Friday, April 24, 2009

The Cupcake Dream

I bet you didn’t think you’d ever be able to enjoy the kind of cupcake we once loved as kids.
Attention allergenistas! Swirlz Cupcakes in Lincoln Park is a little slice of heaven for all you cupcake lovers out there!
With over 30 different varieties Monday through Saturday, Swirlz bakes something for everyone, including all sorts of vegan and gluten-free flavors. And come back often, as the menu changes every day!
I recently sat down with Swirlz co-owner, Pam Rose, to learn more about this special treat.

What inspired you to sell gluten-free cupcakes?
Pam’s partner, Margot, was gluten intolerant. So when the store was just getting off the ground and she and her team were taste testing recipes, Margot couldn’t participate. That sent a real message to Pam and she began to develop alternatives for her partner and ultimately, us!

What is your best-selling cupcake?
Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch. Pam offers her condolences for those with nut allergies.

Do you ship?
That’s coming soon. Lots of Pam’s customers swear they freeze the cupcakes and send them to family members with great success!

What do you do to ensure there’s no cross-contamination?
Swirlz collaborated with the University of Chicago to create a system to safely work with gluten-free products:
  • All equipment used to bake gluten-free products is dedicated exclusively for that application
  • All gluten-free products are baked first thing in the morning when the kitchen is clean, sanitized and free of allergens
  • Every four months, a random sample is taken from the gluten-free batch and shipped to Elisa Technologies, a Florida-based food safety company, to be tested; 20 ppm is the industry standard and Swirlz continues to test at 5 ppm or less

  • On a more frequent basis, Pam also regularly uses the EZ Gluten test strip that can detect the presence of gluten in food

    • How do you get the cake to be so moist and fluffy?
      Swirlz orders a custom-made flour mix from California (the name of her supplier remains top secret!). The company uses a special technique that involves steel cutting the whole grains together, as opposed to individually cutting them and then trying to mix them. Pam discovered that this method yields a more consistent product and one that rises better than other gluten-free flour mixes.
      If you’re in the suburbs or if you plan to visit Chicago, make sure you add Swirlz to your itinerary. You’ll be glad you did!

      And I’m happy to announce that Swirlz has agreed to bake cupcakes that will be served as our dessert for our June 29th Safe & Sound Dinner at Carnivale. Space is limited so make your reservations today.

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