REVIEW: Babycakes Covers the Classics

By Erin McKenna

Cookbook review courtesy of contributing writer
Andrea Savard

Babycakes Covers the Classics is available for purchase through our online store or at your local bookstore

Erin McKenna’s cookbook Babycakes Covers the Classics (published by Clarkson Potter, $25.00 USD) is filled with delightful gluten-free and vegan alternatives to everyday favourite treats, including an entire chapter that focuses on doughnuts.

This book has been thoughtfully crafted with lovely photographs and beautiful descriptions, aptly showcasing the love that the author has for her bakeries (locations include New York, Los Angeles and Orlando). Erin has included a friendly and personal introduction to the book, pages of good tips that include rules for substitutions, informative ingredient descriptions, and a list of must have baking and utility tools. She has also included a few pictures of herself and her family which is a nice personal touch. In short, this book has restored my faith in the gluten-free publishing world. After reading through the recipes and devouring the photos I couldn’t wait to start baking!

As this was my first foray into the world of vegan baking I had to expand upon my usual supplies. Coconut oil and applesauce instead of eggs and butter, arrowroot powder and soymilk powder in place of dairy. For the most part these were the only specialty ingredients that I needed to purchase, an expense I found worthwhile considering the entire book utilizes the same basic ingredients for each recipe.

The only ingredient stumbling block for me was when some recipes called for specific pre-packaged flour mixes and other selected branded ingredients such as Suzanne’s Specialties Ricemellow Crème (for the Whoopie Pie filling), which would be a challenge to find if you don’t live in an urban centre. In fact, I couldn’t find them even though I live in a major city and have access to a variety of suppliers.

This book was a pleasure to work with and I am glad to find the pairing of animal-free and gluten-free ingredients makes for such a fantastic partnership in the oven. This book has already become a personal favourite and I can’t wait to try each one of the recipes!

For a couple of sample recipe from this cookbook, please click here (Chips Ahoy!) and here (Plain Cake Donut)

Whoopie Pie

Rating: 5 out of 5 (delicious & will satisfy all of your chocolate cravings!)

THE TEST: Ever since the recent resurgence of the Whoopie Pie I have been struck by extreme hankerings for these treats. Part cookie, part cake – absolutely amazing.

I bought organic cacao powder by New World Natural Foods, which was beautifully rich and provided a great base for the rest of the recipe. I whisked together the dry ingredients which included Bob’s Mill All Purpose Baking Flour, arrowroot powder, soymilk powder, and xantham gum.  I then added melted coconut oil (it only needs 20 seconds in the microwave or a few minutes in warm water to melt), applesauce and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Instead of introducing them one by one, I mixed the liquid ingredients together and then added them to the dry ingredients. I am not sure if this made a difference or not, but the coconut oil refused to join forces with the applesauce.

After mixing with a spatula for five minutes, the batter was smooth and more like a cake batter than cookie dough. I spooned the dark chocolate mixture onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. This was not the most photogenic part of the process, and it turns out I could have spooned even less than the recipe calls for each whoopie “cookie” since they grew almost three times their original size in the oven.

THE RESULTS: When I pulled the cookies out of the oven and placed them on a cooling rack, they kept their shape and remained light and fluffy—similar to the texture of cake. Once they cooled, I spread vegan vanilla icing (made out of coconut oil, vegan sugar, lemon and agave syrup) between two cookies and voila: my first Whoopie Pie.

I served these treats to some of my non-vegan gluten eating friends, and everyone agreed that they were delicious and that you couldn’t tell they were vegan and gluten-free. The whoopie pies are definitely best eaten the day of baking, as the next day they proved to be a tad dry. This is a recipe I will definitely use again when I need a chocolate fix.

It’s – It

Rating: 4 out of 5 (easy and tasty…the perfect summer treat)

THE TEST: Oh the things gluten-free people miss out on! I haven’t enjoyed an ice cream sandwich for years. It wasn’t even something I was aware that I was missing until I noticed the photo in the book. The name of the recipe comes from the It’s – It frozen cookie sandwiches that the author experienced in San Francisco (CA). This recipe is wonderful, simple, and a bit of a party hit. I can’t decide whether it was the chocolate chip mint ice cream for the filling or the melted chocolate drizzled over the sandwich that turned something ordinary into the extraordinary.

This recipe was easy to follow and used almost the same ingredients as the Whoopie Pies. The cookies baked up nicely with great texture while remaining soft and chewy. I have found that many gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipes are too crumbly; this was not the case with these cookies.

While I was waiting for the cookies to cool, I whipped up the chocolate dipping sauce in no time. The process requires a double boiler or at the very least one larger pot atop of a smaller pot with boiling water. It took about five minutes to melt the gluten-free chocolate chips and mix in the ½ cup of coconut oil. You could also use an agave-based dipping sauce if you prefer.

Putting the sandwiches together requires about 30 minutes, as they need to be placed in the freezer after they are partially dipped in chocolate sauce to allow the chocolate to harden and the ice cream to remain frozen.

THE RESULTS: This is a fun treat that you can adapt to suit your particular preferences/cravings. Any flavour of ice cream will work, and feel free to try different flavouring to the cookies. This recipe called for peppermint oil but would work with orange, vanilla or almond extract. Next time I might make these in a square mould to experiment with different shapes.



Rating: 4 out of 5 (these cookies won’t stick around for long!)

THE TEST: Bad name, great cookie. I made the Snickerdoodle recipe because I love sugar cookies and cinnamon, and I needed something to serve for dessert for an impromptu dinner that I planned with zero time.

The recipe was simple, and similar to the other recipes I tested used coconut oil, applesauce, and vanilla. It also asked for rice flour (the recipe didn’t specify a type so I used brown), ground flax seeds, xantham gum and baking soda. Some of the recipes in this book call for vegan sugar, but I opted to use organic raw sugar instead and it worked fine. Once I mixed everything together the batter resembled wet sand. I put saran wrap over the bowl and placed the dough in the fridge for about one hour.

I used the organic raw sugar and cinnamon mixture to roll each dough ball (about a teaspoon full of dough) before placing them on the parchment paper lined cookie tray. Then I squished each ball flat with a fork, which was a nice and cathartic thing to do. I placed the cookies in the oven. The sugar and cinnamon coating is fairly brown so it was hard to tell if the cookies were “browning,” but they were perfectly cooked after 14 minutes.

THE RESULTS: Needless to say these did not last long in our house and after one day all 36 cookies were enjoyed. As an added bonus no animals were harmed in the process. Talk about a feel good cookie.