Tuesday was a MCD. A Mandatory Cake Day. Ever have one of those? A day where your mood is so low it’s a requirement to eat cake. Truly. It’s the law.
So what do you do when you need a gluten free cake? Your options are usually so limited. To be honest, I think it’s a good thing I can’t usually lay my hands on a slice of delicious spongy sweetness without true effort. When my colleagues bring in trays of synthetic smelling doughnuts I breathe a huge sigh of relief I can’t eat them. Really, how can anyone enjoy eating those rings of artificialness with their toppings in radioactive colours? That’s one mahoosive consolation for not being able to eat gluten as far as I’m concerned!
I took a walk at lunchtime to clear my head and came across the sign for the Hummingbird Bakery at the turn into the gloriously named Frying Pan Alley:
The Hummingbird Bakery store in Spitalfields is part of the new Nido student development (lucky students!):
So how did it taste? The cream cheese frosting on the cupcake made it more like a dessert than a cake. The cupcake itself was also pretty crumbly so any attempts at breaking off small chunks to eat were impossible as the pieces turned to tiny crumbs. Instead I went the dainty route, with a fork. The cake itself was so light and fluffy it was like eating a delicious cloud. Albeit a very sugary cloud. I certainly had a nice sugar rush to the head from the cream cheese frosting. Very occasionally I make gluten free cupcakes (I have a killer chocolate cupcake recipe using ground almonds) but I never put frosting on them. I guess this is probably sacrilegious in the world of cupcakes but a cupcake with frosting is just too much sugar for me. So for once it was lovely to enjoy a cupcake with such delicious frosting. Won’t change my mind on the frosting for my own cupcakes though.
After I’d eaten the “gluten free” Red Velvet cupcake, I looked on the Hummingbird Bakery website and saw the following:
“* Our Made Without range uses gluten-free ingredients, however, please note that they are baked in kitchens that also handle ingredients that contain gluten.
In the interests of our customers’ health and well-being, The Hummingbird Bakery does not certify our Made Without range as gluten-free. Customers who require further information on the ingredients used in our Made Without range should contact us.”
Interesting. When I’d gone into the store, I’d simply asked if they had gluten free cupcakes and I’d been shown the Red Velvet cupcake I bought. Looking at the photo now it does appear that there may be a disclaimer on the sign above the cupcake. I’ll be honest, I was so happy in my otherwise poor mental state to have found a gluten free cupcake that I didn’t bother reading the sign.
But also interesting on another level. These cupcakes have been made with gluten free ingredients but in a kitchen which handles gluten containing ingredients and therefore cross contamination may occur. In January 2009 the EU made a change to the food labelling laws that only items with a certified gluten limit in the final food of 2oppm or less can be labelled as gluten free. Food producers have until January 2012 to comply with the new law. Does compliance with the new law mean that we will see more labels like this? Where companies either can’t or don’t want to acquire certification for the new gluten free levels where once they would have labelled them as gluten free? You can read more about safe levels of gluten here.
Before I make a return visit, I’ve contacted the Hummingbird Bakery requesting more information on their “Made Without” labelling and cross contamination levels. I shall report back when I receive a reply from them.
Update 14th August 2011
I received the following reply back from The Hummingbird Bakery:
After receiving this reply, I went back and asked if they had any plans to have their cupcakes tested for compliance with the new Codex which will be enforced in January 2012. This is the reply:
In conclusion the choice is yours whether you take the risk or not of consuming the Hummingbird Bakery’s Made Without cupcakes.
I think we will see many more food outlets following a similar path. I guess we can all think of a cafe who produces a gluten free cake to go alongside it’s regular cakes, for example. I hope I’m wrong but I suspect what the new Codex means is that the number of “gluten free” products which can currently be found in shops and cafes all over the UK will inevitably be reduced as manufacturers large and small decide against compliance with the new gluten free Codex as it may not prove economically viable to do so.
Cost: Red Velvet cupcake was £2.95 to take away (in a super cute little box!)
Location: Hummingbird Bakery Spitalfields, 11 Frying Pan Alley, London E1 7HS
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 08.30 to 18.30. Saturday and Sunday 11am to 6pm
Hummingbird Bakery has 3 other branches in central London. Click here for locations.