Back in January, we spoke with Tully Lewis about Tully’s, the gluten-free bakery she was planning to open on East 11th Street. The bakery opened its doors on Monday, and earlier today, Fork in the Road trudged through the snow to sample a few of the treats on display.
Though we at Fork in the Road are not particularly interested in cupcakes, gluten-free or otherwise, we can happily report that the ones at Tully’s are on the whole pretty top-notch. Sold in mini or regular sizes, they’re incredibly moist, tender, and springy, and boast a well-balanced frosting-to-cake ratio. We tried three of the minis, two of which were excellent. The frosting on the vanilla strawberry actually did taste like strawberries and cream, and the white cake of vanilla. White cake is far too often crippled by flat flavor and a surfeit of sugar, but this one was rich, slightly buttery, and not too sweet.
The peanut butter chocolate cupcake was also satisfying, particularly because its little cap of frosting seemed to contain a whopping amount of peanut butter. The chocolate cake, while not as springy as the vanilla cake, had the pleasantly dense, moist crumb of quality diner cake, and was a every bit as satisfying.
The only miss of the bunch was the red velvet cake, which tasted, in the tradition of most of the red velvet cake served in the city, like, well, not very much at all.
A quick note to bakery owners and would-be cupcake entrepreneurs: Red velvet is one of the most perplexing and misunderstood members of the cake family: Making one, contrary to popular belief, is not as simple as dumping a bottle of red food coloring into a white cake batter and then suffocating the finished product under a thick primary coat of vanilla frosting. If you’re going to make red velvet cake, please use some cocoa powder, vinegar, and/or buttermilk in the recipe, and finish off the damn thing with some cream cheese frosting and perhaps a scattering of crushed pecans. Otherwise, don’t call it red velvet cake. It may be red, but it sure as hell isn’t velvet. Anyway, Tully’s red velvet cupcake is just a bit of somewhat bland red cake with a swirl of vanilla frosting on top. It’s not awful, but its close proximity to Tully’s other and far superior cupcakes isn’t doing it any favors.
Tully’s also serves brownies, muffins, cookies, and panini; we tried the vegan brownie. Though it’s more cake than brownie, it is unquestionably delicious. Like the chocolate cupcake, it was reminiscent in texture of really top-shelf diner cake, the kind that tastes best at four in the morning, chased by a glass of (in this case soy) milk. Studded with little morsels of dark chocolate, it’s not overly sweet, and sports a satisfyingly sturdy crust. Again, it’s not a brownie, and again, it is a damn fine creation, regardless of nomenclature.
Comparisons will inevitably be made between Tully’s and BabyCakes, which was the first bakery to plant the gluten-free flag in Manhattan. Tully’s, while completely gluten-free, isn’t vegan, like BabyCakes, and also uses regular sugar, which BabyCakes does not. That said, if today’s sampling was any indication, we find ourselves partial to Tully’s take on the gluten-free cupcake, thanks to both the quality of the cakes themselves and the prices attached to them. Where a BabyCakes cupcake costs $3.95, a regular-sized Tully’s cupcake costs $2.95, and a box of three minis $3 to $3.50. Sure, BabyCakes uses expensive ingredients, but for those who want a quality gluten-free cupcake and don’t care how many other prefixes are attached to it, then Tully’s has your number.
Tully’s Gluten-Free Bakery
338 East 11th Street