Babycakes Cookbook

I just read a disturbing post at Celiac Squirrel, asking celiacs to boycott Babycakes’ much feted cookbook. Kay and I visited Babycakes in NYC and tried their chocolate cupcake, which Kay declared delicious. Now according to Celiac Squirrel, many of the Babycakes recipes use spelt flour. Spelt is a kind of wheat and therefore is poison to people with celiac disease.

I went to the Babycakes website to see if they label products with spelt as gluten-free. They don’t.¬† On a page about their ingredients, they write:

What other flours do you use?
We use spelt flour for our non-gluten free products.

Do you know there is gluten in spelt?
Spelt contains gluten, so it is NOT recommended for those following a gluten/wheat free diet. Also, an individual with a wheat related condition (i.e. celiac sprue, gluten sensitive enteropathies, etc…) should not consume spelt flour.

What is spelt and why does BabyCakes NYC use it?
Spelt is an ancient grain. People prefer it to its distant cousin, wheat, because it has 15-20% more proteins, is higher in complex carbohydrates, is rich in magnesium, is lower in overall carbohydrates, has not been genetically altered and contains enzymes that assist in glucose and insulin secretion.

Many people with delayed hypersensitivities and allergies to regular wheat feel spelt protein is much easier to digest than wheat protein. We, however, do not encourage those with wheat sensitivities to consume this grain.

What do you do to prevent cross-contamination?
We realize many people are concerned about the potential for cross-contamination between spelt and gluten free flours. We take every precaution to ensure that gluten free items are not corrupted by spelt flour. We use separate pans, sinks, spatulas, measuring cups, cleaning utensils and bowls. Ultimately, however, up to the consumer to decide her comfort level with our use of spelt.

The Babycakes cookbook is titled:

Babycakes: Vegan, Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York’s Most Talked-About Bakery

So Celiac Squirrel is correct. The title of the cookbook is misleading. If Babycakes¬† had titled it Mostly Gluten-Free it wouldn’t have been a problem. But they didn’t. Celiac Squirrel argues:

Inside the book it is explained that spelt is not gluten-free. Are we supposed to be comforted that a book that says the recipes are gluten-free then tells us that not all the recipes are gluten-free? This is just an example of people willing to lie to take advantage of the gluten-free mainstreaming trend.

Which is why I think BabyCakes needs to pay a price for selling a cookbook of gluten-free recipes that are not all gluten-free. This, quite frankly, should turn into a public relations nightmare for the company, and it should be used to underscore that a gluten-free diet is not a trend, it is the only option for people with celiac disease.

We would love to hear people’s opinions about this matter!

7 thoughts on “Babycakes Cookbook”

  1. I agree with Celiac Squirrel (and said so in her comments). The Babycakes book doesn’t even address the spelt issue until page 23 or so. And even then, it’s a circuitous explanation that argues that many people who can’t eat wheat can tolerate spelt–because the author can–and so spelt’s not that bad, even though it’s a form of wheat, etc., etc. She does say spelt isn’t gluten-free, but surrounds this statement with the other stuff about her being able to tolerate it.

    This is bad for many reasons, including the fact that those of us who are gluten intolerant have to repeatedly deal with and educate people about the fact that spelt is wheat and therefore contains gluten. So many stores out there label spelt “wheat-free”, which is untrue and also makes people think it’s gluten-free. The danger in this is the fact that I, like many others, am gluten-intolerant and wheat-allergic. Wheat can literally kill me. It’s not a lifestyle choice. So, I really hate having the general population being told by people like the Babycakes author that spelt (wheat) is OK even if you’re wheat allergic.

    Also, the title, as you’ve said, states that their recipes are “gluten-free.” So many people who defend the book say that this is OK because “many” of the recipes are gluten free. But, would it be OK if they labelled it “vegan” and then had a bunch of recipes that contained lard–but explained somewhere in the middle of the book that things that contained lard were labelled as containing lard?

