Loving the Gluten-Free Iced Lemon Cake from Truly Wize Bakery

Truly Wize Bakery Gluten-Free Iced Lemon Cake
Truly Wize Bakery Gluten-Free Iced Lemon Cake

Product: Truly Wize Bakery Gluten-Free Iced Lemon Cake – $6.95

Lemon.

Who doesn’t love lemon.  There is just something so refreshing about a dish that is flavored with lemon.  It’s crisp.  It’s delicious.  It’s my favorite flavor to use as a palate cleanser.  And…one of my favorite flavors for a dessert.  Like I said…it’s refreshing.

Remember that Cinnamon Coffee Cake I picked up at the gluten-free expo I attended in Carmel, Indiana?  Well, my roommate got to pick a cake too, and as she is as much of a lemon freak as I am, she went with the Iced Lemon Cake from Truly Wize Bakery.  So…here we were…two girls…two cakes…and a freezer.  And a time span of a couple months.  I knew they were in there…it was just a matter of getting the pantry down to managable levels before hitting up the freezer.  My biggest concern was that these cakes would suffer for having spent so much time in the freezer.

They didn’t.  Not at all.

As I mentioned previously in my blog on the Gluten-Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake, Truly Wize Bakery, a gluten-free and allergen-free bakery,  is based out of Greensburg, Pennsylvania.  Their Web site states that their mission is simple: they want to provide delicious, healthy, premium quality gluten-free and allergy-free cookies, cakes, brownies, and other confections without the use of wheat, gluten, dairy, butter, soy, peanuts, artificial colors and flavors.  They carry this out by using the finest selection of premium natural and organic ingredients from growers and suppliers who are committed to the highest environmental standards.  Everything they make is from scratch in a dedicated gluten-free facility and baked to order so that everything is also fresh.  You gotta love that.

The bakery was brought to life by the Chef/Founder Caren Weaver, who was on a mission to create healthier desserts for her children.  Her passion for baking kick-started this plan and she finally decided to really only incorporate organic and natural ingredients in her handcrafted, gluten-free products.  With the evolution of the gluten-free market, and the fact that one of her friends was a diagnosed Celiac, Caren set out to make gluten-free products that her friend could enjoy.  They had to taste great.

So…obviously if my roommate and I sampled the lemon cake…and then bought it…it actually must have tasted great.

The fact was, it had been so long since we had those samples…I couldn’t remember.

Truly Wize Bakery Gluten-Free Iced Lemon Cake
Truly Wize Bakery Gluten-Free Iced Lemon Cake

Since the cake was frozen, I set it out on the counter while I was at work that day to allow it to thaw.  I wasn’t sure what this would do to the cake.  It didn’t seem to harm the Cinnamon Coffee Cake I had a few days before…but this actually had icing on it.  So, it was a little bit different.  That night, after having leftovers for dinner, dessert was just as easy as slicing into the cake and serving it up.  The icing survived the thawing process better than anticipated, though it was nowhere near the beauty it was when I originally purchased it.  But…it’s one of those little sacrifices.  Aside from that, flavor-wise, you’d never guess this cake was frozen…ever!

Luscious lemon flavor explodes across your taste buds with this fantastic cake.  It’s that right balance too.  Sometimes lemon can take over and just overwhelm your palate.  Not in this case.  The lemon cake with the lemon icing finds that perfect citrus balance so that it doesn’t cause your eyes to water and your lips to pucker.  This cake is incredibly rich and incredibly moist.  And I loved every bite of it.  I tried not to hoover it and devour it without any thought, but took time to taste…get the full effect of the flavor and the texture.

And, nutritionally speaking, the nutrition facts attached to this cake aren’t so bad.  Not for…a cake.  The Iced Lemon Cake serves 4 people and one square of this cake will provide you with 95 calories and 5 grams of fat.  That’s not bad for a slice of cake.  I love having a dessert under 100 calories.  It tastes like it should be laden with calories and fat…but thankfully, it’s not.  This cake is rich and moist and tastes so refreshing, it’s hard to believe it’s only 95 calories per serving.  Trust me…you won’t believe it either.  But…a healthier option for a dessert is always welcome.  And while you do only get a little square of cakey goodness…it’s just enough after a meal.  A couple of bites and dessert is done.

I know that we don’t all have gluten-free expos that crop up near where we live.  I also realize that Truly Wize is based out of Pennsylvania.  But,  never fear.  The Web site is set up to take orders that will be shipped to you.  So, yes, now even you can give these fantastic products a try.  I highly recommend their fantastic cakes.  But now I’m seriously thinking about heading over to their Web site and trying out their cookies, brownies, and OMG…they have cinnamon rolls!!!  Go and browse through the goodness (with pictures) at the Truly Wize Bakery Web site and, trust me, order something.  If the two cakes I purchased are any indication of how the rest of their products are, then everything is a real treat.  A healthier version of a real treat!

I was truly surprised by the products that Truly Wize Bakery offers.  The cakes were both fantastic.  One was refreshing, the other was sinful.  And both were fantastic.  I love this lemon cake…because the lemon isn’t too much, nor is it too subtle.  It makes that last bite after a meal a truly memorable one.  And with it being gluten-free and allergen free as well…even better.

Find their products…or order online.  But trust me…this bakery is not to be missed.

A slice of Truly Wize Gluten-Free Iced Lemon Cake
A slice of Truly Wize Gluten-Free Iced Lemon Cake

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake a Truly Wize splurge

Truly Wize Bakery Gluten-Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake
Truly Wize Bakery Gluten-Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Product: Truly Wize Bakery Gluten-Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake – $12.95

Oh, great Gluten-Free Expo that I attended back in October…I returned with so many fond memories…and some great items that I either was given to sample or purchased to try.  That was a good time.  And I came across vendors, brands, and foods that I didn’t even know existed.  And that’s saying something being that I have been a member of the Celiac club for over two years now.

But, these tasting fairs and expos are great experiences and a good way to learn about other brands, other companies, local businesses, restaurants, and the like who do cater to the gluten-free community.  This particular expo was taking place up in Carmel, Indiana.  It was the Gluten-Free Living Now Expo…and unlike the last expo I attended in Indianapolis, this one was HUGE.  It filled a banquet hall from end-to-end, rows and rows of vendors, grocery stores, local bakeries, not-so-local bakeries, restaurants, etc. filled the space.  I was happily overwhelmed.

My roommate and I took our time, walking the aisles, taking samples, talking to the people at the tables.  We wanted to really soak in the experience and not feel rushed like we normally do at these events.  We even made some splurge purchases.  There are so many great deals at these expos…prices on products you can find in stores that you’ll never get anywhere else.  Like I said…we splurged a little.

One such splurge came from a bakery that was giving out samples of some of their cakes.  I love cake.  And two of these weren’t frosted.  Even better…since I don’t like frosting.  My roommate and I stepped up and spoke to the nice woman at the table.  She offered samples of either the Chocolate Decadence Cake, the Cinnamon Coffee Cake, or the Iced Lemon Cake.  Cathy immediately jumped on the sample of the lemon cake.  Me…I went with the cinnamon one, as cinnamon is one of my favorite things in the wold.

Moist.  Delicious.  OMGSOGOOD!

Splurge purchase.  We bought two of the three cakes…the two we sampled.  SOLD…with one little bite.  That’s how you know you’re doing something right.

