Gluten-Free King Cake Cookies (Cinnamon-Pecan Cookies)

by on January 20, 2011
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Gluten-Free King Cake Cookies

Mardi Gras season officially began on January 6, and though the parades don’t start to roll in New Orleans until mid-February, I already have Mardi Gras–or more specifically King Cake–on my mind.  I haven’t had a piece of King Cake in years, but that doesn’t stop me from craving the sugar-laden, gaudy confection.  Even more than the flavor, I miss the fun of sharing a king cake with friends.  And, of course, the sprinkles!

So when it was my turn to host my book group this past Monday, I decided to sprinkle a little Mardi Gras into the occasion by baking a batch of cinnamon and pecan cookies and giving them the purple, green, and gold treatment. Since one of our group members can’t eat gluten, I made them with two of the gluten-free flours I had in my pantry, but I’m sure that there are better blends that a more experienced gluten-free baker could come up with; feel free to use your own favorite combination.

Gluten-Free King Cake Cookies

As you probably know, King Cake is served at parties during Mardi Gras, and hidden inside each cake is a plastic baby or a bean.  The person who finds the baby is responsible for bringing the cake to the next party.  Because I was worried that one of my friends might break a tooth if I put anything inside a cookie, I decided to skip that part of the tradition.  But as my daughter E was helping me decorate the cookies, she came up with the idea of putting a raisin or a pecan half into one before baking.  Genius!  I wish I’d talked to her about it before I’d baked the cookies.

A word about the sprinkles: I used food coloring to color raw sugar, which is tan, causing my sprinkles to be not quite the colors I wanted.  But the large crystals do add an interesting crunch to the cake-like cookies, so if you’d like to color your own, just add a little food color to the sugar and mix it in with your fingers.  Don’t worry–the food color rinses off easily so you won’t have Mardi Gras fingers for long.

Everyone in my book group seemed to like the cookies, though it was hard to tell how many they ate because E kept sneaking in and stealing them.  She agreed with me that the gluten-free flours gave them a slightly grassy taste that we’re not used to, but she liked them enough to give them 4 out of 5 crumbs on her Num-Crumb Scale™.  Real King Cake is yeast-raised, more like a giant, round cinnamon roll than a regular cake, and though these cookies are cake-like, they’re really only similar to King Cake in spirit (and color scheme).  If you’re interested in making the real thing, check out Kittee’s Vegan King Cake, which looks downright delicious.

Gluten-Free King Cake Cookies

Gluten-Free King Cake Cookies

(printer-friendly version)

If you’re not following a gluten-free diet, you can make these with wheat flour (unbleached or whole wheat) by using 1 cup of flour and omitting the xanthan gum. Adjust the water as necessary to get a thick dough.

1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Blend
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon (1-2 tsp., to taste)
1/2 cup sugar
8 ounces extra-firm tofu (not silken)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons water (approximately)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1-2 drops vanilla extract
water
purple, green, and gold sugar sprinkles

Preheat oven to 375F. Process the pecans in a food processor until finely chopped but not powdered. Remove crushed pecans to a bowl and add the tofu to the processor. Process until almost smooth.

Mix the pecans, flours, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the tofu and vanilla and begin to stir. Add water by the tablespoon until all the dry ingredients are incorporated and a heavy dough forms. Be careful not to add too much water.

Use a cookie scoop or tablespoon to drop rounded tablespoons of dough at least two inches apart on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Flatten each cookie slightly with a fork. Bake for 10-16 minutes or until edges are golden and middles seem done. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring each cookie to a wire rack. Allow to cool before decorating.

To decorate, put1/2 cup of confectioners sugar in a bowl. Add a couple of drops of vanilla extract (be careful not to add too much or it may make your icing dark). Add water one teaspoon at a time, stirring well and stopping when you have a thick but spreadable icing. If it’s too runny, it will run right off the cookies, so if you add too much water, add more confectioners’ sugar. Spread the top of each cookie with icing and sprinkle immediately with each of the colored sugars.

