If you were gluten-free ten years ago, the only cake you ingested came from your personal oven and probably had a chalky texture and curious aftertaste. Now, next to every glutinous layer cake, you’ll find a GF alternative. It might contain ground almonds, a combination of brown rice and bean flours, or the popular Cup4Cup flour created at the French Laundry by chef Lena Kwak. But for those with Celiac Disease or a severe gluten allergy, many of these options won't work.
Gluten-free goods that are made with the same equipment as regular items, or that touch them, can trigger reactions in highly sensitive individuals. In the Bay Area, Mariposa Baking Co. and Flour Chylde operate dedicated gluten-free kitchens, which means everything they produce is gluten-free – though neither has official certification due to prohibitive costs.
For the rest of you trend-hoppers who are convinced going without gluten will make you healthier or happier, here are nine innovative and delicious treats available in San Francisco:
Cheese Danish from Mariposa Baking Co.
It’s difficult to find gluten-free pastries. “Most of those are puff doughs,” explains Patti Crane who started Mariposa Baking Co. in 2004. “Puff doughs are challenging, because they require the gluten for elasticity and a light, airy structure.” With its soft dough and stripes of white icing that cling to sliced almonds, her Danish is a winning approximation even when the pastry is a little overcooked. If that's the case, just scrape off the center blob of sweetened cream cheese and heat the rest for a few seconds to soften. Mariposa is based in Oakland with an outpost in the Ferry Building.
Granola Bar from Hayes Valley Bakeworks
Here’s the after-school snack your mother should have stuffed in your lunchbox – a soft and crumbly oatmeal bar flecked with seeds, walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts. A thin layer of tart raspberry jam and plump golden and purple raisins help this wholesome-ish treat stay supple for at least four days.
Chocolate Lemon Coconut Torte: Photo: Alissa Merksamer
Chocolate Lemon Coconut Torte from Flour Chylde Bakery
Built for the indecisive eater, one half is flourless Pure Chocolate Torte and the other is chewy Lemon Coconut Torte. It’s like having a sultry brownie alongside a bright lemon macaron. Flour Chylde is located in Novato, but you'll find them at several San Francisco farmers markets.
Daily Muffin from Arizmendi
Arizmendi offers a gluten-free carrot and/or pumpkin muffin every day. It’s a tossup over which tastes better. Both sport mushroomed tops with crispy edges, though the pumpkin one is covered in caramelized pecans while the carrot has walnuts. The one you prefer depends on how much “stuff” you like inside. The pumpkin is delicately spiced but plain. The carrot crams squishy golden raisins, more walnuts, and of course, lots of shredded carrots.
Strawberry Cheesecake from Plant Cafe
Cool, refreshing, and much lighter than regular cheesecake, this vegan version gets its silken texture from a combination of soaked cashews and coconut oil. The coconut cashew crust is sweetened with dates and reminiscent of a LÄRABAR (in a good way). Pastry chef Susanne Stampke uses juicy strawberries for now, but she changes the flavor about every four months.
Cinnamon Coffee Cake from Flour and Co.
Considering that so many conventional coffee cakes are dry and/or flavorless, it is even more impressive that this gluten-free rendition manages to be rich and moist. The requisite cinnamon pecan streusel gets thickly strewn across the top and in the middle for lots of contrasting crunch.
Mohnkuchen. Photo: 20th Century Cafe Instagram
Mohnkuchen from 20th Century Cafe
A dignified riff on a German classic, this steely brown cake is made almost entirely of finely ground poppy seeds. It conceals two thin strata of homemade red currant jam and comes with barely sweetened whipped cream. Aromatic and earthy, try it in the afternoon with strong coffee or black tea.
Pistachio Cupcake from Pretty Please Bakeshop
Bite into these blond cupcakes, and you’ll discover a vaguely green interior that comes from the slew of California-grown pistachios owner Alison Okabayashi grinds into her batter. Her airy vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream towers on top with a small depression in the middle that brims with honey. Gluten-free cakes are available by special order 48 hours in advance.
Pain de Gênes from Le Marais Bakery
Mascarpone whipped cream tops each triangular slice of this sunny almond cake. Though traditionally made with ground almonds, Le Marais uses premium almond paste that contains bitter almonds for more assertive flavor.
Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.