Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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

Cookbook with pumpkin spice muffins (they are just ok after much recipe tweaking)

Babycakes Vegan, Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar -free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery by Erin McKenna is a really long title that definitely had room to include that it is mostly gluten free not completely gluten-free. Mostly gluten free is a bit more important to mention than mostly sugar free. I could overlook that but there are few other things wrong with this cookbook that you should know before you decide whether or not to get it.

Erin Mckenna, the author and owner of Babycakes Bakery in NYC, was on the Martha Stewart Show making cookies from her new cookbook. Martha went on and on how good they were. Well, my mom, my sister and I immediately ordered the book. Unfortunately there are many problems with the cookbook.

  1. It is not completely gluten-free as the title states. The whole chapter on biscuits and scones and some other recipes are not gluten-free (those recipes use spelt flour).

  2. I, my sister and many other people (see Babycakes blog and Amazon reviews) seem to be having similar problems. Muffins and breads collapsing, cooking times way off, cookies coming out as flat disks, etc.

  3. Ingredients and directions are not clear in the book. She lists coconut oil in the recipes but then on her blog she says you should use unscented and melted coconut oil (unscented is more difficult to find and that should be stated in the recipe as well as whether to melt it or not).

  4. She has a couple of posts on her blog to deal with all questions and problems people are having with her recipes. But her responses all seem to assume the homecook has made mistakes or not followed her recipe exactly. She also states "Remember, baker buddies, this isn't easy stuff! " Vegan and gluten free bakers are used to tweaking recipes and having cooking disasters. But when one uses a cookbook and follows the recipe exactly, it should come out well (maybe in the future you tweak spices and such but overall the recipe should work).

So I think that she did not have recipe testers for this which is a shame because the book is beautiful and it would have been great to have a go to cookbook for vegan and gluten-free baked goods. The shortcake bread came out well as well as one batch of the cookies. Buy this if you are ok with it providing guidelines for you for vegan and gluten free baking but not consistently good recipes. Be ready to spend a lot for ingredients ( a jar of coconut oil might be enough for two recipes) and to have a many inedible disasters before getting something good.


  1. I bought this book and haven't tried any recipes yet since I've seen so many mixed reviews. I agree that the title should have been *mostly gluten free* and not *mostly sugar free.* And I looked and looked in the section on ingredients for info on the coconut oil. I assumed it should be melted but the recipe never stated such. After reading through most of the recipes, it will definitely be just a guide book for me. Thanks for a good review.

  2. I completely agree with all the negative comments on the internet, and I'm sorry I bothered getting excited about the book coming out in the first place. I'm also really sorry I spent the money on the book and the wasted super-spendy ingredients. Check out the babycakes website for affirmation of all your complaints. So many bakers have had the exact same issues! The bake times are waaaay off, even if a commercial convection oven was used. The cookie dough sat in a puddle of oil and baked into pancakes. Gross. The banana bread was a salty, gooey, expensive$$$ mess. I am a baker by profession and a gluten-free vegan, so I know how to use the apparently tricky ingredients in the recipes. The saddest part is that the book tour CONTINUES so many others will be disappointed that the book isn't all gluten-free and that it well...*sucks*. If enough people email the publisher, maybe we can get a refund, or at least suspend distribution until the kinks are worked out of the recipes and we can actually bake those gorgeous cupcakes on the cover!

  3. I am hesistant to make any more recipes because it is so expensive. I can't afford many more disasters. Glad Anonymous mentioned the banana bread becuase I thought about trying that one. I agree that we should contact the publisher because they really do need to work out the kinks. It isn't really a cookbook if the recipes don't work!

  4. I have to agree with the two commenters above. I got really excited about this book, bought the (some very expensive) ingredients and followed the recipes exactly only to be disappointed. And yeah, a lot of the recipes aren't gluten free either! It's a pretty book to look at, but I'm afraid in my house, that's as far as it goes.

  5. I know it has been a while, but I just have to post my agreement. I have tried numerous recipes from this book hoping that I had just goofed up in my previous attempts-- I was good about measuring, following recipes to the letter etc-- however, I always get somewhat disappointing results. You definitely have to be careful about the brand of coconut oil you use in these recipes-- since there is so much, any type of scent or bitterness can really wreck the result making it unpalatable.

    My recent try was the chocolate cupcakes-- the cake was moist and reasonably good. I tried the vanilla frosting-- which was more like a taupe glaze-- it tasted ok but I do not think I will be doing shots of it any time soon :-) While they did not taste horrible-- I do not think I recreated the cupcakes that their bakery has won awards for!! I agree with the above comment-- it is a beautiful cookbook to look at -- but I do not think I will be attempting anymore recipes-- my cupcake and frosting experiment set me back about $89.

    Overall I am glad that cookbooks like this are being made-- I am sure they will only get better. I have had much luck with minimal effort using the cookbook "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero-- this book also contains 1-2 gluten free recipes.