These are best eaten the same day. The longer they sit, the more moisture they attract, and the icing and sugar become less attractive, though just as edible.

Servings: 21
Yield: about 21 cookies

Nutrition Facts

Nutrition (per cookie, excluding sprinkles): 68 calories, 21 calories from fat, 2.5g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 58.4mg sodium, 10.6mg potassium, 10.2g carbohydrates, 1.1g fiber, 5.1g sugar, 2g protein, 1.3 points (not equivalent to Weight Watchers’ PointsPlus).

Copyright: Susan Voisin 2011. All rights reserved. Please do not repost recipes or photos to other websites.


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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

1 cholling January 20, 2011 at 9:08 am

Actually, I believe they used a nut in the king cake before plastic babies came along. I’ve never been a fan of plastic in my food to begin with.

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2 SusanV January 20, 2011 at 9:14 am

I didn’t know about the nuts, but I did know that they used to use figurines (porcelain?) before plastic. Those figurines are collectible now. Wish I had one!

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3 Wendy January 20, 2011 at 9:10 am

Gorgeous!

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4 Kathleen @ Kat's Health Corner January 20, 2011 at 9:18 am

These look SO delicious! I love your daughter’s idea. She is so smart! :)

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5 Carpensm @ A Life Without Ice Cream January 20, 2011 at 9:56 am

Those cookies look fantastic! I’m not gluten-free but dairy-free, I might have to give these a try. I’m also really impressed with the sugar! I love the colours and it would be so much fun to make your own.

Thanks for the inspiration!

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6 Karen January 20, 2011 at 10:17 am

Is the tofu pureed? It seems to me that trying to incorporate a block of extra firm tofu into the dough with a mixer would not work very well.

For gluten free baking my favorite substitute for wheat flour is finely ground millet flour (Bobs Red Mill brand). It subs easily cup for cup and with the addition of 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum per cup of flour it is not crumbly. Also no grassy flavor or weird gritty texture. I find that gluten free baked goods using xanthan gum have a better texture when they are mixed more than a typical wheat dough because the xanthan gum needs to be activated by the mixing. Thanks for this fun recipe.

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7 SusanV January 20, 2011 at 10:26 am

Somehow the line about pureeing the tofu got left out, but I’ve added it back now. Thanks for pointing that out!

I need to try millet flour. Sounds like it would be perfect here.

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8 Trish @I_am_Succeeding January 20, 2011 at 11:40 am

LOVE the colors!!

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9 Tom January 20, 2011 at 11:47 am

Susan. Quick question. If I was not concerned re gluten and wanted to make this with regular flour would 1 cup white whole wheat flour or 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour work as well? Just curious the role of the xanthan gum and if I dont have that use what? Ground flax? Is the xanthan a binder?
Thanks They look good. I love your baked goods!! :) I have tons of vegan cookbooks but always default to your recipes!! :)

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10 SusanV January 20, 2011 at 11:51 am

Thanks, Tom! Just use 1 cup of either flour (or 1/2 cup of each) instead of the gluten-free flours and omit the xanthan gum. You may need to add a little less or more water, and you should avoid over-stirring.

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11 mary (what's cookin' with mary) January 20, 2011 at 12:01 pm

What an incredibly beautiful picture Susan!

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12 Georgia January 20, 2011 at 12:52 pm

These look fun! We had a Mardi Gras Day at work, and I wanted to do a takeoff on the King Cake that was single serving. I ended up doing cupcakes with purple, green, and gold frosting, and for the “baby,” since we obviously couldn’t deal with the liability of a potential choking hazard, I put a sticker of a baby on the bottom of the cupcake wrapper, and whoever got it won a prize.

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13 Happy Bunny January 20, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Wow – looks good!

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14 Archana January 21, 2011 at 4:54 am

I am bookmarking this!

