For some foodies, gluten-free is a healthful new diet fad. For others, serious allergies and other conditions make it an absolute way of life. And the former has been something of a boon to the latter, prompting Orlando’s bakers – from smaller operations like Gigi’s (Orlando’s is just one of five in Florida alone!) to to Winter Park's Jillycakes, to the the Disney Springs installment of Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC, an entirely gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free vegan operation! Of course, the nice thing about desserts is they’re not one-size, fits all. Winter Park’s Le Macaron and Altamonte Springs’ Heavenly Flan are purveyors of traditional French and Latin delights that have been gluten-free since their creation – no recipe modification necessary! Even Food Network stars like three-time “Cupcake Wars”-winner Hollis Wilder’s making cupcakes for her gluten-free fans. Like many of her signature flavors, though, they fly off the racks. Call ahead and order a dozen to be sure your treats will be waiting when you arrive. While those included herein all serve gluten-free products, always make sure to ask staffers about their products' ingredients and the kitchen practices they employ before you order!
Nothing Bundt Cakes
First things first: tiny versions of things we already like are adorable. As is the suffix "let." Case in point: "bundtlets." You know you want one. You probably want a whole box. They're so cute! And at this popular chain, they are moist and tasty and come in multiple flavors to boot. You can get larger versions, as well, and two styles of icing depending on your level of sweet tooth. It's all good. Gluten-free folks won't find a certified bakery here, or a host of flavors, but they aren't left out. The chocolate chip cookie bundtlet is available every day. Pop in and grab one. (407-628-4001)
Smallcakes - Hunter's Creek
An affable staff and a wildly creative flavor selection makes Smallcakes a big hit with customers, whether they're in to order custom cakes or cupcakes for an event or engaging in a bit of spontaneous comfort eating (hey, virtually all of us does it once in awhile!). From coconut to Snickers, strawberry cheesecake to cannoli, caramel crunch to peanut butter cup, the list runs on for eons. And for folks looking for a la mode on the go – many of these flavors can be turned into creamy-cold shakes, as well. Gluten-free eaters will find the sky is the about the limit on special orders, but they generally have a couple of great options on the daily, as well. (407-985-1973)
This College Park operation, helmed by European-born pastry pro Ella Kapul, runs its storefront inside the popular Infusion tea house on Edgewater Drive, a wonderful location for a dessert shop with so eclectic a selection. Kapul's manifesto? "Everyone deserves dessert." What that means is that Chocolate Provocateur offers delicious goodies for the sweet tooth "truffles to cupcakes, cookies to tarts" for an array of eaters. Paleo? Gluten-free? Vegan? You're covered. Along with the majority, who want all the sugar, wheat and animal products a purveyor is willing to sell. Stop in for something chocolatey, creamy or, if you're so inclined, coconutty. Kapul's coconut cake is one of the shop's most popular items. ((407) 927-1148)
Mmmm, flan – with all its delicious, creamy decadence. It can be simple and traditional or twisted delightfully with cheese or coconut, chocolate or sweet potato, topped with luscious fruits – even infused with coffee for a dessert with a kick. At Heavenly Flan in Altamonte Springs, they do all of it and more. It's proprietress has turned her family's traditional recipe into a thriving business; she operates out of this storefront and also sells to myriad markets, specialty stores and supermarkets around Central Florida. She'll be happy to take your custom order, as well. Great news for gluten-free dieters: flan is naturally bereft! Anything in the shop is deliciously fair game. ((407) 580-8679)
Sweet! By Good Golly Miss Holly
Hollis Wilder, creator of Sweet By Holly is a three-time winner of Food Network's Cupcake Wars, and Orlando is delighted to have her on speed dial. Sweet! by Holly is a cupcakery. And amid the vast array of flavors – banana to Boston cream, coffee to carrot, plain Jane to PBJ – gluten-free dieters will be happy to note they have not been left behind. Though it's recommended you show up early – the GF goodies, which come in the classic size, often go fast! – Holly has some available every day. Flavors you might find include red velvet (with two different types of frosting), chocolate – with either chocolate or vanilla frosting, and decadent chocolate-raspberry. Custom orders in any size are available, of course – and you can call ahead for orders of a dozen or more. (407-277-7746)