    Crazy. That’s what this book makes me. I don’t understand why the author didn’t just have the courage of her convictions and be honest about the content of her book. And not try to explain away the spelt thing. This is why it seems like a “lie” to many of us–feels like the author is trying to capitalize on the gluten-free “trend,” even though she’s not gluten-free.

  2. I haven’t had the chance to see one of these books in life yet, but I can understand why people are annoyed by the misleading title. We use the diet to treat autism, and I know a lot of people beginning the gf/cf diet may make the mistake of using spelt, if they don’t read this book carefully. I personally get the old, “spelt is gluten-free” thing all the time, and it really is not. Either this book will add to the confusion, or clear it up (with all the buzz), once and for all.

  3. I agree – to label a cookbook as gluten free, when it does not have all gluten free recipes in it is deceiving and potentially dangerous to someone new to being gluten free, and might not know what spelt is. I think it is irresponsible and disappointing – not only do we have to scour ingredient labels at the grocery store, but now we have proofread recipes in “gluten free” cookbooks as well? That’s too bad.

  4. Allow me to add my few cents to your discussion. I recently reviewed this cookbook for Allergic Living magazine’s forthcoming Summer issue. I have to tell you, it is excellent, with some truly delicious recipes. (I made the vanilla cupcakes.)
    I do agree with other posters that it is unfortunate that the cover says the recipes are gluten-free instead of “mostly” gluten-free. What you might be surprised to learn is that Erin McKenna, the author and bakery owner, told me that “her one regret” about the cookbook is also about letting that expression stand on the cover.
    I counted 3/4 of the recipes as genuinely gluten-free, and it’s absolutely evident which recipes are spelt-containing. Very early on McKenna addresses the issue of g-f flours and where spelt is used. She discusses cross-contamination prevention measures – I do believe she gets it. Further, my sense is that her heart is in the right place and that she has worked her behind off to develop some truly amazing recipes suitable to those of us facing dietary restrictions.
    As someone who lives with the risk of anaphylaxis to peanut, soy, shellfish, etc., I welcome the fact that her talent as a baker is getting g-f and allergy-friendly cooking recognized in the mainstream media (e.g. on Martha’s show). People without these restrictions are noticing – hey, this stuff can taste good. Who knew? I want to encourage that in the hopes that more bakeries and restaurants may choose to accommodate those of us with serious allergies and intolerances.
    My advice is that we not rush to judge the book or the woman by the cover.

  5. I ordered this book without skimming through it first and I was really upset when I got it and saw the spelt recipes. I felt like I only got half a book, really. There’s no leeway in our house. Gluten is out. We have celiac, not intolerances or sensitivities. And, as someone who once was an editor and wrote cover copy, I think it’s unconscionable to let the very cover be so incorrect. I don’t think the author is to blame (though she certainly must have had approval over the title!) so much as the publisher. And I don’t think it makes the author evil.

    If anything, I learned not to order a book sight unseen, and certainly not to order it before reading detailed reviews.

    I really doubt I’ll ever use the book. It just makes me mad to look at it.

  6. I was disappointed that the book was advertised as gluten-free, but about 1/3 of the recipes weren’t. The gluten-free recipes that I DID make didn’t turn out at all (and I know my way around a kitchen). Many other bakers (just search the internet and book ratings) have also wasted their money on not only the book, but the expensive ingredients. Ask for a refund at the point of sale for a misleading book that falsely advertises its contents. I did and I got one!

  7. I also have an official diagnosis of Celiac Sprue, and I *love* this cookbook. She does address the spelt thing early on in the book, and it’s very clear to me which recipes I cannot make or eat.

    People with Celiac or other gluten sensitivities should be in charge of knowing for themselves what they can and can’t eat. I’ve had great success making the gingersnaps, pumpkin spice muffins and vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting from the book. They’re delicious! It’s very easy for me to get bored with food, so even though there are a few spelt recipes, the awesomeness of the rest of the book completely outweighs them. They also give me options to take to parties and such so that I know there’s a treat there I can have.

    I’m just so glad she published a cookbook, since I live quite far away from either of her two bakeries.

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