Gluten-Free Dessert with Kristan Higgins

One of my favorite escapes from the drama of life is losing myself in a fabulous book.  Not much beats crawling into bed early with a great read…especially when it has the trifecta of humor, light romance, and drama.  No one delivers better on that forefront than author Kristan Higgins.

Photo courtesy of Kristan Higgins

Photo courtesy of Kristan Higgins

Kristan is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of 14 novels, which have been translated into 24 languages and are sold all over the world. She is the mother of two teenagers and the wife of a heroic, good-looking firefighter.  (Courtesy of Kristan Higgins Books)

As a devoted fan of Kristan’s books, I follow her on Twitter (@Kristan_Higgins) and Facebook (Kristan Higgins Books) and simply drooled over the Gram’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe she recently shared.  Only it wasn’t gluten-free.

So what’s a hungry girl to do?  Improvise, of course.  I made the cake by switching out regular flour that the recipe called for with King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour and a dash of xanthan gum.   And you know what?  It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Seriously, this cake is no joke.  In fact, as I type this I’m trying to think of an excuse to make it tonight.

Gram’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake has now become my family’s most requested dessert.  I happily take it to work functions and get-togethers and no one knows it’s gluten-free until they see me scarfing down a piece.

So I asked Kristan about the story behind this cake and she was happy to tell me.

“My grandmother was the BEST baker, and she could make anything in about 15 minutes, I swear. Her motions were so efficient and perfect, and she always had the ingredients on hand. My daughter made this cake recipe for our state fair, and it won first, I’ll have you know! It’s so warm and cozy; we make it every Christmas morning and think of dear Gram.”

From the very bottom of this gluten-free girl’s heart, THANK YOU, Gram!

And thank you, Kristan, for allowing me to share Gram’s recipe here with my readers.


Gram’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake  (A No-Fail Guarantee of Deliciousness)

Preheat oven to 350; grease and flour a Bundt cake pan.

Sift together 2 cups of gluten-free flour; dash of xanthan gum; 1 tablespoon of baking powder; ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.

In mixer, beat together 2 sticks of softened butter and 2 cups of sugar. Add 2 beaten eggs, 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract and 1 cup of sour cream. Beat well. Fold in the dry ingredients by hand and mix well.

In separate bowl, combine ¾ cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. You can add a cup of nuts (pecans, almonds or walnuts) if you like. I think they’re better if you toast them first.

Put in Bundt pan in the following order:

  • Just enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan.
  • One third of the cinnamon mixture.
  • Two-thirds of the batter.
  • Two-thirds of the cinnamon mixture
  • The remainder of the batter.

Bake for 60 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes, then loosen with a butter knife, lifting the cake up to get air underneath. Invert, and voila! Serve warm with a nice cuppa joe or glass of milk.


As much as I love this cake, I’d be doing you a disservice if I left it at that.  Kristan is both warm and funny and that is beautifully reflected in her writing.  To read one of her books is like sitting down to coffee with your bestie and laughing until your stomach hurts.

In honor of that, I asked Kristan a few questions about herself and her work.  So grab a cup of coffee (and maybe a piece of this cake) and pull up a chair for this virtual chat.

What about writing novels gives you joy?

Kristan:  “My readers, my characters and my struggles, actually. The latter always makes me a better writer.”

What three words would you use to describe your books?

Kristan:  “Optimistic, funny, emotional.”

One of my favorite things about reading your books is the laugh-out-loud moments created by your characters.  Tell me about the use of humor in your books and how that translates into your everyday life.

Kristan:  “I can’t imagine a book without humor. I think I have a good eye and voice for it in everyday life, just being able to notice and capture a moment. I hope so, anyway! And I do laugh a lot (and cry a lot, too…they go hand in hand). A lot of TV shows make me cry, or people winning things, or heroic moments…baby elephants make me cry, too, for some reason.”

What are you working on now and can you share something about it with us?

Kristan:  “I’m finishing a Blue Heron book and starting a new women’s fiction. I’ll give you the first line of the Blue Heron book (ANYTHING FOR YOU): “Get up, doofus.”

Some of my favorite of your books center around the Holland family.  When I think of them, I think of family dinners, social events, and the like.  Have you ever included a character with food allergies or celiac disease?  How do you think a family like the Hollands would react to having such a character in the family?

