|The Chicago area's premiere peanut and tree nut-free cupcake bakery! http://www.nutphrees.com|
What is a nut-free cupcake for the purposes of a severely allergic individual? That would be one that is created in a dedicated nut-free facility. Now, I'm talking about supermarket and storefront bakeries right now. You know, the ones you like to sidle up to on a Saturday morning. Mass-produced baked goods have different standards, etc. and different regulation.
Most of you are aware that supermarket bakeries now carry allergy advisory signs somewhere in the baked goods section. That's because there is just too much risk of cross-contact in these small bakeries. If a small bakery is serving pecan pie and peanut butter cookies, I'd be concerned about serving an allergic person their products.
Here are two other red flag terms for nut-allergic people when evaluating a bakery: vegan and gluten-free. The vegan diet has tree nuts and peanuts as staple; gluten-free can often mean that ground up nut flours have been substituted for wheat. When I see vegan and gluten-free, I head for the hills. Personally, I wouldn't serve anything to my daughter that was created in a vegan and/or gluten-free environment unless the place was also dedicated nut-free.
Many bakeries see "nut-free" or "allergy-free" as a marketing tool. They don't realize (or choose not to acknowledge) that nut-free to a nut-allergic person is a health matter. And a serious one at that.
In my opinion, sticking to dedicated nut-free bakeries (and the U.S. does have several that ship across the country) makes the most sense.
Baking at home is also a great option if you're dealing with nut allergies. For example, you can bake cupcakes, leave them unfrosted, wrap them individually and then freeze them. Frost them as needed for parties or events. It's pretty easy and saves a ton of worry--and unnecessary risk.
Here are a few grocery items to have on hand at all times for nut-free baking: white and brown sugar (I use Domino brand), vanilla extract (McCormick or Nielsen-Massey are my choices), confectioner's sugar (Domino's again), all-purpose flour, old-fashioned oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, McCormick food colorings, nut-free/allergy-free candies for decoration (check my Nut-Free Foods list for ideas.) Wilton and Cake Mate also have some safe options for nut allergies, so check the labels. I'm waiting to hear from Cake Mate about a list of nut-free cake decorations as I write this. I'll let you know. Don't feel like baking from scratch? Try the Cherrybrook Kitchen mixes and frostings. These allergy-free mixes are available at most well-stocked supermarkets. If you're looking for cake molds, cookie sheets, cookie cutters, etc. check out the Wilton baking section at your local craft store. They have a treasure trove for the home baker.
I will have my nut-free bakery roundup later this week. Please let me know your favorites so I can add them to my list.