Brookline and Cambridge
-Fireplace (upscale American) in Brookline
-Marco's (Italian) in the North End; if you call them 24 hours in advance, they'll even do GF bread

Just to add to the list of restaurants with GF menus in Boston:
-Elephant Walk (French/Cambodian) in Brookline and Cambridge
-Fireplace (upscale American) in Brookline
-Marco's (Italian) in the North End; if you call them 24 hours in advance, they'll even do GF bread

HerboMart : The Ultimate Destination For All Health Needs

I had Kick Ass Cupcakes a year ago and the delicious mojito flavor still lingers in my mind's tongue. About ten minutes away on the T is:
- The best GF food and fun I've had in the Boston area in Cambridge right off Central Square at Cuchi Cuchi! I live an hour away and regularly plan trips with girlfriends. Not that my husband wouldn't enjoy the food, it is fantastic. I've seen many men there, but it's the kind of place to take your girlfriends. The decor and the waitstaff are dressed in la belle epoch/early Hollywood, which makes it so fun. My friends and I feel as if we are living in the epoch. The extensive fresh fruit and herb muddled signature drinks and classic vintage cocktails add to that feel. The international food served in small, "straight up" plates are fantastic. Order numerous plates to be shared! I have on more than one occasion devoured two or three all by myself. Cuchi Cuchi has a gluten free menu and they are very careful. I've met both owners, Tamara Bourso and Mario León, who are wonderful, as are all of the waitstaff. They clearly love their jobs.

Burtons in Boston and Hingham has an amazing gluten free menu! The CEO has celiac disease and the restaurants are aware of cross contamination.
Bambara in the Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge has a head chef Jay Silva who accommodates people on the gf diet. He even has the most delicious french fries, prepared in a dedicated fryolator, with a garlic aioli!
PF Changs also has a gf menu.

Is it real cause i feel the need to eat.


Curtis Maybin

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