Share Your Allergy-Friendly Sweets: 7 Gluten-Free Desserts

It’s potluck and picnic season, which means hosts and guests need to navigate the world of food allergies, especially gluten sensitivities and Celiac disease. With dessert being everyone’s favorite food at a party, no one should be left out because they happen to be allergic to an ingredient. If you’re new to gluten-free baking, or baking for food allergies in general, Allergy Kids has compiled useful information on how to avoid cross-contamination when preparing food, which you may find useful. Always make sure all of the ingredients you are using are gluten-free, and get ready to share your sweets. Even those who don’t need to follow a gluten-free diet will be fighting for the last one of these seven treats at the dessert table.


1. Espresso Meringues

Coffee lovers of all stripes will want to gobble up the espresso meringues from Cooking Light. You can entice chocolate lovers by drizzling melted chocolate over the top of the cookies, which already have a subtle chocolate flavor from the cocoa powder.


  • 4 large egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons instant espresso or 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 36 whole coffee beans (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa

Directions: Adjust the oven racks to divide oven into even thirds. Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Add espresso and vanilla; beat until well-blended.

Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; secure to the baking sheets with masking tape. Drop batter by level tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets. Top each mound with 1 coffee bean. Sprinkle evenly with cocoa. Bake for 2 hours or until dry. (Meringues are done when the surface is dry and meringues can be removed from paper without sticking to fingers.) Turn oven off and partially open the oven door; leave meringues in oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven; carefully remove meringues from paper. Cool completely on wire racks.


2. Gluten-Free Apple Streusel Cheesecake Bars

With a pouch of gluten-free cake mix and this recipe by Betty Crocker, you’re just a few hours away from a food allergy friendly dessert. The mix is used as a flourless way to achieve the streusel topping, as well as the crumb crust for the cheesecake — a trick you can also use for gluten-free crisps.


  • 1 box gluten-free yellow cake mix
  • ½ cup cold butter
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 (21-ounce) can apple pie filling
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts

Directions: Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray bottom and sides of 13-by-9-inch pan with cooking spray. Place cake mix in large bowl. With pastry blender or fork, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly and coarse. Reserve 1½ cups crumb mixture; press remaining crumbs in bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and egg with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over partially baked crust. In medium bowl, mix pie filling and cinnamon. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle reserved crumbs over top. Sprinkle with walnuts. Bake 35-40 minutes longer or until light golden brown. Cool about 30 minutes. Refrigerate to chill, about 2 hours. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.


3. Flourless Fudge Brownies

Rich, chocolate fudge brownies are gluten free in this recipe from Very Best Baking. Deliriously decadent on their own, the brownies would also make a great addition at your ice cream sundae table. This recipe makes about 16 brownies.


  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels, divided
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ¼ cup baking cocoa
  • 4 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans, finely ground (optional)
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream

Directions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 9-inch square baking pan with foil. Grease bottom and sides. Heat 1½ cups morsels, butter, and water in medium, heavy-duty saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until morsels and butter are melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in cocoa until smooth. Remove from heat.

Beat eggs and sugar in medium mixer bowl until thick, about 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract. Fold ⅓ of egg mixture into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining egg mixture, one half at a time, until thoroughly incorporated. Fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until risen in center and edges start to get firm and shiny (center may still move and appear under-baked). Cool completely in pan on wire rack (center may sink slightly). Cover; refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Source: Thinkstock

4. Layered Neapolitan Ice Cream Cake

This “cake” from Food Doodles is vegan in addition to being gluten-free. Tempt non-vegans and gluten consumers alike with this cold treat, which uses fruit to flavor and form the frozen layers.


Strawberry layer

  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1½ large, frozen, over-ripe bananas
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup almond or other non-dairy milk, plus more if needed

Vanilla layer

  • 2 large, frozen, over-ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup almond or other non-dairy milk

Chocolate layer

  • 2 large, frozen, over-ripe bananas
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder, or more to taste
  • ½ cup almond or other non-dairy milk

Directions: Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and set aside. To assemble, blend each flavor separately, adding the frozen bananas first and blending until crumbly and no large pieces remain. In the strawberry flavor, blend the strawberries with the bananas. Add the vanilla and milk and blend until smooth, adding the cocoa powder in the chocolate layer at this point. Pour the first layer in the bottom and spread out till flat, and smooth out as best you can. Put in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Prepare the next layer and pour over top, spreading evenly again. Repeat for the final layer.