Kristan:  “Food is always a big part of my books, because I think we all love to eat, and when and where and what say a lot about the moment, don’t you agree? The Hollands would take a food allergy in stride, though the older grandparents, Goggy and Pops, might be a little confused. “Wheat? How can you be allergic to wheat?” I based them on my own grandparents, whom I just adored, and anything that was different, food-wise, always confused my Gram a little. I haven’t written a food allergy in yet, but I just might. So many people, including several of my closest friends, have issues with this, so it would feel pretty natural to include that element.”

Because your heroines know the value of a good glass of wine paired with a dessert, I have to ask- what is your favorite of each?

Kristan:  “I love a full-bodied Chardonnay with all those flavors and a nice buttery texture. Favorite dessert? So hard to pick! I just ate a vanilla cupcake, so I’ll go with that.”

Don’t just take my word for it.  Visit Kristan Higgins’ website where she shares her favorite recipes from food in her books and so much more.

Kristan:  “And pop by Facebook and have some fun there. I can pretty much guarantee at least one smile a day., and”

Treat yourself and pick up one of Kristan Higgins’ books today.  Not sure where to start?  Two of my favorites are Just One of the Guys and The Best Man.

Courtesy of Kristan Higgins Books

Courtesy of Kristan Higgins Books



A Bowl Full of Lemons, A Guest Post By Lauren of Our Life as an Epi-Family

It is Food Allergy Awareness Week!  For some, it is a golden opportunity to educate those outside the food allergy community.  For some, it is the perfect time to raise advocacy and research efforts.  But for some, it is time to band together within the food allergy community and share our stories, ideas, and recipes with each other in this seemingly, and sometimes literally, never-ending food allergy journey.

No caregiver can ever REALLY say that they know everything there is to know about food allergies because the learning curve is ever-changing.  In addition to a FARE membership, one of my favorite ways to continually educate myself and stay connected is to follow the blogs of fellow food allergy moms.

Today, I’m beyond thrilled and so very proud to present to you one of my favorite bloggers, Lauren of Our Life as an Epi-Family.

EpiFamily Photo

Seriously, LOVE this talented lady!  Her positive attitude and faith-based encouragement are positively contagious and a delight to read!

Please grab yourself a nice, cool glass of lemonade, take a seat, and settle in for a good read.  Then be sure to click on over to Lauren’s blog and share the love!

Thank you, Lauren, for helping spread the food allergy love this week and all year long!


A Bowl Full of Lemons

I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

I’ve always loved the image that this phrase creates, especially because it involves lemons.  I love lemons!   They are the most beautiful yellow color and a totally unique shape.  Have you ever drawn a face on one?  Do it, I guarantee it will make you smile!  I love bright colors and I always try to surround myself with them {tastefully, of course}.  It’s probably why I love fresh flowers so much.  Their vibrant colors awaken my soul and with one look can turn any bad day into a good one.  Just writing about the color of lemons, I find myself grinning from ear to ear.

Bowl Full of Lemons

As mentioned above, this phrase is one that I’ve always liked but up until a few years ago {2 ½ to be exact}, it didn’t truly resonate with me.  You see, 2 ½ years ago our food allergy journey began.  My oldest, now four, was eating scrambled eggs for the first time.  As he does with nearly everything he eats, he was dipping each bite into the 7th food group known as Ketchup, so his face was already covered in a red mess.  But it wasn’t long before I noticed the red welts that were beginning to appear around his mouth.  I hurried over and cleaned him off and sure enough his whole face, hands and wrists were swollen and covered in large, raised hives.  He seemed okay aside from the itchy hives.  I quickly gave him some Benadryl as instructed by my pediatrician and proceeded to watch him for the next few hours.  All was good.  It wasn’t long after that we were able to see a pediatric allergist and an egg allergy was confirmed.  I was told what to watch for, shown how to use an EpiPen and sent on my way.  I was a bit overwhelmed but I thought to myself,

“How hard can egg be to avoid? This isn’t too bad.  After all, {cue the Destiny’s Child music} I’m a survivor. I’m gonna make it.  I will survive.  Keep on surviving.”

