Gluten-free goody goes national at Starbucks

Starbucks just announced that a gluten-free cake will be available at all Starbucks nationwide beginning May 5.

The company has been testing gluten-free items in some of its stores, but this is the first product to be offered everywhere. The launch was announced on Starbucks blog, called My Starbucks Idea: Ideas in Action. The blog says the gluten-free Orange Valencia Cake with Almonds was designed, named and merchandised based on consumer comments made on the blog.

The cake will be sold in the pastry case and labeled “gluten free,” two things consumers also said they wanted. With Starbucks in so many places, gluten-free consumers all around the country will now have a chance to enjoy a little cake with their coffee!

This is another example of a large mainstream company deciding the lucrative gluten-free market deserves some much needed attention. To that we say, bottoms up!

Sugar and Spice Makes Everything Nice

So far this January I have experienced two random acts of dessert kindness. I never make a “fuss” about my celiac status to a hostess who invites me to dinner. By now, most people who would invite me over know about my dietary needs and make sure there is something I can eat.

Dessert, however, is a tough one. Sometimes it’s an afterthought for a busy party planner or the responsibility is delegated to an attendee. So when I was offered a gluten-free dessert twice this month, it struck me as a very cool thing.

On New Year’s Eve, a group of neighborhood families gathered to celebrate. Boisterous kids hoot it up in the basement and the adults have their own boisterous conversations upstairs. Around midnight, the desserts are placed out with the champagne. One of my friends is the neighborhood doyenne of desserts, she creates beautiful shortbread cookies and bite sized cakes with perfectly piped frosting flower buds. This year she added a “two-bite” Pavlova. Each Pavlova was a crispy meringue basket filled with lemon curd and fresh fruit.

She personally doesn’t like meringue but wanted to make sure that the two celiacs in attendance had dessert. The rest of us devoured them. Each Pavlova was a mouth explosion of sweet meringue, tart lemon and fresh berries. They were perfect with the midnight glass of champagne.

The second evening was a group of friends who rent indoor tennis courts a couple times a year for round-robin mixed doubles. We bash the heck out of each other for two hours of tennis and then convene pot-luck style for good conversation and dinner. I brought the entrée, and my friends who brought dessert arrived with a big fruit salad and a gluten-free cake topped with cinnamon, sugar and almonds.

Ten years ago, I was apt to apologize for something that was gluten-free since it was dense as a brick or dissolved into a puddle of crumbs. This cake was so moist and tasty that the “it’s gluten-free” disclaimer to the non-celiacs was completely unnecessary. We all went back for a second slice, two hours of tennis gave us the freedom to do so!

The growing awareness of which ingredients contain gluten, a little creative thinking and the ubiquity of good gluten-free mixes makes these random acts of dessert kindness possible. Having very nice friends helps a bit too.