What’s Baking at Third Coast Review? A Gluten-Free Tea Party!

Pastries and photo by J.T. Newman.

While it’s gotten better over the last half decade, it can still be hard for the gluten free among us to enjoy treats when we’re at a family gathering or a work party. Luckily, the options for gluten-free baking have vastly improved in the last few years, in particular. This past weekend, my partner hosted a wedding shower for her niece—who wanted a “tea party” theme—and a few of the guests (including me) were gluten intolerant or sensitive. We baked up a storm and made sure most of the tea-party themed treats were gluten free.

A Gluten-Free Tea Party

We made: Mini-Pavlovas with seasonal fruit, “shortcut” chantilly cream and handmade lemon curd (recipes below); three kinds of mini-bundt cakes (lemon ginger, chocolate hazelnut and cardamom orange spice); rice krispie treats (in the bride’s wedding colors), mini banana breads and last-minute cake jars.

We purchased assorted macarons and chocolates from a local bakery and candy store.


Pavlovas were named after the famed Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who toured Australia and New Zealand in 1926. As the original story goes, the chef of a Wellington hotel at the time created the delicate dessert to honor her, its meringue and cream layers referencing her tutu. Because they are naturally gluten free and can feature a variety of different fruits and berries, they are an ideal choice for a summer party.

For the meringues, I adapted a recipe from the New York Times and miniaturized them with my frosting tips.

Mini-Pavlovas with Chantilly Cream and Seasonal Fruit

Meringue Ingredients

  •  4 egg whites (best at room temperature)
  •  Pinch of salt
  • 1 ¼ cups superfine sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar
  •  A few drops vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a pencil, draw or trace small circles (I used a 2” diameter juice glass) about 1.5” inches apart. When you’re done, flip over paper so the pencil lead doesn’t transfer to your pastry. I used two half baking sheets for this.
  3. Separate eggs. Set yolks aside.
  4. Using a stand mixer, mix the egg whites and salt on low (gradually increasing speed to high) until you get satiny peaks.
  5. Keeping the mixer on high, gradually spoon in the sugar until the meringue is glossy and forms stiff peaks.
  6. Stop mixer. Sprinkle cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla on top of mixture. Using a spatula, gently fold these in.
  7. Using a pastry bag and number 8 or 10 round piping tip, put meringue mixture gently into bag.
  8. Starting at the center of each circle on your parchment paper, pipe meringue mixture in a spiral until you make a small circle and continue to pipe a ledge on the outer edge of each pavlova.
  9. Put meringues in the oven and lower temperature immediately to 300 F.
  10. Bake for one hour then turn off oven and vent the door.
  11. Let cool inside vented oven until completely cool.

“Shortcut” Chantilly Cream

  • 1 8 oz. tub of each: Mascarpone & Creme Fraiche
  • 1 cup of whipping cream
  • Granulated sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  1. Put all the dairy products into a mixer bowl.
  2. Using the whisk attachment, whip creams on low, gradually increasing the speed. 
  3. Add a few drops of vanilla and sugar to taste. (This is best if it’s not overly sweet and maintains a bit of sourness to offset the sweetness of the meringue.)
  4. Whip to medium peaks.

Mini-Pavlova Assembly

Shortcut Chantilly Cream
Lemon Curd (from Sally’s Baking Addiction) or your local store
Thinly sliced seasonal fruit and well-rinsed berries (We used nectarines, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and kiwi.)

  1. Just before you are ready to serve, place meringues gently on a serving platter. (They are delicate, so handle them gingerly.)
  2. Spread a layer of curd inside the ledge you piped.
  3. Spread a layer of chantilly cream over that.
  4. Arrange and place thinly-sliced fruits or berries on meringues.
  5. Serve immediately.
JT Newman
JT Newman

JT Newman (she/they) is a food and cultural reviewer, home chef and media maven who has been writing for a variety of Chicago publications for more than 25 years. They were one of the founders of Third Coast Review in 2015 and were a regular contributor to Gaper’s Block, Nightspots and Windy City Times. Their work has been published in the Chicago Not-For-Tourists Guide, A Field Guide to Gay and Lesbian Chicago, and Windy City Queer. They host a weekly queer food podcast, Lez Eat, available on Apple and Spotify, among others.

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