The bakery is actually based out of Greensburg, Pennsylvania.  And it is Truly Wize Gluten-Free Bakery…which is a gluten-free and allergen-free bakery.  Their Web site states that their mission is simple: they want to provide delicious, healthy, premium quality gluten-free and allergy-free cookies, cakes, brownies, and other confections without the use of wheat, gluten, dairy, butter, soy, peanuts, artificial colors and flavors.  They carry this out by using the finest selection of premium natural and organic ingredients from growers and suppliers who are committed to the highest environmental standards.  Everything they make is from scratch in a dedicated gluten-free facility and baked to order so that everything is also fresh.  You gotta love that.

The bakery was brought to life by the Chef/Founder Caren Weaver, who was on a mission to create healthier desserts for her children.  Her passion for baking kick-started this plan and she finally decided to really only incorporate organic and natural ingredients in her handcrafted, gluten-free products.  With the evolution of the gluten-free market, and the fact that one of her friends was a diagnosed Celiac, Caren set out to make gluten-free products that her friend could enjoy.  They had to taste great.

Well, that mission was definitely a success.

Truly Wize Bakery Gluten-Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake
Truly Wize Bakery Gluten-Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Like I said…this expo took place back in October, so the cakes that we purchased have been taking up space and residence in my freezer.  But, with this past week being so crazy and I needed a break from the pre-packaged cookies I’ve been going through in my pantry of gluten-free doom…I reached into the freezer and grabbed the Truly Wize Bakery Gluten-Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake.  I put it on the counter while I was at work to allow it to thaw out.  I wasn’t sure how this would affect the cake…but I went with it.  Hoping for the best.

Returning home, I had a busy night, including a circuit workout and a dinner to make.  I’ve been very pressed for time lately as my schedule is getting kind of crazy and hectic.  But…I do get by.  With an already hectic day behind me and a super-busy evening, the fact that dessert was ready and waiting for me on my counter made my night.  Honestly.  I’m a dessert girl…it’s something I always treat myself to.  Nothing big.  Just a little palate cleanser after a meal.  I have to have it.

So, after devouring dinner…it was time to give Truly Wize Bakery’s Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake a try.  The expo where I first sampled the cake was so long ago, the flavor memory had left me.  I pulled off the top of the eco-friendly packaging and sliced into it.  I expected it to be dry from the months it sat in the freezer.  Quite the opposite.  This cake was moist and soft.  I was already elated.  I scooped out a slice for my roomie and then one for me.  We settled in for dessert…

…and…there it was.  The reason I purchased this cake in the first place.  Amazing.  Moist.  Flavorful.  Not heavy or dense.  This coffee cake is light.  Airy.  Perfection.  The reason I was blown away by it at the expo was just how fantastic it tasted.  Texture was better than any coffee cake I had ever had.  The balance of cinnamon and coffee…perfection.  The crumble on the top…pure decadent heaven.  I mean, who doesn’t like a good cinnamon-sugar crumble?!  It really just added to the already awesomeness of the cake.  This cake was moist.  If you pressed your fork to it, it would spring back without any crumbling.  Cake perfection.  Truly one of the best gluten-free cakes I have ever tasted.  That’s saying something.  You can tell that only the best ingredients go into this product because it is so damn good!

And…nutritionally speaking…they do provide a healthier option as far as baked goods go.  According to the attached nutrition info on the Cinnamon Coffee Cake, the cake serves 4 people and one square of this cake will provide you with 95 calories and 5 grams of fat.  That’s not bad for a slice of cake.  I love having a dessert under 100 calories.  Especially when it tastes like it should have at least 300 calories in it.  Not kidding, peeps.  This cake is rich and moist and tastes so sinful, it’s hard to believe it’s only 95 calories per serving.  LOVING IT!!

I know that we don’t all have gluten-free expos that crop up near where we live.  I also realize that Truly Wize is based out of Pennsylvania.  But,  never fear.  The Web site is set up to take orders that will be shipped to you.  So, yes, now even you can give these fantastic products a try.  I highly recommend their fantastic cakes.  But now I’m seriously thinking about heading over to their Web site and trying out their cookies, brownies, and OMG…they have cinnamon rolls!!!  Go and browse through the goodness (with pictures) at the Truly Wize Bakery Web site and, trust me, order something.  If the Gluten-Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake is that foodgasmic…then the rest of their stuff has to be just as good, if not more amazing.

Truly Wize Bakery definitely surprised me…wowed me…and won me over.  Proof, once again, that allergen-free and gluten-free doesn’t mean taste-free.  My local bakery proves that time and time again…and here is another bakery doing the exact same thing.

This is a trend I would love to see continue.

So, if you haven’t tried anything from Truly Wize Bakery…either visit Pennsylvania and stop in…or…trust me when I say their products, especially their cakes, are worth ordering online.  So hop over to their site and place an order.  You’ll thank me for it.  Trust me!

And…I highly recommend the Cinnamon Coffee Cake.  Seriously.  To.  Die.  For.  (In a good way!)

A slice of Truly Wize Bakery Gluten-Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake
A slice of Truly Wize Bakery Gluten-Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Katz Gluten Free strips down the common cinnamon roll with their Cinnamon Strip

Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Strip
Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Strip

Product: Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Strip – $7.24

Cake.

Cake for…breakfast.

That’s basically what I’ve been enjoying this week.  I’m not even joking.

And why should I joke about such a thing.  When my roomie ordered the Cinnamon Strip from Katz Gluten Free, she did so without my knowledge.  You see, I gave her carte blanche to place an order for Katz goodies using a Groupon or Gluten Free Saver certificate that I bought…without me knowing what would be arriving.  One of the items she chose was…the Cinnamon Strip.

I had no idea what the Cinnamon Strip was, honestly.  No joke.  When it arrived at my office and I unpacked it…it looked like a loaf of bread.  I took it home that night, put it in the freezer…and there it remained.  But, you see, summer is coming and I need room in my freezer for my ice cream maker.  So, I’m making my way through the items I’ve stored in there.  And this week…I thought something called a Cinnamon Strip might be a delicious idea for breakfast.  I mean, it’s probably a cinnamon-y loaf of some sort, right?

Well…I was kind of right.

I took the Cinnamon Strip out of the freezer the night before and placed it in the fridge to thaw.  The next morning, I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it…but assuming it was a loaf of something, I thought…maybe making it into French toast.  So, the Cinnamon Strip came out of the fridge and I heated up a skillet and cracked an egg and scrambled it up to dip it in.  And then…only then…did I retrieve a cutting board and knife and actually slice into the Cinnamon Strip.

Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Strip
Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Strip

On Katz Gluten Free Web site, the Cinnamon Strip is simply described as being a great-tasting and decadent treat with rich layers of cinnamon filling.  I didn’t read this nor look at a picture before deciding to make French toast from it.  Obviously.  Because when I sliced into the Cinnamon Strip…I was not expecting what I got.  In fact…the Cinnamon Strip is less like a cake or a loaf of bread…and more like a cinnamon roll…before you actually slice them into rolls to bake.  Since I already had the egg ready to go, I went ahead and did that day’s up as French toast…topping it off with a small amount of real maple syrup.  It was delicious…but I wanted to eat this in the actual way it was meant to be eaten.

Sliced…warmed…and just rich with cinnamon flavor.

The next day, that’s exactly what I did.  I retrieved the Cinnamon Strip from the fridge and sliced into it again.  This time, I only intended to give it a few seconds (about 20 total) of warming in the microwave.  The first slice went to my roommate.  And as I was warming mine up, she was digging in.  I asked her if she preferred this over my attempt to make it French toast.  She said that it tasted like a cinnamon roll.

