In honour of a certain person’s upcoming visit, I have decided to share my list of the top cupcakes in London with you all. For those of you who, like me, have to stay away from either wheat or gluten, I hope this helps you take full advantage of all London’s many bakeries have to offer. Only a couple years ago it was next to impossible to find gluten free cupcakes in this city. I am happy to report that not only have they become more prevalent, they are also steadily increasing in quality, so you can actually find absolutely delicious (and regret-free) cupcakes, as well as many other baked goods! Trust me, I know that feeling of jubilation that comes when you notice that single option among 20 in a coffee shop that you can eat. Even if you’re not hungry, or it’s not the flavour you were craving, you’ll probably buy it (proof – I bought Caffe Nero‘s new rye carrot cake last weekend. It was actually pretty good… but that could be the joy of being able to buy a cafe treat speaking). The cupcakes below warrant more than the surprise-buy, they deserve cupcake-specific trips, I promise! And if a state of euphoria ensues, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you… 🙂
By the way – these are in no particular order. Because most bakeries only do 1 gluten free option, where you go and which you choose will depend on your mood!
Their Primrose Hill location is the original (and source of their name), but they now also have a small storefront in Covent Garden that is the perfect location for that sweet treat after (or before!) a long day of studying. A deliciously dense flourless chocolate cake is available everyday and most days they also have a chocolate almond cake (sold by the slice) or cupcakes. On some special occasions they switch it up and make some of their signature flavours with a gluten free base, such as rose! I know I said these aren’t in any particular order, but Primrose is probably my favourite bakery in London. For my birthday, B “surprised” me with a custom decorated chocolate almond cake. It really is everything you could want in a chocolate cake. Dark, dense, moist, and CHOCOLATY. The almond gives the crumb a really nice texture and complements the dark chocolate beautifully. I have snuck bites of their non-gluten free selections and would readily recommend them as well. The violet cupcake was particularly special, with violet permeating the cake and the frosting. I have really never had anything quite like it.
Red velvet has been my favourite cupcake, since discovering Red Velvet Cupcakery with my aunt back in early 2009 (they remain, btw, my favourite cupcake shop). I had yet to find one, though, that was gluten free, until last fall, that is, when P surprised me with a box of four of Hummingbird‘s gluten free red velvet cupcakes. When I first saw the box I must admit I started running through all the various excuses I could make to not try one in front of him, fearing they were probably regular cupcakes and while they looked gorgeous, I did not want to risk eating the wheat. When P informed me that they were gluten free, a lot of jumping, screaming, and hugging ensued. Yes, all for the cupcakes. The frosting is a tad too sweet for me – they could do with making it more “cream-cheesy”, but they are delicious and certainly satisfy my craving for a good gluten free red velvet cupcake, when I don’t feel like baking them! Hummingbird also sells vanilla cupcakes with either vanilla or chocolate frosting as part of their “made without” range. And if you give them enough advance notice they’ll bake you pretty much anything special order. Primrose (above) and Bea’s (below) do the same.
Bea’s of Bloomsbury
One cloudy afternoon last September, after a long day of stressful and exhausting flat hunting, I convinced B & P to peak into the Bea’s on Theobald’s Rd. I’d read about it, I said, but hadn’t had the opportunity to try anything from them yet. We obviously ended up sitting down (a much needed break!) and I ordered their gluten free chocolate cupcake. I have since had it numerous times as part of their full afternoon tea, which by the way, is definitely one of the best (and most fun) afternoon tea options in London. One word – ganache. The frosting on their chocolate cupcake is not just any old frosting, it is a deep, dark chocolate ganache.
The Freefrom Bakehouse
Considering my frequent visits to Borough Market and self-professed love for red velvet cupcakes, it is surprising that I did not try the Freefrom Bakehouse‘s red velvet cupcake sooner. Boy am I glad I tried it now, though, instead of waiting until I was about to leave London. Hummingbird’s is great (and available from their various locations every day), but theirs is the best I have had aside from Red Velvet Cupcakery’s in DC. The frosting actually tastes like cream cheese (thank you!) and the cake, well it’s moist and the perfect median between dense and light crumb. Best of all? It does not taste like it’s gluten free! All too often gluten free baked goods end up tasting grainy and like something is missing. Well, it is. Flour. But none of the cakes, cookies, and other treats from Freefrom taste like that. They all stand up on their own, indistinguishable from their flour-full counterparts. It is well worth tracking down these guys at either Borough or any of the other markets and festivals they set up at. And don’t wait as long as I did! Go now!
I read about Violet (Claire Ptak, founder of Violet, worked at Chez Panisse in Berkeley before moving to London) and stumbled upon it at the Broadway Market two years ago. In that instance I took home a variety of their cupcakes/babycakes – salted caramel cupcake, chocolate cupcake, flourless chocolate babycake, almond and polenta rhubarb babycake – and was blown away. I was subsequently inspired to make my own version of the almond polenta cake (it’s naturally gluten free!), though I still need to perfect that recipe. It has taken me two years to get back to visit their stall at Broadway and this time I came away with their spelt and vegan chocolate cupcake with violet frosting. Warning, this one is not gluten free (in fact, spelt has a higher gluten content than wheat flour does). The spelt flour gives it a gentle nuttiness that compliments the dark chocolate cake, which is delightfully moist. And the violet frosting, well, it’s perfectly sweet and somehow manages to stay way from the risk of seeming like you’re eating potpourri. Then again, I would expect nothing less from a Chez Panisse alumna. They are at Broadway Market every Saturday and their storefront on Wilton Way is open Tues-Sun.