What I didn’t know was that it was only going to be a matter of months before my youngest {8 weeks old at the time of my oldest’s diagnosis} was going to have an anaphylactic reaction that would change my life forever.  To brief you on my youngest’s first 8 months of life, I tried to supplement with formula when he was four months old as he was still demanding to nurse every 3 hours.  We used regular {dairy based} formula and everything the formula touched swelled and he was soon covered in hives from head to toe.  Five weeks later we tried a soy-based formula.  He took down the whole bottle but shortly after began projectile vomiting followed by head to toe hives.  With each newfound allergy, I continued to nurse and removed the new allergen from my diet.  By the time he was eight months old, I had removed dairy, soy, wheat, gluten, fish, shellfish and egg from my diet.

On that fateful day of my youngest’s first anaphylactic reaction, I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch and rinsed my hands but didn’t think to wash them with soap and water.  Not long after, it was time for my youngest to nurse.  After he finished I began to notice that his face appeared to be swelling.  Soon his body was bright red and the hives were creeping down his torso.  I quickly called 911 while I fumbled with the Benadryl bottle.  As I went to administer the medicine he began to gasp for air.  The paramedics were at our door in no time at all and he was a bit better.  He was still bright red, crying and covered in hives but he appeared to be breathing okay.  We were incredibly blessed because there have been a number of families in the past few months whose stories ended quite differently.

Needless to say, after my youngest’s diagnosis, the egg allergy that my oldest son had truly seemed like a walk in the park in comparison.  My youngest was diagnosed at 10 months old with a dairy, soy, and peanut allergy.  We were also told to avoid tree nuts, fish and shellfish.  Since that diagnosis, we’ve also added all tree nuts, including coconut and sesame.  I’d like to say that we’ve been reaction free but that’s just not the case.  Both boys have had a pretty severe reaction since their diagnosis.  My youngest’s most recent reaction to sesame was the scariest yet, one I relive from time to time in my dreams.

Following my youngest’s first anaphylactic reaction and his food allergy diagnosis, I found myself truly understanding what it meant for life to hand you lemons.  I had more lemons than I truly knew what to do with.  The sourness was seeping into every cut that I had and caused me to cry out in pain.

“Why God, why?  Why me?  Why my family?  Why my precious little men?”

I soon found myself wallowing in my circumstances {food allergies} and fears {loss of a child}.  Just a few short months prior I was ready to tackle the food allergy diagnosis with gumption and optimism.  Where was my “I’m a survivor” attitude?  Where had that gone?  This wasn’t me.  I’d forgotten just how good lemonade was on a hot summer’s day.  So recognizing that I wasn’t alone on this journey, I decided to roll up my sleeves, put an apron around my waist and dancin’ shoes on my feet because God teaches us to be joyful in all things {1 Thessalonians 5:16-18}.

I taught myself how to become an expert food label reader, I converted old, favorite recipes into allergy free ones, I found new ways to label foods in the fridge and pantry to help keep my little men safe and I slowly began to trust others to care for them as well – allowing myself to slowly venture out for a little, much needed “me” time.  It wasn’t long before I found the joy that was once lost.  Helping other families following a food allergy diagnosis learn to read labels, grocery shop and cook was the chicken soup for my soul.  What about you?  Are you stuck in the sourness or have you begun to taste the sweetness that’s waiting for you?

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It’s more of a mantra for me now.  A phrase that I’m dying to put up in my kitchen.  A constant reminder that things in this life may be sour but we shouldn’t let the source of the sourness define us.  Instead, we should look for the sweet moments and victories that lie in the mix.  Because when carefully stirred together – it becomes delicious lemonade remembered by everyone who stop by to have a taste.

A little taste of the “lemonade” that we’ve created…Our famous Mint Chip Chocolate Cake

EpiFamily MintChipChocolateCake

Nothing Bundt Cakes Now Offers Gluten-Free Cake

A few weeks ago a friend of mine told me that our local Nothing Bundt Cakes store is now offering a gluten-free version of their beautiful cakes.

This particular store location was beautifully done and the edible treats looked delicious.  On average, the store regularly offers cakes in the following flavors:  red velvet, chocolate chip, white chocolate raspberry, lemon, marble, pecan praline, carrot, white white chocolate, cinnamon swirl, and a featured limited-time only flavor.

Cakes are available in bite-sizes by the dozen (bundtinis), an medium individual-size bundt cake, an 8-inch cake, a 10-inch cake, and a variety of other specially-sized creations.