Well, we all know I have a deep love and appreciation…and addiction…to cinnamon rolls.  If a gluten-free bakery is doing them…I want them.  Well, this seems to be Katz Gluten Free’s answer to the cinnamon roll.  That’s exactly what it smells like as it warms in the microwave.  If I had some icing handy, I’d have spread it over the top.  But I ran out of icing a little while ago.  I checked.  None was currently lurking in my freezer.  Trust me…I hunted.  That being said..when I settled in to taste this for myself…I couldn’t have agreed more.   Like eating a a slice of cinnamon roll.  It was sweet with a cinnamon and sugar crust on the outside, but soft on the inside, the cinnamon rolled between the dough giving that perfect sweetness to each bite…even the ones without that candied outside crust.

In other words…super yummy!

I admit…this is probably not the healthiest choice for breakfast, but, honestly, it’s like a smaller, lighter cinnamon roll.  So…how bad can that be?  I sliced up my Cinnamon Strip into 10 slices, because the servings per container said 9, and I hate odd numbers when there are two people in my apartment that eat something.   So, these are already slightly less caloric than they would be had I sliced them into 9 servings, as directed.  That being said, normally a slice of Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Strip would set you back 210 calories and 8 grams of fat.  It is rather high on sugar, containing 17 grams, but it’s no different than eating a cinnamon roll, honestly.  If you’re going sweet treat for breakfast…that sugar will be higher.  Higher than I like…but I wasn’t sure what I was slicing into.  This is probably meant to be a dessert…but for me…it’s a delicious breakfast treat this week.

Katz Gluten Free Cinnamon Strip is made from their gluten-free flour blend (a mix of potato, tapioca, white rice, brown rice, and sorghum flours), sugar, canola oil, water, eggs, confection sugar, orange juice, vanilla sugar, dry yeast, cinnamon, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt.  And what you get is this strip of cinnamon-sugary sweetness that is ideal for dessert, but perfectly works for breakfast as well.  If you are a conneasuier of cinnamon rolls like I am…then you will want to devour this.  It’s hard to keep it to just one slice when something as moist, delicious, and sweet emerges ready to eat.  Toast it, warm it…or eat it straight.  It’s delicious any way you slice it.

Katz Gluten Free just won me over with yet another product.  They are on one sweet, sweet roll!

Katz Gluten-Free Cinnamon Strip (sliced)
Katz Gluten-Free Cinnamon Strip (sliced)

BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery gives Minneapolis a delicious taste of gluten-free living

BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery, Eagan, Minnesota
BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery, Eagan, Minnesota

Restaurant: BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery, Eagan, Minnesota

There are times where I regret waiting so long to get to one of the restaurants or places of interest on my list when I visit a city.  That was certainly the case when it comes to BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery in Eagan, Minnesota.

Live and learn!

So, let me set the scene.  On Find Me Gluten-Free, Cathy discovered that the Minneapolis area was home to this gluten-free bakery.  And it got rave reviews.  This meant…I had to check it out.  So it was placed on the list with the address to get to while in town.  And…life got busy.  And before I knew it…it was Tuesday morning, the morning of the day I was leaving.  I had gone on a 6.26 mile run that morning.  Cathy had some shops she wanted to check out in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.  Oh, and I had a date with a celebratory banana split after my fantastic race on Sunday morning.  I always celebrate races with banana splits.  But it was still early and I wasn’t quite ready for ice cream.

As we were heading out toward some of the bookstores that Cathy wanted to hit up, we were driving by the Cliff Road exit.  And she remembered…we had the gluten-free bakery to stop into.  I’m glad she remembered.  I would have cried had I not made it in there.  We set the Garmin for the address she had written down and soon we were pulling into this little strip mall.  The bakery was open, and it looked like the door was getting repaired as a large piece of wood covered it.  No matter…they were open and that was what mattered.

We stepped inside and were greeted immediately.  We were asked if they could help us and we mentioned that we were from out of town, that I was a Celiac, and that the very fact that this bakery existed was enough to make me happy.  The man behind the counter said he would give us some time to look around and he’d be back in a moment.

The bake case was filled with amazing looking bread loaves, cookies, bars, and the like.  The counter top had different gluten-free mixes and even some gluten-free hamburger buns (that I am now kicking myself for not purchasing!).  We scoured the case and decided that we would buy one of the half loaves of the Gluten-Free Banana Walnut Bread, a Gluten-Free Lemon Bar (which we would split), and then we each decided we would try one of the various cookies that the bakery made.  We were rejoined by the nice gentleman behind the counter where I placed a gorgeous half loaf of the Gluten-Free Banana Walnut Bread.  I asked about getting one of the amazing looking lemon bars, and then I chose to have the Monster Cookie and Cathy chose the Lemon Zinger Cookie.  He wrapped up the cookies, and placed the lemon bar and half loaf of bread into a bag.  We talked about being from Louisville, Kentucky, and he mentioned having been at the 2011 gluten-free expo in Carmel, Indiana.  He said so much has changed over the years…and that BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery had been open for nine years now and was still going strong.  This spoke very highly to me of their quality and their products…but I had to judge that for myself.

BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery's Lemon Zinger Cookie and Monster Cookie
BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery’s Lemon Zinger Cookie and Monster Cookie

After climbing back into the car, Cathy and I decided we would make our cookies an amuse bouche.  I mean, what better lead-in to a banana split than cookies, right?  So, she grabbed her Gluten-Free Lemon Zinger Cookie ($1.48) and took a bite of it.  Immediately she was elated, saying it reminded her of the Lemon Blossoms my friend Jenn and I make, but in cookie form.  I snagged a piece and she couldn’t have been more spot on.  The Lemon Zinger cookie was refreshing and zippy.  Honestly.  I love lemon flavored stuff anyway…and this was awesome.  The Lemon Zinger is also a dairy free cookie at this bakery.  The other ingredients include white rice flour, sugar, soy shortening, tapioca flour, lemon juice, lemon zest, eggs, aluminum free baking powder, sea salt and xanthan gum.  The icing that was zigzagged over the top was a combination of powdered sugar and lemon juice.  Just really amazing.

The Gluten-Free Monster Cookie ($1.20) intrigued me immediately.  It looked like it had a little bit of everything…and all ingredients that I love.  And I couldn’t have been happier when I took my first bite.  It was sweet, savory, and just amazing and full of flavor.  A party in this cookie monster’s mouth, for sure.  This cookie really does have it all.  It’s a perfect blend of peanut butter, gluten-free oats, brown sugar, sugar, eggs, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, raisins, butter, corn syrup, and baking soda.  So, it was like getting a peanut butter-chocolate chip- oatmeal raisin- butterscotch cookie all in one.  Amazing.  Sweet…without being too sweet.  I gave Cathy a piece of mine and she thought it was mighty tasty herself.  LOVED this cookie.  I sort of want to make some for myself.  Just…yummy.  And as a runner, my love of peanut butter and that salty-sweet combo really was matched with every bite of this cookie.  YUM!

Bittersweet Gluten Free Bakery's Half Loaf of Banana Walnut Bread
Bittersweet Gluten Free Bakery’s Half Loaf of Banana Walnut Bread

The rest of the goods sat in the car all day and then made the long flight home from Minneapolis.  That following morning, being that we had no groceries in the fridge, meant that I’d simply slice up some of the half loaf of Gluten-Free Banana Walnut Bread ($4.25).  First of all…bananas…walnuts…bread.  This was going to have to be good.  When I opened up the bag that the loaf was in, I could smell the mouth-watering aroma of the banana bread…almost as if I had just pulled it out of my oven.  I sliced off two 1/2 inch slices, one for me and one for my roommate.  I threw each one into the microwave to warm it up slightly, then kept it simple with a light schmear of Smart Balance and a drizzle of honey.

