Christmas Gluten-Free… and Easy


Guest Writer: Colleen Cavagna-

Since finding out this spring that I have a gluten intolerance, I have been slowly going through each holiday realizing, with shock and frustration, all the things that I can no longer eat during the holidays. Now, I could have wallowed in self-pity and made everyone around me feel terrible about my new eating regimen but, since I am not the Grinch and not one to miss out on my favorite foods during the holidays, I did my research.

I have happily been trying out gluten-free (GF) versions of the dishes and treats I really don’t want to miss out on and if your diet is also gluten-free OR if you have guests that are gluten-free, I have done all the work for you on how to have a Merry Christmas for everyone. For tips that focus on the main feast, head over to my earlier post that explains how to make the perfect GF gravy, stuffing and other dishes!

Now on to the topic close to most of our hearts… desserts.

  1. Cream Puff Cake

During the cold weather, I think back to my youth when my father and mother made cream puffs. We would drag ourselves into the house from sledding with frozen fingers and toes to be greeted with cream puffs and hot chocolate, mmmm. Well, making cream puffs with GF flour that tastes like I remember wasn’t something I considered possible – until I tried a recipe called Custard Cake. With my first taste, my tongue said, “Whoa, cream puffs,” while my eyes said, “Wait, this doesn’t look anything like cream puffs, what’s up?” Frankly I didn’t care, I just kept eating. I had to fight off my husband for the last piece.

Follow the directions exactly, and you can enjoy this GF dessert that everyone will delight over. This recipe came from Nicole’s Gluten on a Shoestring blog.

Cream Puffs
3/4 cup All Purpose Gluten Free Flour
1/4 tsp Xanthan Gum 
2 Tbsp cornstarch
4 eggs,  at room temperature, separated
1 Tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
9 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
2 cups warm milk (about 95°F)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8×8 baking pan and set aside. In bowl, mix flour, xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it), and cornstarch.
  • In stand mixer, whisk egg whites and lemon juice on medium-high speed until frothy. Add half of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form (about 2 minutes). Transfer egg white mixture to another bowl and add yolks to the mixer bowl with the rest of the sugar and vanilla until combined.
  • Add the melted butter to the yolk mixture and beat well. Then add the flour mixture and the warm milk to the bowl in three parts each until just combined. The mixture will be very thin (watery). Add the beaten egg whites to the batter in three parts as well, whisking GENTLY to combine after each addition. The batter should be light and fluffy. Pour into the prepared pan and place in center of preheated oven. Bake until the top of the cake is lightly golden brown and springs back when pressed gently in the center (about 1 hour and 5 mins to 15 minutes, depending upon your oven).
  • The cake will shrink up when removed from the oven and cools. Dust lightly with confectioner’s sugar before serving or top with a pudding then dust with confectioners’ sugar, or top with fruit or a fruit mixture or, or, or, the possibilities are endless!
  1. Frosted Sugar Cookies

Christmas just isn’t Christmas without frosted sugar cookies. Big fluffy Santa’s, snowmen, stars; my mouth is watering just thinking about them. Well, fear not, you can still have your sugar cookie Christmas fix with this recipe. These ones are soft and thick with your favorite frosting!  Celeste at Life After Wheat provided this wonderful recipe.

Sugar Cookies

¾ cup shortening (I used butter)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
½ Tbsp vanilla
1 cup prepared vanilla pudding
4 cups All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour
1 tsp Xanthan Gum
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream shortening (or butter) and sugar together for 1 minute. Add egg and vanilla; mix until smooth.
  • Add pudding and mix on medium until blended. Add remaining ingredients and mix for 1 minute. Dough should be just slightly sticky. If it’s too thick/crumbly, add additional pudding or milk 1 Tablespoon at a time until you have the right consistency.
  • You can wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 4 days at this point, or proceed to baking. Roll dough out to desired thickness (I did about 1/4″) on a surface that is lightly dusted with gluten free flour and cut into desired shapes.
  • Arrange cookies on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper 1 inch apart and bake 8-10 minutes until they appear set and the bottom edges are just barely (just barely!) starting to turn a golden brown.
  • Let cool on cookie sheet a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Frost with your favorite frosting and decorate as you like.
  1. Jam Thumb Print Cookies

This means Christmas! They taste so good with your homemade jam and rolled in nuts. I wanted them to taste as close to the gluten version as possible, so I just modified the recipe I have been using for years with delicious results!

Jam ThumbprintsIngredients:
½ cup butter
¼ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt
1 ¼  All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour
½ tsp Xanthan Gum
½ – 1 cup chopped nuts


  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream butter, sugar, and 1 whole egg and 1 yolk (set aside the white for rolling the cookies).
  • In a bowl, combine flour, salt, xanthan gum (only add this if your flour does not already include it.)
  • Add vanilla to creamed butter, sugar and eggs – mix. Then add flour mixture. Dough should be slightly sticky. Add more flour as needed to get to right consistency.
  • Put dough in refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight if you don’t have time right now.
    Shape dough into balls, roll in whisked egg white, then roll in chopped nuts (I use pecans, but you can use whatever nuts you like best).
  • Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Press your thumb in the middle of the dough ball to make a nice deep indent. Maintain a ridge at the edge of the cookies so that the jam does not come out.
  • Bake 8 minutes, remove from oven and add enough jelly to each cookie to fill the indent, return to the oven and bake an additional 13 – 15 minutes or until dough is cooked.
  • Allow to cool and then enjoy.

Obviously, there are plenty more desserts we all like for Christmas, but this will give you a place to start for your gluten-free guests (or yourself) that your gluten guests won’t even realize are gluten-free!

If you want to bake a pie, see my Thanksgiving post for a GREAT pie crust recipe to make your pies GF too. January is my time for baking bread (well all of winter really) – before I become gluten-free – so perhaps my next article will tackle that tricky topic. Enjoy yourselves and have a very Merry Christmas.

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