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15 Maria January 21, 2011 at 6:54 am

These look so colorful and good :)
Susan I have been reading your blog for a long time and really enjoy it. I remember you mentioning quite a while ago that you were working on a book. Is that still on the works?
Best wishes
Maria

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16 Peggy January 21, 2011 at 10:21 am

I love the King Cake tradition and these little mini cookies version sounds awesome!

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17 Gluten Free Diva January 21, 2011 at 10:31 am

Looks lovely Susan. So colorful! The “grassy” taste recognized by E is an acquired taste. Gluten free flours definitely impart a different flavor than their wheat counterparts. The fun part of gluten free baking is that there are so many options for combinations. And each combination gives you a different taste and texture. Thank you for posting a GF recipe – us GF folks appreciate it!

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18 Megan January 21, 2011 at 12:01 pm

These look awesome! Will definitely be making these in February!

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19 Sarah @ Flavoropolis January 21, 2011 at 2:43 pm

These photos are gorgeous. I just started a new blog, and I’ve read your photography tips and will definitely be incorporating them. Thanks!

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20 Richy January 22, 2011 at 12:16 am

Oh, I’m always looking for more gluten-free recipes since there are few in my family. This looks great! Thanks!

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21 Jill @ Vegan in the Kitchen January 22, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Great idea! They are adorably festive and look so tasty!

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22 Jenn@eatcakefordinner January 23, 2011 at 12:15 am

What a great idea – they are so cute. Love your photos!

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23 lisa January 23, 2011 at 6:44 am

what a photo! i have to say that, in my haste, i often jump right to the recipe and miss your lovely prose, but i’m glad i read it this time. i couldn’t figure out why those sprinkles looked so unusual to me. what a FABULOUS idea to color raw sugar.

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24 sonya January 23, 2011 at 3:53 pm

These are beautiful and I look forward to making these. Where did you purchase the colored sugar. The decorative sugar available in my local supermarket have confectioner’s glaze.

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25 SusanV January 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Hi Sonya, I made the colored sugar. See the introduction to the recipe for details.

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26 moonwatcher January 24, 2011 at 10:48 am

Hi Susan,

What a delightful version of this tradition. I know my mother’s French Canadian one, but not the New Orleans version of it. And gluten free to boot! The colors in the photo are awesome, too. Now my only question is what book was your book club discussing?!

Thanks for another inspirational recipe and photos!

moonwatcher

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27 Lorin January 24, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Nice. I don’t usually see recipes for baked items that call for firmer tofu (which is what I’m likely to have around). I’ll give this one a try!

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28 Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day January 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm

These look so good!

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29 Shiela Marvel January 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Wow! This looks so gorgeous and festive. I may change the color-theme for the cookies and do this for Valentine’s!

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30 Kelly January 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm

What a great idea! I love making King Cake this time of year since, sadly, I can’t make it to NOLA for carnival. Unfortunately, a whole king cake is a bit much for just me and the mr., so these are perfect! Maybe I can sneak a baby in the batch somewhere…
Thanks for the recipe!

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31 Christianne January 27, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Thank you for posting this delicious looking recipe. I live here in the big easy and i have not even smelled a king cake yet. I live in lakeview and there is a McKenzie’s that opened up and sells it’s original brioche type cake. I am also t hinking of trying a glfr puff pastry to create the original gallette de roi filled with almond paste for Mardi Gras Day.
In the mean time I am looking foward to trying these gems real soon!
Merci Chere!

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32 April January 28, 2011 at 10:29 am

I made these the other day for my (non-vegan) husband, and he basically ate the entire batch in one sitting! They do get really moist (as you said) after one day, but the few we had left were still really yummy the next day. I made a few without nuts (my son is allergic) and those turned out great too. I used regular decorating sugar and they really turned out cute. Thanks for the recipe!

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33 Paul January 30, 2011 at 7:44 am

Mardi-gras fingers … how weird and fun does that sound!