The crowning touch of this businesses’ cakes is the amazing icing.  It is a thick cream cheese and buttery frosting that is simply delicious!  It comes in their signature style or the drizzle style-icing depending on your tastes.

On our visit that day, the sales person I spoke with was very helpful.  Currently, the store only offers one flavor of gluten-free bundt cake- the chocolate chip cookie dough cake with icing.  It was simply beautiful…much like the gluten-filled dessert creations I used to eat before being diagnosed with celiac.  That’s something in and of itself…to have a treat that is gluten-free AND looks like art.

The cake does come with a sticker that designates it as a gluten-free cake, but it is also noted that the cake is not baked in a gluten-free facility.  With that said, I’ve spoken with at least five different individuals that have celiac disease that have been able to eat the cake without issue.

Although I’m not a big fan of chocolate chip cookies (I’d much prefer the pumpkin flavor they were offering in regular gluten-filled cakes), the cake was good.  The cake had a nice texture and was not crumbly.  The icing gave it just the right touch of sweetness.  I ate my cake semi-chilled, but the saleswoman did recommend that some customers say the cake tastes even better when warmed in the microwave for about 20 seconds.

Because of the cake is offered only in one flavor (and not one that I’m particularly fond of), this is a treat I might do only a couple of times a year.  If new cake flavors are introduced in the gluten-free variety, I feel sure I’ll have to revise this statement to reflect more frequent visits!

Happy Friday!


***If you like my posts and are so incline, please vote for me as one of the top 25 food allergy blogs of 2012 here.

Sweet and Fun Owl Cake

My youngest just celebrated a milestone birthday and to celebrate we hosted a not-so-sleepover birthday party at the house.  We invited about ten girls to wear their pjs, bring a blanket and jammies and come from 5:30 – 8:30pm (they went home for the actual sleeping part).

We had a fabulous time!  We dined on pizza, opened presents, watched a movie, danced, and iced some allergy-friendly cookies that we sprinkled the heck out of!  🙂

The next day we had the family birthday party and decided to continue on with her night owl/not-so-sleepover theme.  All the plates and tablecloths we purchased had a purple owl theme and we thought it only fitting to have the cake match too.  I whipped this out pretty quickly and it looked like I spent a lot of time on it.

Although this cupcake cake I made is only peanut and nut-free, it could easily be made gluten-free as well.

Enjoy!  And…if you like the posts you read here on The Food Allergy Mom please vote daily for us here to be one of the top 25 blogs for 2012 as selected by Circle of Moms.

Birthday Night Owl Cupcake Cake


  • 1 peanut and nut-free chocolate cake mix (King Arthur’s allergy version is a great one and it’s gluten-free too)
  • 1 white buttercream icing recipe
  • Food coloring
  • Peanut and nut-free chocolate wafers (Kinnikinnick’s are great and gluten-free too)
  • Gummy lifesavers
  • Skittles


  • Bake the cake mix as indicated by directions on the box…should yield 24 cupcakes
  • Make one recipe of icing by following this recipe (keep 1/3 white and dye the rest purple with food coloring)
  • Once cupcakes have cooled, ice 4 cupcakes with white icing and 10 cupcakes with purple icing. 
  • Take 2 of the white-iced cupcakes and roll in chocolate sprinkles on the rim.  Then add chocolate wafers, lifesavers, and skittles to make the eyes.  Now put these cupcakes at the top of your platter.
  • Next add three purple cupcakes centered under the two white ones, then add four purple cupcakes under those, and then 3 more under those.  The remaining two white cupcakes go centered on the very bottom.
  • Use purple icing to connect the cupcakes on the surface so it does not appear to be individual cupcakes.
  • Break chocolate wafer halves to assemble the wings.
  • Use orange lifesavers or jelly beans or something to your liking to form the owl nose and feet.
  • Pipe remaining white icing into an icing bag and use the Wilton icing tip and white icing to create the feathered chest of the owl.  When done, sprinkle the white icing lightly with chocolate sprinkles.

***You will have some remaining cupcakes left (if…  🙂  you’re not snacking) and can easily make baby owls out of those with remaining wafers, lifesavers, Skittles, and sprinkles.

The cake was such a hit.  My daughter and son were able to safely eat it and everyone else loved it too!

Blessings and Happy Baking,

Kimberly, The Food Allergy Mom