Cupcake culture: comparing gluten-free bakeries

Elizabeth Foulston

Cupcake shops have taken the stage in their rising popularity. The media, celebrities and modern society endorse and promote such a trend.

The trend does, however, come with hiccups. Although there are hundreds of bakeries in the Chicago area, not all of them specialize in cupcakes; even less of them provide gluten-free options.

Sweet Ali’s Gluten Free Bakery in Hinsdale and Sprinkles Cupcakes in Chicago stand most prominent among this rising gluten-free cupcake market.

Food Network called Sprinkles “the world’s first cupcake bakery.” Comparable, Sweet Ali’s is the first gluten-free bakery in Hinsdale.

Red velvet is the only gluten-free option offered at Sprinkles. It is also their signature flavor. Being a high-end shop that originated in Beverly Hills, I had high expectations. When I entered the shop, I was greeted by a long line. From there, the customer service was impersonal and reminded me of an assembly line. Once I’d ordered my cupcake, I was impressed by its presentation. It was sleek but classic, with a single sprinkle dot on smooth icing. However, I was disappointed in the dryness of the Sprinkles’ red velvet cupcake. The frosting was decadent but too heavy.

On the other hand, Sweet Ali’s has many choices—12 when I was there. I received attentive and friendly customer service. My cupcake at Sweet Ali’s tasted better, too. The cupcake was moist and flavorful; the cream cheese frosting seemed fresher. Not to mention, Sweet Ali’s is much more convenient than Sprinkles. Sprinkles is a 25-mile drive into the city, while Sweet Ali’s is local in downtown Hinsdale.