A slice of BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery's Banana Walnut Bread
A slice of BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery’s Banana Walnut Bread

Bread…perfection.  Honestly.  This bread is super moist, despite being a couple of days old at this point.  We had it this morning for breakfast as well.  Still moist.  And we’re polishing off the loaf tomorrow morning for breakfast.  I just checked…it is still moist.  Soft.  Delicious.  Filled with banana flavor that is only enhanced by the addition of the walnuts.  This bread is awesome.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Gluten-free bread, when done right, tastes just like any other bread.  Regular bread.  The kind anyone could eat.  If you put this loaf down in front of someone who could eat any type of bread…and had them eat it…they wouldn’t know the difference.  I promise you that.  This is one of my favorite gluten-free breads I have ever eaten.  Just…super yummy!!  Super flavorful.  Super moist.  And super banana-y.  This bread is love.

And, last night for dinner, while it was still fresh…Cathy and I decided that we would give that lemon bar a taste at dessert.  So, after we ate our gluten-free grilled  avocado and vegan cheese sandwiches, I got out the plastic container that held the lemon bar and pulled it open.  And that…was where I realized that the flight and the car ride weren’t too kind to the lemon bar.  The icing came off with the lid.  Whoops.  No matter…I could fix that.

BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery's Lemon Bar
BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery’s Lemon Bar

The Gluten-Free Lemon Bar ($3.05) is actually a light, airy lemon cake.  I sliced it in half and placed one piece on a plate.  I then scraped the icing off the lid and began to attempt to reapply it the best I could to the lemon bar itself.  This was…a slight success.  You work with what you have.  I took the first slice out to Cathy and she immediately dove in.  Before I even had icing on mine, she was raving about it.  So, this was happy news to me.  I put my slice on a plate, reapplied the icing to the top and went out to enjoy.

Cathy was so right.  The light cakey base made this unlike the other gluten-free lemon bars that I have had in the past.  I absolutely loved this take on this treat.  The cake  itself was very light, not heavy and dense.  The icing…wow…that icing.  Just like the icing on Cathy’s Lemon Zinger cookie, the frosting was simply a combination of powdered sugar and lemon juice.  As for the light, delicious cake…that was simply eggs, sugar canola oil, white rice flour, potato starch flour, tapioca flour, lemon juice, lemon peel and xanthan gum.  I loved how different this lemon bar was compared to the others I have tried from other gluten-free bakeries.  The ingredients all worked well together well and baked up lemon perfection.  Happiness in every tart lemon bite.

I was so happy with everything that I got from BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery that it has been decided that next time I’m in the Twin Cities…I immediately head to BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery and buy items to feast on the entire visit.  This must happen.  This WILL happen.

As for you, BitterSweet Bakery…you are amazing and completely delicious.  Just the four items that my roommate and I purchased and enjoyed were enough to make me want to continue to go back for more…as often as possible…every time I’m in Minnesota.  BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery…this out-of-towner can’t wait to get back into town to visit you again.

Your food is love.  And I’m head-over-heels for you!

BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery's Lemon Bar (with reassembled icing of awesome!)
BitterSweet Gluten Free Bakery’s Lemon Bar (with reassembled icing of awesome!)

Wholesome Cravings Gluten-Free Caramel Apple Protein Snack Cake brings unwholesome taste and unwelcome texture

Wholesome Cravings Gluten-Free Caramel Apple Protein Snack Cake Mix
Wholesome Cravings Gluten-Free Caramel Apple Protein Snack Cake Mix

Product: Wholesome Cravings Gluten-Free Caramel Apple Protein Snack Cake Mix – $4.99+

Thank you, Wholesome Cravings, for teaching me an important lesson when it comes to new products.

What lesson might that be?

No matter what, always try the new product out while at home.  Do NOT think that just because it smells amazing while baking that it will taste good too.

That was my mistake I made when I baked up this Gluten-Free Caramel Apple Protein Cake from Wholesome Cravings this past weekend to use for breakfast on gym mornings this work week.  Streamline.  Make something that can be eaten throughout the week.  Perfect.  And, hello, cake…for breakfast.  Sounds like a dream come true.  And an apple cake at that.  I love apples!

I also loved how easy this cake was to make.  Simply mix together 3 eggs, 1/4 cup of zero calorie sweetener, and 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce, then add the mix to the other ingredients, make sure they are blended well, and pour into a cake pan.  Bake as directed at 330°F.

Simple.  Efficient.  And, I wasn’t lying when I said that this cake smelled fantastic as it baked.

But…scents can apparently be very deceiving.  I know this now.

Wholesome Cravings Gluten-Free Caramel Apple Protein Snack Cake
Wholesome Cravings Gluten-Free Caramel Apple Protein Snack Cake

The following morning, I sliced two pieces of this cake and packed it into a container to take to the office for my roommate and I to enjoy after working out at the gym.  We had a great workout…and when we were done, we were both famished and ready for some food.  We headed over to the office and I went into the kitchen to peel some blood oranges and throw a slice of the cake into the microwave to warm up for our cake-for-breakfast pleasure.  It still smelled amazing.

I took my roomie her slice first, and then went to warm mine up.  As I walked back toward my desk, I stopped by hers and asked what she thought of the cake.  She gave me an unenthusiastic, “Eh, it’s okay…I mean…I’ll eat it.”  That is never a good sign.  I thought perhaps she was exaggerating.  So, I went and settled in at my desk and took my first bite of the cake.

First of all, the texture is rather spongy.  Yep.  Spongy.  I really didn’t like that at all.  It really didn’t sit well on my taste buds.  I mean, food needs to have a pleasing texture, so when it feels like you are gnawing on a sponge, something is definitely wrong.  The flavor…chemically.  The apple tasted fake and the caramel flavor was rather nonexistent.  I was not impressed.  In fact, I messaged my roommate and told her that I would eat this slice because I was hungry, but when I got home, the rest of the cake was going into the garbage.  I didn’t like it at all.  I think I disliked it more than her because I didn’t even want to eat it.  The things exercise induced hunger drive you to.

Totally unimpressed.

Totally disgusted by it too.  It certainly doesn’t make me want to try any of the other cake offerings from Wholesome Cravings.

In case you like fake apple-flavored spongy cakes, though, the nutritional breakdown is this.

A serving is 1/7 of the cake.  Who cuts a cake into 7 pieces?  I made it 8.  The calories per serving once prepared (and done in 8 servings) are 118 calories per slice and only 4 grams of fat.  That’s not bad for a cake, right?  Right.  Too bad it tastes so awful.  Also of note, each slice of cake serves up a healthy dose of protein, in this case, 12 grams.  And you also get 2 grams of fiber.  This cake made of 100% whole grains, contains zero trans fats, has no preservatives or artificial sweeteners, and is 100% all natural.

But none of that can save it from the fact that it is just…bizarre, in flavor and in texture.  I was not a fan.  And I really don’t recommend anyone wasting their money on this product.  I’m more than a little upset that I did…because I feel cheated out of what should have been a delicious breakfast cake.  Perfect, with the protein content, for post workout eats.  But…instead…I got one of the more disgusting gluten-free products I have tried yet.

Disappointed?  You have no idea.

A slice of Wholesome Cravings Gluten-Free Caramel Apple Protein Snack Cake
A slice of Wholesome Cravings Gluten-Free Caramel Apple Protein Snack Cake

Heartland Gourmet bakes up perfectly light and lemony from Gluten-Free Lemon Cupcake Mix

Heartland Gourmet Gluten-Free Lemon Cupcake Mix
Heartland Gourmet Gluten-Free Lemon Cupcake Mix

Product: Heartland Gourmet Gluten-Free Lemon Cupcake Mix – $5.99+

I have a weakness for new companies and new products that I haven’t seen before.  Yes…I admit this freely.  Completely.  I have a gluten-free product problem.  I just can’t resist the urge to buy a product when I see it on a shelf at a store…that I have never, ever seen before.

