Well Being

12 Days of Christmas Cookie Recipes: Vegan, Gluten-Free Sugarplum Cookies

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I usually try to avoid wheat, but I tend to let my gluten-free goals slide this time of year. Fortunately for me, it doesn't wreak havoc on my body the way that it does for those with Celiac disease or serious gluten intolerance, who don't get to “cheat” for a good holiday cookie. That's why I love Babycakes' Erin McKenna: Her recipes are actually good, and in the case of these spicy, cake-like Sugarplum Cookies, they're also gluten free, and vegan to boot. I made some small adjustments to the recipe from her book, BabyCakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery, but her way or mine: these cookies are delicious.

They're similar to Mexican wedding cakes, but rolled in a lot of powdered sugar and filled with plum jam (which compliments the cinnamon and nutmeg nicely, in case you're thinking of subbing in a raspberry or strawberry variety, instead). I'll be honest with you: These cookies are damn easy to make, but getting the ingredients is half the battle. All you really need to do is head to a natural foods store and zero in on the Bob's Red Mill bags of flours and baking ingredients, but it's worth it: Once you get your brown rice flour and xanthan gum home, these are incredibly easy to make, and incredibly good. (And not in that “good for a vegan, gluten-free cookie” kind of way. They're actually good.)

Try the recipe, below, and don't forget to check out all of our 12 Days of Christmas Cookie Recipes posts:

You may have to hunt down a couple of specialty ingredients for these cookies, but once you have them, all you have to do is throw them in a bowl.

Shaping the cookies is quick and easy.

I like to make my "thumbprints" with the end of a whisk, to make sure they're deep and evenly shaped.

Roll the cookies through a generous amount of confectioner's sugar to form a sugary crust on the outside.

Plum jam might seem like an odd choice, but go with it; it complements the spices in the cookie well, and isn't overly sweet.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Sugarplum Cookies

adapted from Babycakes by Erin McKenna


3/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup evaporated cane juice
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups brown rice flour
1/4 cup flax meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
plum jam


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, mix the oil, evaporated cane juice, applesauce, salt, and vanilla until fully combined. Add the flour, flax meal, baking soda, xanthan gum, cinnamon, and nutmeg directly to the wet ingredients and combine until a dough is formed. If it crumbles, add cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together in a ball.

3. With clean hands, for tablespoon-sized dough balls and space them one inch apart on the lined baking sheets. Press your thumb into the cookies to create an indentation (I like to use the round end of a whisk to create an evenly round mark). Bake the cookies on the center rack for 16 minutes, rotating the sheets 180 degrees after 8 minutes. The finished cookies will be golden and firm to the touch.

4. Let the cookies stand n the sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack and cool completely. Pour the confectioners' sugar into a shallow bowl and roll the cookies through it until completely coated. Spoon one teaspoon plum jam into each indentation. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

Photos: Chuck Smith and Briana Rognlin