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Home » GFF (Gluten-free friendly), Gustatory Ruminations

Let us eat cake!

Submitted by on May 26, 2009 – 11:22 amNo Comment

cake_valencia_orangeIf your gluten intolerance has ever made you feel like an outcast– like during the Sex and the City-induced cupcake-craze of the early 2000’s–then you’ll be happy to know your moment has finally arrived.  

Gluten-free living has not just gone mainstream: it’s actually gone fashionable.  That’s right: celiac is the new black.

Need proof?

Let’s start with Starbucks Coffee’s latest product launch: the gluten-free Valencia Orange Cake; a nationally-distributed product baked in a dedicated GF facility… presumably aimed at the relatively small proportion of the population that has celiac disease or wheat allergies.

Now, I have come to view my gluten-intolerance as a blessing in disguise for many reasons.  And one of these reasons is that it helps me nip temptation in the bud.  Everytime I would go into Starbucks for a tea and come face to face with that pastry case, there was no decision to be made, since there was gluten-free nothing I could safely eat. Which has been especially helpful, since here in New York, Starbucks is required by law to post the calorie content of all their food. Which has made me aware of the fact that virtually all of their baked goods contain between 400-500 calories, and for the majority of women, that’s between 20%-33% of our daily calorie requirements!  For one silly slice of mediocre pound cake!   Of course now, it’s a whole new world.  Now I must consciously resist the new gluten-free Valencia Orange Cake each time I go in there. Fortunately for me, the company is packaging the cakes in a rather unappetizing plastic wrap that makes the product look more processed and less fresh-baked, despite the fact that it is 100% natural according to the Starbucks website.  (They’re doing it to prevent cross-contamination with the glutinous items.)  So that helps.  But in case I (or any of you) ever succumb, perhaps it would be helpful to share that each cake contains 290 calories, 16g of fat, (of which 2g are saturated), 32g of carbohydrate (of which 4g are fiber–from the almonds) and 40 mg of sodium, so that we can budget accordingly.   Given that this cake clocks in at a full 100-200 calories less than most of Starbucks’ other baked goods, I wouldn’t be surprised if it gains a following beyond the celiac/wheat allergy crowd.  Finally, if you’re on the fence about whether to try it, the clever marketers at Starbucks would like us all to know that each cake contains 30% of the daily value for Vitamin C.  Of course, I would like the aforementioned clever marketers to know that so do 3 medium strawberries, and it’s sort of ridiculous to try to pass off a 290-calorie cake as a smart way to get in your Vitamin C.

Now if only they would start carrying lactose-free milk for their lattes…

So what if Starbucks has acknowledged our existence and thrown us a gluten-free crumb, you may say.  That hardly means GF is officially trendy.

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To which I would offer exhibit #2:  the new Babycakes NYC cookbook.  If you’ve ever visited New York’s Greenwich Village and seen the line snaking outside the Magnolia Bakery–home of the famous cupcakes immortalized by Sex and the City–you’d know that cupcakes are still very much en vogue.  But you may not have been aware that a lesser-known bakery snagged NY Magazine’s prized award for “Best Cupcake” in 2006, and it was a place called Babycakes.  Which is a bit of a coup, since Babycakes is known for their vegan cupcakes and vegan/gluten-free cakes, brownies and cookies.  (My favorite is the Cinnamon & Sugar Toastie.)  And now, the bakery has published a cookbook with recipes for many of their famous cakey treats and endorsements from a very high-profile list of vegan or food-allergic celebs, including Pam Anderson, Zooey Deschanel, Natalie Portman and Mary Louise Parker.  Take THAT trendy Magnolia Bakery cupcakes!  Also, the bakery’s website lists nutrition information for all of their products, in case you *really* want to know.  

Now, you may be wondering what on earth a nutritionist is doing musing about cupcakes when schools across the country are banishing cupcakes from their classrooms in an attempt to help curb the childhood obesity epidemic.  So I’ll share my personal opinion, which is this:  if ever there is a time to enjoy cake, it is in celebration of birthdays.  We do our children a service when we teach them that treats like cake are for special occasions–like birthdays or vacations to New York or weddings–rather than for everyday occasions, like a trip to the bookstore or while watching Saturday morning cartoons.  I think that policies which ban cupcakes from the classroom are well-intentioned but misguided attempts to address a bigger problem that–let’s face it–is not the result of kids eating too many birthday cupcakes.  Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater!  Let us eat cake!

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