Such was the case when I went into World Market a couple months back.  I was just there to look around.  Yep.  Just browse.  Which, as we have discovered, is dangerous ground for me.  Because I normally find something and…yes…purchase it.

And that’s what happened.

There was a beautiful endcap at my local World Market store that contained quite a few gluten-free products.  Most of which I had tried.  But one simple white box with a tartan border did catch my eye.  I had never seen it before.  And the company, Heartland Gourmet, was one I never heard of before.  But…even better…this particular box was for a Gluten-Free Lemon Cupcake Mix.  Mmmm…lemon cake.  One of life’s best pleasures is that sweet/tart flavor of lemon baked goods.  Hence my obsession with lemon bars, lemon icing, lemonade (LOL!).  If it’s lemony…I’m going to try it.

Needless to say…I go a little overboard with baking mixes at times…so this, like a lot of things, sat untouched in my pantry.  Until I noted on my ever-helpful pantry list that the expiration date was fast approaching.  As I had just polished off my gluten-free brownies last night, I took the opportunity to grab this mix and bake up another sweet treat for this coming week and weekend.  And with something lemon…how could it go wrong?

One of the most appealing parts of this mix is how little you truly have to do to it.  All I had to do was mix the cupcake mix together with 1/2 cup of oil and 1/3 cup of water.  Then, after that is blended on low, in goes three eggs.  Mix again until all is well blended, this time on medium, and then put into cupcake pan.  Now, the box says this makes 12 cupcakes, but I could have easily gotten 15-18 out of this.  Instead, my cupcakes were going to be huge. but…you know…you only live once.  I filled my wrappers as full as I dared, then ended up pulling out another pan and putting the rest into one more cupcake wrapper and baking the ‘test cupcake’ that the roomie and I would share.

Heartland Gourmet Gluten-Free Lemon Cupcakes fresh from the oven
Heartland Gourmet Gluten-Free Lemon Cupcakes fresh from the oven

Into the oven they went for 15 minutes at 350°F.  Or…that was the plan.  Lo and behold, upon purchasing a thermometer for my oven, I discovered that it won’t stay at a constant temperature.  In fact…it can be off by as much as 15-20 degrees at times.  And that explains why so many of my baked goods have had to cook for so much longer than the boxes have indicated.  Good to know.  I actually called my landlord this morning to see about having this fixed.  Here’s hoping it happens.  So, after a total time of 25 minutes (not the mix’s fault…totally my oven’s fault), I pulled out the cupcakes to give them a little time to cool.

The box actually does come with a recipe for a cream cheese icing…but I’m not big on icing or frosting, so I made a citrus glaze, utilizing powdered sugar, orange zest, orange juice, lemon juice, a little oil, and some water.  Then, before my cupcakes could completely cool, I drizzled each cupcake with the glaze and allowed it to sit.  Well…except for the test cupcake.  That was unwrapped and drizzled with glaze almost immediately.  Then, sliced in half and my roommate and I decided to see if this mix was worth it in the end.

Read my words, fellow blog followers…THIS. IS. DELICIOUS.

The lemon in the cupcakes is there…but it doesn’t overwhelm the flavor of the cake.  It doesn’t take a backseat either.  What Heartland Gourmet managed to do was create the ideal balance between the cake-ness and the lemony aspect of this mix…so when it bakes up…it has the perfect level of each.  Nothing overwhelms the other.

And here’s another amazing thing…this cupcake isn’t heavy or dense or any of that gluten-free nonsense.  Not only was this one of the lightest cakes I have ever had emerge from my oven, it had those little air pockets that regular cupcakes have when they are cooked to an airy, light perfection.  I loved that about these cupcakes because after eating a meal, I want a light dessert, not something that I feel I am gorging on.  And this definitely takes…the cake.  (Forgive me!)

Nutritionally speaking, this mix has it going on.  For one thing, the mix itself, when done into 12 large cupcakes, is only 170 calories.  That’s awesome for a treat.  I also love that this product is fat free and packs a 2 gram protein kick.  And this mix also is low on sodium.  Remember…this is a cupcake, so while sugars seem high…it’s a treat and should be recognized as one.

As for the company itself, Heartland Gourmet is actually a family operated business is dedicated to putting healthy, wholesome, delicious gluten-free, gourmet and organic baking mixes and kits into the market so that they are simple to put together and easy to bake, giving you more time with your family.  You gotta love that sort of commitment and dedication.  And I always enjoy helping out a family owned business.  They just seem to put more attention and better things into their ingredients and products.

So, a kick of lemon, glazed with a sweet and tart glaze on a light and fluffy cupcake…yeah…this is heaven.  Heaven in lemon cupcake form.  And I have Heartland Gourmet to thank for it.

Gluten-Free Lemon Cupcake with an Orange Citrus Glaze (made from Heartland Gourmet Gluten-Free Lemon Cupcake Mix)
Gluten-Free Lemon Cupcake with an Orange Citrus Glaze (made from Heartland Gourmet Gluten-Free Lemon Cupcake Mix)

Recipe: Easy Gluten-Free Cranberry Apple Cake

Leave it to my CSA bin to throw me the Thanksgiving curve ball.  Seriously.  Everything in my bin this past week (which delivered the day before Thanksgiving) fit, somehow, into a Thanksgiving meal.  I had carrots, potatoes, yams, celery, apples, onions, green beans, fresh herbs, local lettuce…you get the picture.  The one item, however, that I was most unfamiliar with…was the fresh cranberries I received.

Cranberries?!

My initial thought was to go ahead and make my own cranberry sauce to take to Thanksgiving with my roommate’s family.  I could do something with the potatoes and yams as well.  However…potatoes had been planned a long time ago, yams are always canned (*gag*) and the cranberry sauce is always out of a can as well (YUCK!).  Needless to say…I had a lot of Thanksgiving items and very little Thanksgiving to contribute.  I was in charge of the vegetable, and made up a fantastic green bean recipe that I posted last week.  So…lots to play around with at home.

Now…cranberries…cranberries…hmmm…

I called in the big guns…and did a Google search for some recipes that would involve cranberries…be vegetarian…and not be too complicated.  I had it down to two options…but my roommate made the choice in the end.

The winning recipe comes from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa herself, and I only tweaked it slightly to make it gluten-free.  Aside from that…the recipe stands.

Recipe: Easy Gluten-Free Cranberry Apple Cake

Easy Gluten-Free Cranberry Apple Cake
Easy Gluten-Free Cranberry Apple Cake

Servings: 6-8
Time: Prep 20 minutes; Bake 60 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over for stems
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1-1/8 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled (I used Smart Balance)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (I used Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (I used Arrowhead Mills Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the cranberries, apple, brown sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed for 2 minutes.  With the mixer on medium, add 1 cup of the granulated sugar, the butter, vanilla, and sour cream and beat just until combined.  On low speed, slowly add the flour and salt.

Pour the fruit mixture evenly into a 10-inch glass pie plate.

Pour the batter over the fruit, covering it completely.

Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle it over the batter.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and the fruit is bubbling around the edges.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

A slice of the Gluten-Free Cranberry and Apple Cake
A slice of the Gluten-Free Cranberry and Apple Cake

~*~*~

So…how was the end result?  I couldn’t be happier with it.  Cranberries and apples are a perfect pairing, and when you hit it with the acidity of the orange, you really get a great balance of flavors.  But the absolute star of this dessert is the crust…that cake-y bit on top.  It’s sweet, soft in the middle, but golden and crusty on the outside.  The cinnamon and sugar on top just makes it pop.

It’s really a combination of a pie, a cake, and a crumble…but, wow…is it ever good.

If I am ever handed cranberries in my CSA bin again, I now have a fantastic, delicious, and worthy recipe to turn to.

And my “I don’t really like cranberries” roommate fell in love with this at first bite.  So…even if you are unsure about the cranberries, I encourage you to try it.  Honestly…it all comes together brilliantly in the end.

Another recipe adaption gluten-free baking success!

The Gluten-Free Oven bakes up best treat ever with Vanilla Creme Filled Fingers (Twinkies)

The Gluten-Free Oven Vanilla Creme Filled Fingers
The Gluten-Free Oven Vanilla Creme Filled Fingers

Product: The Gluten-Free Oven Vanilla Creme Filled Fingers – $2.50

It was love at first sight when I spotted these little delicious creme-filled cake treats at the Gluten-Free Living Now Expo in Carmel, Indiana.  This is no joke.  And, with the recent news of the Hostess shut-down…these little treats that have been sitting in my freezer meant the world to me.  Just as much as they did back on the day I bought them at the expo.

The Gluten-Free Oven was one of the vendors that were attending the Gluten-Free Living Now Expo in Indiana.  I had never heard of them, but one product on their table caught my eye.  One product that I had not seen anywhere before and I had been…wanting, desiring, needing (to make Minion (from Despicable Me) cupcakes, of course).  Twinkies.  Okay…not real Twinkies…but a version of them.  A fabulous gluten-free version of them.  While I was never big on Twinkies when I was growing up and could eat these things…for some reason (must be those cupcakes)…I just had to have these.  I needed them.  I wasn’t leaving the expo without them.

So…I purchased one little package of the Vanilla Creme Filled Fingers from the vendor and went on my merry way.  Upon arriving home after the expo that day, they went into my freezer (along with a bunch of other goodies I purchased) for safe keeping.

Then…Hostess went belly-up.  And the real Twinkie was now going away.  There were mad-dashes to the stores to buy up favorite Hostess products.  My roomie (who can have gluten in her diet) got caught up in the madness and ended up purchasing one little packet of Twinkies for herself.  She was going to indulge that day…but decided that she’d save them for Thanksgiving evening…and we’d celebrate getting through the festivities, putting up and decorating the tree, and planning Black Friday Shopping Insanity by breaking out our Twinkies and Gluten-Free Vanilla Creme Fingers and having a sweet treat.

That was the plan.  And although we were ready for the treat upon arriving home from the meal (where I had the green beans I brought, some spiced fruit I brought, and a little potato that my friend Amanda pulled aside before she added butter and whole milk to them for mashing), we decided to wait.  We had to.  I forgot to pull my Vanilla Creme Filled Fingers out of the freezer before leaving.  I was a bit hurried as normal, having run a 5 mile race, showered, and prepared my dishes I was supplying for the meal…and getting to the location in enough time to help out if needed…or at least just socialize before food comas set in.  So…the treat had to wait.  No matter…my roommate and I had a Christmas tree to put up and decorate.  I placed the Gluten-Free Oven Vanilla Creme Filled Fingers on the counter top to thaw, then went to help deck the halls to the sound of Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

The tree was up in record time this year and the lights and garland didn’t give us as much as a fight.  We grabbed our ornaments and just starting hanging the bits and bobs from the branches.  Soon…it was up.  I checked on my Gluten-Free Vanilla Creme Filled Fingers…and they were at room temperature now and ready to eat.  YAY!

The Gluten-Free Oven Vanilla Creme Filled Finger
The Gluten-Free Oven Vanilla Creme Filled Finger

So…time to indulge.  Cathy grabbed her packet of Hostess Twinkies and I eased into my Gluten-Free Oven packet.  We both snatched out one cake-y treat to begin with…figuring we’d save the other one for later in the weekend.  I had to take pictures of mine…and sliced mine in half to get a look at the creme (which matched the cake middle so it is hard to see).  After the photos for the blog were taken, I snatched up one of the halves and took a long, lingering bite, savoring the taste, texture and moment.

The Gluten-Free Oven hit these out of the park.  I can say that for certain because I gave a little piece to my roommate to do a side-by-side comparison and she said she couldn’t even tell the difference.  The Gluten-Free Oven Vanilla Creme Filled Fingers were a little heavier, she said, but aside from that, they tasted exactly the same.

I count that as a win.

Here’s what else I can say.  The Gluten-Free Oven Vanilla Creme Filled Fingers are just like the Twinkies I sort of remember back when I could eat such things.  The cake on the outside was moist and spongy.  The creme in the middle was soft and creamy and just…sweet.  It was the perfect compliment when put together.  Hostess knew what they were doing when they invented the Twinkie.  Well…The Gluten-Free Oven just brought them to the gluten-free community.  And, with any luck, The Gluten-Free Oven won’t go the way of Hostess and will continue to provide these to the gluten-free community for a long time.

I fell in love with these.  And…for the record…the other Vanilla Creme Filled Finger (and the other Twinkie for my roommate) got eaten immediately afterwards.  No saving them for another day.  They were G-O-N-E.  Yep.  They really are that amazing.  I wish I had bought more than the one pack of them.  Honestly.  I’m considering ordering them online.  Yes…they DO ship.

The Gluten-Free Oven is based out of Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania…so it would be a bit of a haul to go and actually pick something up.  The best I can hope for, currently, is that I see them at another gluten-free expo soon, or just suck it up and order their products online.  Honestly, I would order a case of those Gluten-Free Vanilla Creme Filled Fingers.  It’s best if I don’t…but I would.  And should I ever decide to give those Minion cupcakes a gluten-free whirl…I just might be contacting them to send me a case.

If you don’t remember Twinkies…never had a Twinkie…or miss Twinkies due to your gluten intolerance or Celiac disease…then I encourage you to look up The Gluten-Free Oven because they can make your dreams come true…with a little pack of two of the best packaged treats I have eaten in a long time.

Happiness really can be baked…in a Gluten-Free Oven.

The Gluten-Free Oven Vanilla Creme Filled Finger (halved)
The Gluten-Free Oven Vanilla Creme Filled Finger (halved)

Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix a dream to bake

Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten-Free Dreams Yellow Cake Mix
Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten-Free Dreams Yellow Cake Mix

Product: Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten-Free Dreams Yellow Cake Mix – $5.99+

Thanks to a Manager’s Special at my local grocery store, I was able to pick up a couple of gluten-free cake/brownie/pancake  mixes on super-duper sale (aka: a price I could afford!) from Cherrybrook Kitchen.  I have used a few of their mixes before and have always enjoyed the results.  So being able to give their Gluten-Free Dreams Yellow Cake Mix a try was a dream come true.  I was already excited about the prospect of the type of cake this mix could yield.

Well, as it was a yellow cake mix…and I had every other necessary ingredient in the pantry and fridge…I gave an option to my roommate.  I could bake it up as-is…and we could top it off with melted chocolate or something.  OR I could possibly be persuaded to bake up her absolute favorite cake I have ever made for her…a gluten-free lemon chiffon cake, which, yes, uses a box of yellow cake mix.

Given the option, she chose to go with her favorite cake (I had pretty much expected that!), so this beautiful box of yellow cake mix was about to become a lemony work of food porn…er…art.