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34 maya January 30, 2011 at 8:38 am

came looking for a good muffin recipe this morning & found these cookies. and while these cookies do look good, but i have to say that your photographs of them are stellar! :)

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35 Karen January 30, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Oh my goodness that looks incredible!! :0) I’m a Louisiana native, too! :0)

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36 Get Skinny, Go Vegan. February 27, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Seriously???? Gluten Free & Vegan & Mardi Gras??
Wish I would have set up a booth for the rescue selling these at all the crazy Mardi Gras Festivities in St. Louis!! LOVE IT!!

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37 Aurea March 3, 2011 at 12:34 pm

I recommend some cookies, cake, brownies or muffing, they have fun doing these little things. I do them in my house with my kids on gluten-free. Comes a gluten-free flour is called Chia Seed Flour is excellent, I recommend it 100%, has omega 3 and many nutrients for children. I was watching on You Tube and have many things to do for children. This company is called Nuchia Foods and you can get easy http://www.nuchiafoods.com.

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38 Get Skinny, Go Vegan. March 9, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Did anyone make these for Mardi Gras?? I really don’t eat sugar & try, try, try, to stay away from flour but these are looking so good!! Just wondered if anyone served them to a “norm” audience without telling them they were vegan. I find that usually works best so they don’t have some idea in their heads that vegan means not totally delicious.

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39 Christopher Kandrat March 28, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Some of the best cookies I’ve had in awhile, thanks for the recipe!

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40 Radhika Sarohia August 22, 2012 at 1:30 am

These look so nice and colorful
I wonder if there is something I can substitute for the tofu, or maybe I could leave it out or something
While I quite like tofu in main dinner and lunch type of dishes, I dislike it in sweet dessert items for some reason

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41 Radhika Sarohia August 22, 2012 at 1:45 am

Cool, found some ideas for tofu substitution while perusing other recipes/comments on this site, I will try those out and post back :-)

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42 The Peace Patch February 12, 2013 at 10:17 am

Thank you so much for sharing this superyumfulness! I featured it on my blog today…
http://thepeacepatch.blogspot.com/2013/02/happy-vegan-mardi-gras.html
Cheers!

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43 DAlia Varanka January 20, 2014 at 1:54 pm

I love your King Cake cookie idea! This year, I will try to replace the dyed sugar with flavor-infused sugar, which acquires a color of the flavor though not as jewel-toned.

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44 Lisa February 28, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Hi! I really want to make this recipe- but among the friends I am hoping to share with, one of them is also soy free… so I can’t use the tofu- we are not vegan tho- so could I substitute eggs? Or maybe banana or applesauce?

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45 Susan Voisin February 28, 2014 at 7:15 pm

Eggs would probably be closest to tofu, but I really have no experience in cooking with them, so I can’t say for sure.

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46 Lisa March 4, 2014 at 5:21 pm

I ended up using 2 eggs and one banana for the tofu-ended up adding about double the amount of flour and no water due to the added moisture from the eggs. The cookies came out good.

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47 Kristina B. March 4, 2014 at 7:36 am

Hi there…On top of no gluten, egg, or dairy, I’m also soy free…any suggestions on what to use in place of the tofu? Thanks!

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48 Susan Voisin March 4, 2014 at 7:43 am

I’ve seen cookies made with beans, so I’ll bet you could substitute mashed white beans for the tofu. I haven’t tried it, though.

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49 Lisa March 4, 2014 at 5:22 pm

I think just banana would have worked too- I made mine soy free and they were fine, had to adjust the flour a little

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50 Jessica March 5, 2014 at 9:12 am

I LOVE king cake- what a fun take on this classic! Can’t wait to try — they’re healthy so that means I can make them even after fat tuesday right?? ;)

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51 Maria Anzora March 10, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Thank for sharing your recipies with us , you don’t know how many peaple you heal of their illness. God bless your talents.

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