When it comes to gluten-free desserts, so many fall short; an especially frustrating gripe for anyone diagnosed with a gluten intolerance later in life. Enter: Melissa Ben-Ishay, Co-founder of Baked by Melissa, who modified her first baby, cupcakes, to accommodate her new baby girl on the way. After a pregnancy related allergy caused a temporary aversion to her very own product, she whipped up a solution; Baked By Melissa’s 14th store, their first ever GF location that made its debut in the Fashion District just two weeks ago. The concept had been in the works for over a year, but Ben-Ishay’s reality helped push it to fruition.
Solely dedicated to sans flour minis, the store and kitchen are certified GF facilities to ensure no worries of cross-contamination. New recipes were created for the cakes, stuffing, icing, and toppings, welcoming gluten-free dessert lovers who can finally be part of the tiny cupcake craze.
So do they stand up to their gluten-filled counterparts? Upon first glance, the sweet treats look exactly the same, and the descriptions of familiar favorites are identical. Then came the two major tests: Taste and texture.
As for the latter, I was mostly impressed by the light, fluffiness achieved here—no crumbly mess on our hands like many desserts in this category. And while the cake part certainly wasn’t an oversight, I will say size works in their favor. Since the cupcakes are only a bite’s worth, you are guaranteed to get a satisfying mouthful of each layer, giving less attention to the base itself, and more focus on the harmony of each component.
Flavors include peanut butter cup, triple chocolate crunch, chocolate marshmallow, caramel, cinnamon, red velvet, classic yellow with chocolate frosting, and of course, the one that started it all, tie dye. “I’m excited to give people the opportunity to continue to try more unique flavors, especially those who cannot eat gluten,” Ben-Ishay said.
I wondered if any of these selections were driven by a pregnancy craving, but Ben-Ishay said she’s enjoying just about everything these days. “I’m constantly being asked what my biggest pregnancy cravings are, and the answer is simple – all food. I’ve always been a food lover, and it’s only increased with my pregnancy.”
So I tried every option. Multiple times. You know, to be thorough.
The ideal ratio of signature stuffing to toppings formed a cohesive bite, packing a consistent punch of yumminess. I was particularly impressed with the spot on crispy pieces of confectionary bark over top two of the minis; something often missing from GF treats. Major standouts for me were the decadent trifectas involved in the peanut butter cup, triple chocolate crunch, caramel and cinnamon; all good enough to eat because you want to, not just because you have to. I say it’s a win.
The gluten-free shop is located next to its 526 Seventh Avenue store. The mini cupcakes sell for $1 each.