The only snag being that the recipe I have for this cake calls for 15 ounces of cake mix…and the Cherrybrook Kitchen boxes have 16.4 ounces.  No big deal for me, however, as I have a fantastic kitchen scale and I simply got out a bowl, zeroed out the weight, and poured until I hit 15 ounces.  I rolled up the remainder of the mix to make into a cake mug one day soon.

Following the instructions for my recipe, not on the box, to bake up this cake, I set to it, adding the necessary ingredients (orange juice, eggs, lemon zest, etc) to the batter and whipping it all up in my Kitchen-Aid mixer.  I poured it into cake pans that had been dusted with gluten-free all-purpose flour, and then tucked the pans into a warm oven to bake.

Lemon chiffon layers made from Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten-Free Dreams Yellow Cake Mix
Lemon chiffon cake layers made from Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten-Free Dreams Yellow Cake Mix

The last time I baked this cake, I used the Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix…and it was fantastic.  It cooked up to perfection the first time.  With Cherrybrook Kitchen, I had to let the cake pans remain in the oven longer than the recipe called for in order to get them to that light golden brown on top and where the top would spring back when I pressed carefully on it.  No problem with that though.  As long as it cooked through.  The pans were removed from the oven and left to cool.  The recipe says for 5 minutes, but the last time I attempted to make a layer cake, I turned out the cake and it crumbled…so I let it go a little longer before telling myself that, eventually, the cakes had to come out of the pans.  Mustering up whatever conviction I needed, I finally hauled myself into the kitchen, ran a knife around the edges, and turned the cake layers out of the pans.

SUCCESS!!  No cake crumbling this time.  Each layer popped out perfectly and beautifully.  Nothing stuck to the pan.  Nothing was left behind.  Just two perfect cake layers which would now remain on wire racks to cool the rest of the way while I prepared the lemon curd (gluten-free variety) and the icing for the cake.

With that task done, I now set out to do the fun part…assemble the cake.  One layer went down and then got coated with a warm layer of lemon curd.  Then, the other layer was placed on top of it.  I iced it with the prepared whipped lemon icing and called it done.  It was late…too late for cake…so it would have to wait until after dinner the following night to be sampled.

Yesterday was the grand unveiling.  I actually sliced into it that morning to take a slice to my teammate at the office.  She loves to try the gluten-free foods that I make, because she’s a baker and interested in dealing with people with food allergies, and wants to see what can be done with gluten-free foods so that they don’t taste gluten-free.  She loved this cake.  Loved it.  And that made me really happy and proud to have made it and shared it.

But after dinner that night…it was my turn.  I sliced two more slices from the cake (which I am getting 12 slices out of)…one for myself and one for the roommate.  As I mentioned before, this is the roomie’s favorite cake now…so…as I went back to plate my piece, I returned to find hers already half gone.  She said she was trying really hard not to just devour it…and she was definitely succeeding.

So, how does the version of the cake made with Cherrybrook Kitchen’s Gluten Free Dreams Yellow Cake Mix compare to that of the one I had made previously with Betty Crocker’s Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix?  It stands up quite well to its predecessor.  Honestly.  I asked my roomie her opinion, as this is her most favorite cake EVER and she said she felt the Cherrybrook Kitchen cake mix was a bit dryer than Betty Crocker’s…but it was still good.  She might be right.  While this cake wasn’t dry at all, I do believe that Betty Crocker had the edge on moistness when prepared in this manner.  However, this is not a knock to Cherrybrook Kitchen.  I can say this because the three of us who have eaten slices of this cake have all agreed that it is delicious.  The cake wasn’t fall-apart dry.  It was still moist and packed with amazing citrus flavor.  It worked perfectly in this recipe…even with me having to measure out a certain weight of mix to make it in the first place.

Cherrybrook Kitchen makes fantastic gluten-free products.  I have yet to find one that I don’t like.  While this was prepared in a nontraditional manner, the Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix is a definite addition to the pantry in the future.  I loved the taste and the texture.  I found it to be a great mix to use for this recipe.  Very impressed with the finished product and totally taking slices of it to Columbus with me on Friday to share with my friend Jenn!

Cherrybrook Kitchen is a great place to turn for gluten-free/wheat-free mixes in a pinch.  They are a bit pricey, but most gluten-free mixes on the market are.  If you find a good sale…stock up.  That’s my best advice.  The variety of mixes that I have been able to try have been awesome and I look forward to trying the rest of their products in their lineup very soon.

Yeah…color me impressed.

Lemon Lover's Chiffon Cake made with Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten-Free Dreams Yellow Cake Mix
Lemon Lover’s Chiffon Cake made with Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten-Free Dreams Yellow Cake Mix

Piazza Sorrento a slice of gluten-free Italian heaven in Hershey, Pennsylvania

Piazza Sorrento, Hershey, Pennsylvania
Piazza Sorrento, Hershey, Pennsylvania

Restaurant: Piazza Sorrento, Hershey, Pennsylvania

Traveling is one of the hardest things for me to do and find a place that I can trust to serve me food that won’t make me sick.  Honestly.  It can be quite nerve-wracking.  Put on top of that the added pressure of having a half marathon the next day and the last thing you want to do is eat something that might send your GI track into an unhappy rage.

Well, that was the situation this past weekend.  I was heading to Hershey, Pennsylvania to run in the Hershey Half Marathon on Sunday morning.  My journey began by going to my friend Jenn’s in Ohio, and then she, my roommmate, and I all headed up to Pennsylvania the following morning.  Now, Jenn loves me lots and has a gluten-free pantry shelf of stuff we can eat when I am in town.  Good friends are awesome!  But, here we are on the road!  However, because she loves me, she got on Find Me Gluten Free and found a little Italian place in Hershey, Pennsylvania with what looked like an extensive gluten-free menu.

As I have found that my best races so far have been after I have eaten gluten-free pizza, finding a gluten-free Italian place that has not only gluten-free pizza, but pasta, starters, subs, salads, entrees, and yes…desserts…right where I was going to be running a long, big race was probably one of the happiest finds ever.  To top it off, a friend of mine didn’t live far from the resort where we were staying, and she just happened to know the owners of this amazing restaurant.  So…we all had plans to meet up and go and enjoy a fantastic, safe (for me), Italian meal.

Let me tell you…with my lunch-on-the-go consisting of Chobani yogurt and a KIND bar, I was ready for some real food.

The place that we selected to eat was Piazza Sorrento, located on Briarcrest Square in Hershey.  From what we had discovered online, this was a independently run local restaurant, where the owners and staff dedicate themselves to providing the Hershey area with the finest service, food, and wine at a fair and competative price.  While striving to keep the history of the dish and region that it stems from intact, they provide regional and classic Italian cuisine using only premium ingredients.  Part of that process is by sourcing local ingredients from the local commerce of the Hershey area.  I loved that.

What I also loved was the extensive gluten-free menu that came up on their Web site.

After arriving in Hershey and heading over to Hershey Park to pick up my race packet and walk around the little expo that was attached, Jenn, Cathy and myself headed over to Hershey World to see what was going on, what prices were for things we were interested in doing, and to do some preliminary shopping in the gift shop.  That took a little bit of time, so when we finished up, we hopped back into the car, checked into our resort, and just sort of relaxed while waiting on Kathy (yes…another one, different spelling) to arrive so she could direct us to the restaurant the four of us would be dining in.  She arrived early…and we were okay with that because we were hungry!  Heading out, we met up in the garage of the resort, and she offered to drive to show us the sights of the area.  A sort of grand tour if you will.  But first…food.