Jillycakes is not exclusively gluten-free but it is almost unbelievably creative in its flavors, virtually all of which can be MADE gluten-free. They have two cupcake offerings on the daily. Sometimes they sell out, sometimes they don't. You're welcome to call ahead, however, and if the flavors of the day appeal, staffers will be happy to set aside some for you. Did we mention the flavors? Everything from churro to strawberry cheesecake to dozens of others could be available. They do custom orders here, as well, which means you can have anything you want if you give them a little time. (863-797-4233)
Smallcakes is not a strictly gluten-free bakery, but they do make great accommodations for those with GF interests. Both vanilla and chocolate cupcake varieties are available every day (and, say staffers, only very rarely run out on the fly). What's more, there are generally un-frosted cakes in the back, which means if you're craving strawberry or cannoli icing or one of the bakery's other gluten-free flavors – cookies n' cream is the only one off limits! – you can have your cake and specialty icing, too. Many other GF cake flavors are available, as well, via special order. And of course, they do whole cakes to order, as well. (407-681-7501)
Frosting lovers of the world could easily unite over the artful and towering mounds of the creamy stuff that top each treat at Gigi's – those less inclined can simply lop off an allotted percentage and enjoy a cake-to-frosting ratio that's less than 50-50. Either way? Yum. The array of flavors is dizzying – Merry Margarita and Banana Cream Pie, Texas Milk Chocolate and Wedding Cake (a traditional white on white), an array of cheesecake-style creations and a whole lot more await the cupcake enthusiast. What's more, Gluten-Free Fridays bring with them three signature flavors for the diet restricted among us to enjoy. Where other GF bakers sometimes limit selections to the simple, Gigi's brings those exotic numbers – lemon, pumpkin, white-hot chocolate and wedding cake among them – to the gluten-free menu, as well. (407-893-9846)
Artful chocolates, creamy glacee and of course, the bakery's namesake in the form of the most visually appealing macarons you're likely to have seen anywhere. Light yet dense, the delicate outer crust gives way to an almost creamy cake with a sugary-sweet filling. Wonderful variety, from traditional to surprises like basil, ginger and salted caramel make each visit an opportunity to savor new flavors. On the pricey side at $1.80 apiece, but for a quick high-brow sweet fix on tony Park Avenue they make perfect sense. What's more: did you know that macarons are gluten-free, no recipe modification necessary? It's true! Gluten-free eaters rejoice. This is a bakery where you're just like everyone else. ((321) 295-7958)
Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC
The founders of BabyCakes, upon opening the original New York City-based outpost, gave to the Big Apple an alternative to its many fine bakeries whose anchor ingredients – even if organic or other high-quality products – were wheat-, and animal product-based. Everything – yes, everything – at Erin McKenna's offers all-natural, organic alternative desserts free from wheat, gluten, dairy, casein and eggs. And lucky Orlando residents and visitors (particularly those with vegan preferences and allergies) are happy to have their own version at Disney Springs. In fact, the majority of BabyCakes' items don't even have sugar, relying on agave nectar instead. The result? Cupcakes, doughnuts, cakes and cookies even the most persnickety dieter can enjoy with neither guilt nor an upset tummy. (407-938-9045)
About A.D. Thompson
A.D. Thompson has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and roughly 15 as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.
A roller coaster enthusiast, A.D. readily admits there is fun to be had amid the madness of the theme parks, but has found there is magic, as well, in the outer-lying reaches of Mickey’s long shadow. She is delighted to share with you the spoils of her adopted city.
Visit her colorful compendium at www.amydrewthompson.com.
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