To remove from the pan, you may need to put an inch or two of hot water in your sink and place the pan in the sink for 5-10 seconds before inverting on a plate. Then, slice with a large sharp knife, such as a serrated bread knife. Store covered in the freezer up to 2 weeks.


5. Vanilla Pound Cake

Enjoy your pound cake from Land O’Lakes with ice cream, whipped cream, and fresh fruit, or drizzled with a rich caramel or chocolate sauce. This recipe will make about 16 servings; it is great for large gatherings, since it is a hit with people with and without food allergies.


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla
  • 3 cups gluten-free flour blend (purchased, or as follows)
  • 2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 cup milk

Flour blend

  • 2 cups rice flour
  • ⅔ cup potato starch
  • ⅓ cup tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Directions: Combine flour and xanthan gum for flour blend. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 12-cup bundt or 10-inch tube pan; sprinkle with gluten-free flour blend. Set aside.

Combine sugar and melted butter in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla; beat until well mixed. Stir together gluten-free flour blend and baking powder in bowl. Gradually add flour blend mixture alternately with milk to butter mixture, beating at low speed until well mixed. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan.


6. Lemon Layer Cake

When you need a light, lemony cake, turn to this recipe from Gourmet via Epicurious. A brown rice rice-flour mix is used in place of traditional all-purpose flour, and from the cake itself to the frosting, every element incorporates fresh lemon, ensuring flavor in every slice.


Cake layers

  • 1 cup canola oil, plus additional for greasing cake pans
  • 2½ cups brown rice flour mix (made from combining 2 cups extra finely ground brown-rice flour, ⅔ cup potato starch, ⅓ cup tapioca flour)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs

Lemon curd

  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ¼ teaspoon guar gum
  • ½ stick (¼ cup) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract

Lemon Frosting

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3½ cups confectioners sugar
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest

Directions: To make the cake, put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush cake pans with canola oil. Line bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or wax paper, then oil paper. Whisk together flour mix, salt, baking powder, and xanthan gum until combined well. Stir together milk, canola oil (1 cup), vanilla, and zest in another bowl.

Beat together sugar and eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed just until combined, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add flour and milk mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until just combined. Divide batter evenly between cake pans, smoothing tops, and bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of each cake layer comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Cool cake layers in pans on racks 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around edge of 1 cake layer and invert rack over cake pan, then invert cake onto rack. Repeat with second layer. Peel off paper and cool layers completely.

The curd can be made up to three days in advance and stored in the fridge. To make, whisk together zest, lemon juice, sugar, yolks, a pinch of salt, and guar gum in a 1-quart heavy saucepan. Add butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubbles appear on surface, about 5 minutes. Whisk in extract. Immediately pour curd into a bowl, then cover surface with wax paper and chill until cold, about 30 minutes.

For the frosting, beat butter with an electric mixer at high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add confectioners sugar, lemon juice, extract, and zest, then mix until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Halve each cake layer horizontally using a long serrated knife. Spread bottom half of each cake layer with half of lemon curd, then top with remaining cake layers to form two sandwiched cakes. Put one sandwiched cake on a cake stand or platter and spread a heaping ½ cup frosting over top, then cover with remaining sandwiched cake. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.


7. Turtle Cups

Just like how the Neapolitan Ice Cream Cake can be suitable for vegans, you can make a candy that looks like a Reese’s and works for people with a gluten allergy or a peanut allergy. About Candy has this recipe for turtle cups, which takes the hallmarks of turtle candies — caramel, chocolate, and pecans — shaped into cups of chocolaty-caramel goodness.


  • 8 ounces soft caramels, homemade or storebought
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 1¼ cups toasted pecans, finely chopped
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions: Arrange 20 foil candy cups on a baking sheet or line a mini or regular muffin tin, depending on the size of candy you want to make. Distribute the chopped pecans evenly among the candy cups. Place the unwrapped caramels and the cream in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute, then stir the caramels. If they have not all melted or if it is still very stiff, microwave for an additional brief period. Stir until the caramel is smooth and homogenous.

Spoon the caramel over the nuts in the candy cups. Be sure to leave a space at the top so that you can fill it with chocolate later. Place the chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute, then stir until all of the chocolate is melted. Spoon a small dollop of chocolate on top of the caramel in each cup, making a swirling motion in the center for a finishing touch.

Place the cups in the refrigerator to set the chocolate and caramel for at least 30 minutes. Unless your environment is very cool, these cups will need to be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, as the caramel and chocolate get soft when left for long periods of time at room temperature.

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