We arrived just a little before 5 p.m. at Piazza Sorrento and headed inside.  We were greeted by a very friendly hostess who asked if we wanted to dine in the restaurant or the pizza shop.  We weren’t aware there was a difference, but we decided on the restaurant in the end.  It took only a moment for them to ready a booth for the four of us, and we asked for one gluten-free menu for me.  She happily complied, and went and took us to our seat, letting us know that our server, Lydia, would be with us shortly.

Lydia did arrive rather promptly to the table to see what we would like to have to drink.  As I was running, I was all about the water.  And it seemed everyone else at the table felt that way too.  So, water it was.  She came back and went over the specials on the menu, noting that since I had a gluten-free menu, to mention what specials were gluten-free…and this included soups.  I loved how knowledgeable she was.  It really put me at ease.  And the fact that I didn’t have to give my, “I’m a Celiac…” speech was a nice change of pace.  She went to ready the bread basket and asked me if I would like a gluten-free roll.  I was so shocked that it took me a moment to answer.  But I answered correctly.  “Yes, please.”

Piazza Sorrento's Gluten-Free Roll
Piazza Sorrento’s Gluten-Free Roll

She returned with the bread basket and two plates of herbs for dipping.  The one she set down in front of me was the gluten-free one.  All we had to do was add the oil.  My roll wasn’t out yet, but my dinner guests waited until it was delivered to the table before they dug into the regular bread basked.

This roll looked fantastic.  The plate that it was sitting on came with a tag, marking it as one of Piazza Sorrento’s Gluten-Free Options.  I love that they have a labeling system.  With oil poured onto my herbs, I reached down and tore a hunk of my gluten-free roll off.  A little steam rose from it and it smelled amazing.  Fresh.  Delicious.  I took my first bite without the oil and herbs.  I wanted to savor the roll and enjoy it on its own first.  Really just draw my opinion from the bare bread itself.  It was…fantastic.  Very light.  Very soft.  Warm.  Fresh.  I wanted to devour it and ask for another one.  But, I behaved.

And soon, Lydia was at our table preparing to take our orders.  Cathy wanted to get one of their House Specialties, so she asked Lydia if she had to recommend one item on the menu…what would it be.  Lydia said she couldn’t limit it to one, but she could tell her some of her favorites and house favorites.  Which she proceeded to do and then, left Cathy to ponder for the time it took the rest of us to order our meal.

Jenn went with the small order of Crab and Tortellini ($16.00).  Kathy opted for the Chicken Piccata ($18.00).  Cathy finally decided on the Pappardelle Bolognese ($17.00).  As for me…I needed pizza to fuel my run.  So after going back and forth between a couple of the vegetarian, gluten-free options (because…yes…there were lots of options), I settled on the Gluten-Free Old World Pizza ($9.00).  Lydia went to put our orders in and we had plenty of time to talk about Hershey, the park, the race, and just get caught up on what was going on with whom and why and it was the perfect little get together.  Great setting too.

Piazza Sorrento's Gluten-Free Old World Pizza
Piazza Sorrento’s Gluten-Free Old World Pizza

When food arrived at the table it looked absolutely delicious.  My pizza was once again marked with one of the slips of paper declaring it to be a Piazza Sorrento Gluten-Free Choice.  Food labeling makes me feel at ease.  This was the smallest little touch…and yet, it meant the world to me.  With our food in front of us, we all just dove right in.  Sort of.  I had to take pictures and both my phone and my camera were acting up.  But…I got it sorted and photographed and then wasted no further time before lifting my first slice of pizza and taking a bite.

The Gluten-Free Old World Pizza from Piazza Sorrento is the classic Old World Style pizza.  It is the crust, with a layer of provolone cheese, then topped with tomato sauce and finished off with a sprinkling of Romano cheese and some oregano.  I had never tried an Old World-style pizza before and this was one of the House Specialties on the menu…so I figured why not try something I haven’t been able to get anywhere else.  I’m glad I did.

The crust on the pizza was a thin crust pizza, probably of a rice flour base.  It cooked up crispy…with a little softness to it.  So…just right for me.  I love a thin crust pizza anyway…always have.  Gluten-free pizza crusts are usually quite thin, so this transition has been easy for me.  The hard part is finding one that is really fantastic on its own.  Piazza Sorrento has a really delicious one.  The Gluten-Free Pizzas only come in the 10 inch size, which is pretty normal of any establishment that serves gluten-free pizza.  I knew there would be leftovers…meaning my friends and I would have pizza for dinner the following evening…as our resort suite had a fridge and a microwave.  SCORE!  But I am digressing…

Let’s return to the star of the table at the moment…the food.  My friends all really enjoyed their meals.  And I happily downed two slices of my Gluten-Free Old World Pizza.  The provolone cheese on the bottom was melted to perfection.  The sauce over it was packed with flavor.  Not bitter at all.  The tomato flavor really shined.  And the light dusting of Romano and oregano really just topped it off.  I probably could have eaten more, but I didn’t want to stuff myself to the max in case…there was room for dessert.

And with us…there normally is.  Especially when there are gluten-free options available.

Lydia brought out the dessert tray and went over the what each item was and explained which ones were available as gluten-free.  Both Jenn and Kathy opted for the tiramisu (one of the gluten-free options) ($7.00).  Cathy went with her favorite Italian dessert…cannoli ($3.50).  As for me…I went with the Gluten-Free Ricotta Cake ($8.00).  It just looked…really yummy.

The Ricotta Cake is basically a very light sponge cake that was drizzled with white vermouth and topped off with Ricotta cheese and fresh fruit.  It is one of the favorites among customers…and now I know why.  When dessert arrived…I couldn’t wait to dig in.  I picked up my fork and slid it easily through the cake.  It was like a hot knife going through butter.  So creamy.  So soft.  So moist.  I was already anticipating my first bite.  And when I took it…I think I melted.  Seriously.  This had to be the best cake I had ever bitten into.  I had to share a bite with my friends.  I honestly did.  Because it was that amazing.  Had Piazza Sorrento been open on Sunday, I probably would have stopped in just for cake.  In fact, my friend Jenn had mentioned doing just that because even she fell in love with it at the one bite she had.  We both said that it tasted like cannoli in cake form.  Honestly…super good.  Just melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

After dining there, I tried to e-mail the restaurant to see about getting the recipe…but the e-mail kept bouncing back to me.  I finally settled on messaging them on Facebook…but have yet to receive a response.

There is nothing bad I can say about Piazza Sorrento.  Honestly it has been one of the best dining experiences I have had, coupled with one of the best meals I have ever eaten.  I didn’t need to worry about if the food was going to react poorly with me, especially before such a big race day.  I felt confident in the competence of Lydia and the rest of the staff there.  And the food was great…and I didn’t get sick at all.

Whoever said that gluten-free was boring and lacked variety and choices hasn’t been through Hershey, Pennsylvania and tried out Piazza Sorrento.  I encourage you, whole-heartedly, that if you happen to be in the land of chocolate…or within driving distance, to check out Piazza Sorrento and see for yourself.  The gluten-free menu will blow you away, the service and safety the staff take will astound you.  But it will be the taste of the food that will make you wish that you had this place in your own hometown.  I envy the people who live here…because this has joined the ranks of one of my favorite places to eat.  But when you live in Indiana…it means returning won’t happen too often.

Oh…I also encourage you, should you go to eat at Piazza Sorrento, to try the delicious Gluten-Free Ricotta Cake.  It’s worth saving room for…or finding room for.  Trust me.

Piazza Sorrento's Gluten-Free Ricotta Cake
Piazza Sorrento’s Gluten-Free Ricotta Cake