By Caroline Shively Sucher
Photos By Arden Haley
You might think a “gluten-free vegan tower” is a tall stack of carrots and twigs.
But you’d be wrong.
Just take a look at the layers upon layers of delicate Earl Grey cookies, moist chocolatey brownies, fluffy donuts, light-as-air French macarons, and tiny cupcakes piled on a tower of platters.
“Yeah, you just want to eat the whole thing,” says Tricia King, owner of Gluten-Free Bakery Girl.
Well, yes. Yes, we do.
Towers of treats are part of an emerging trend at weddings, and so are Tricia King’s specialties, gluten-free pastries so decadent that you won’t miss the white flour, and vegan treats so rich that you won’t miss the butter and eggs.
As the name implies, not a single product sold at the Gluten-Free Bakery Girl shop in St. Michaels, MD, has gluten, a protein found in wheat and most other grains.
“We’ve done everything from a tiny two-layer cake to 400 cupcakes in a tower to a four-tier wedding cake for 200. The guests love it, and at the end, they ask, ‘Was that really gluten-free?’ Most people say they didn’t think it was until I told them,” Tricia says.
In fact, her bakery is certified as gluten-free dedicated, endorsed by the National Celiac Association. Gluten can cause serious health problems for people with celiac disease. For those with gluten sensitivity, it can cause abdominal pain, headaches, and even a feeling of “foggy brain,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
For brides and grooms who suffer from gluten-related problems, it can mean not getting to eat their own wedding cake. For others, it can mean years without bread, cookies, pizza, and other items they love.
“A woman came up and saw that I had [gluten-free] cinnamon rolls and she literally cried with joy,” Tricia says. “She told me that she hadn’t had a cinnamon roll in over ten years.”
Tricia and her team come up with all their own recipes and tweak and re-tweak them until they just can’t get any better. Her top sellers are Raspberry Bakewell Tarts, lemon bars, Buckeye Brownies, apple cider muffins, and apple cider donuts.
“I actually prefer doing gluten-free baking because I love the creativity of it,” Tricia explains. “Like with our Raspberry Bakewell Tart, our main goal is it will taste as good as a regular Bakewell Tart, and the texture and the flavor are spot-on.”
Spot-on flavor is also Tricia’s goal for her vegan pastries. To qualify as vegan, no parts of an animal can be used in a food product – no milk, meat, eggs, or animal fat. Unlike many other shops that sell vegan treats, Tricia’s bakery has a wide variety.
“Sometimes people are afraid to even come and ask if you have anything vegan, because in most places it might just be one little cookie or something, but then they see we have cinnamon rolls that are vegan, chocolate chip cookies that are vegan, and cakes that are vegan, and they’re really excited,” Tricia says.
While vegan food isn’t for everyone, it’s the gluten-free treats that face the most skepticism from people who’ve never tried them. Tricia considers that a personal challenge.
“They want to tear you up and say, ‘Ooh, gross,’ and I’m like, ‘Wait a second. Here’s a free cookie. I want to change your mind. I want you to see it’s not gross; it’s good, or all these people wouldn’t be coming here.’”
Does it work?
“They usually buy something right then or come back around at the end of the day and want another cookie,” Tricia says.
If you can’t make it to the Gluten-Free Bakery Girl shop in St. Michaels or you’re not lucky enough to go to a wedding she’s helped cater, you can try Tricia’s pastries online or at coffee shops in Delaware, D.C., and Maryland.