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Homemade Circus Animals

One memory I hold dear to my heart occurred 3 years ago when I was at a birthday party. My 6-year-old niece sat at the table, looking at all of the kids bite into their pieces of pizza while she sat there with an empty plate. My niece, Cambria, has had severe life-threatening food allergies since birth and is unable to eat dairy, eggs, and tree nuts. It broke my heart to see her without food and I couldn’t stand the thought of her not eating any lunch like the rest of the kids so I made a run to get her fast food. The look of surprise and sheer delight on her face when I put a sandwich on her plate was priceless. It was relief for her to not be the only the one without lunch.

Rewind to 5 months ago when I was diagnosed with a dairy allergy and gluten intolerance, and I found myself several times in the same predicament as my niece. Sitting at dinner, unable to eat most of it — it wasn’t a good feeling, I’ll tell you that. In fact, at times, it felt alientating when I had to explain to someone that I was unable to eat the food served at a party.  But something clicked for me the last time when it occurred: I promised myself that I would not only handle it with same grace that Cambria does, but that I would change my perspective and make it my mission to figure out how to make the same types of foods that I have once loved, sans gluten and animal products.  Since then, I have spent countless hours in the kitchen, attempting to recreate my favorite childhood classics that not only I can enjoy, but all the little kiddos like Cambria can as well. And what else screams childhood than Mother’s Circus Animal Cookies?

Circus Animal Cookie Recipe

  • 1 3/4 c. All-Purpose Gluten-Free flour (I like Authentic Foods Rice Flour Blend)
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 c.) Earth Balance butter (softened)
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1 Tb vegan cream cheese (softened) — as egg replacer
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • Royal Icing (as follows)
  • Rainbow Sprinkle balls


  1. Sift together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt together until well combined.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy and light. Add cream cheese and extracts until fluffy and combined.
  3. Gradually add flour mixture and stir with wooden spoon.
  4. Separate the dough in 3 balls and knead each ball until smooth. Chill for 1-2 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Roll the dough out in between 2 pieces of wax paper until 1/4″ thick. Cut out with animal cookie cutters and place on greased cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes, or until brown along the edges. Allow to cool 5 minutes off cookie sheet.


  • 2 Tbs Ener-G egg relacer plus 4 Tbs warm water, mixed until frothy
  • 3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tb vegan cream cheese
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Bright pink food coloring
  1. Using an electric mixer, combine everything together until thick. Add more sugar if needs to be thicker.
  2. Dip the cookies into the bowl of icing and allow to set on wax paper. Top off with sprinkles.

The best feeling in the world is standing in the kitchen, knowing that you just baked a cookie comparable to what you remembered from your childhood. I guarantee you that not only will you have fun making these cookies, but those who get to eat them will have even more fun! Currently, I am boxing these up to give to my niece…

 Happy Thursday, Friends.

You can also find this recipe over here at the GoodVeg.

39 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jennifer Bandy, MA #

    I share the dedication you showed to your niece with our children- my goal is to prepare an equivalent for the endless birthdays, holidays, etc. at school and elsewhere. The feelings you describe are feelings we have experienced, it is emotionally challenging to be the only one in the room not eating something (or everything). I admire your dedication and thank you for sharing this knowledge. Teachers, principals, parents, etc. need this info. so that there is an increased sensitivity to the emotional side of food consumption choices/needs.

    October 6, 2012
  2. RE #

    Omg. Lol. I loved these as a child! They were a favorite that’s for sure! Just as when I was younger, now that I see them … I need a bright pink one now!

    I wonder if its possible to make these refined sugar free. White sugar replaced by coconut or date or maple sugar .. Or honey or maple syrup!

    September 30, 2012
  3. Thank you so much for making these amazing cookies vegan! This was seriously one of my favorite childhood snacks and when I first became vegan I was having trouble giving those kind of things up.
    But I have learned that going vegan is not a sacrifice, but a blessing! So many more doors have been open to me now, and I couldn’t be happier. Plus, many times the “substitutes” taste better than “the real thing”.

    I can’t wait to make these. Although I’m not gluten-free, I have been seriously considering eating less of it.

    By the way, Is there a substitute for xanthan gum? What is xanthan gum used for?

    August 17, 2012
  4. These look fantastic! I’m not vegan, but love to replace non-vegan processed goodies with vegan goodies because I find them tastier! I’ll definitely be giving these a try. Thanks for sharing.(:

    August 12, 2012
  5. Stacy #

    Thanks for the recipe, can’t wait to try it! The picture looks like the animals are moving, but maybe it’s just me.

    June 4, 2012
    • hahaha. They kinda *do* look like that! 🙂

      June 5, 2012
  6. Sarah #

    These cookies are sooooo amazing! I feel like I can now survive being gluten free. I lover sugar/rollout cookies and these are a perfect replacement. I made big ones with train cookie cutters and they were so cute. Even unfrosted they are AMAZING!!!! Thank you so much!

    May 30, 2012
  7. 🙂 🙂 :0 Grinning after today’s visit to F&B!

    January 16, 2012
  8. Mia Ybarra-Klar #

    Oh wow, I don’t know how I stumbled onto your blog, but am I glad!!
    I loved animal crackers when I was younger, I haven’t had them in years.
    I will definitely make these this weekend, Yummy, I can taste them already.

    January 13, 2012
    • I am most certainly happy you found your way over here as well! Thank you for stopping by 🙂 Hope you like the cookies. They don’t have the waxy flavor from your youth, but they are just as cute! xo, Cara

      January 13, 2012
  9. The Sister #

    Another tearjerker. Damn you.

    January 12, 2012
    • My work is done here folks. You know what party I am referencing?

      January 12, 2012
  10. how cute are these cute teeny cookies! i need some teeny cookie cutters too! Its super amazing that you are recreating these memories without the need for the dairy,eggs and gluten!

    January 12, 2012
    • Darn i made pink coconut balls, they were cooked on the stove.. so i am not sure if they work for the bake off.. i think i saw raw works fine.. so does any dessert cooked any way or uncooked work?

      January 12, 2012
      • Absolutely! Raw is vegan and gluten free so it works!

        January 12, 2012
    • Everything tastes better when they are teeny, right? I got my cookie cutters at Michael’s–they are the Noah’s Ark cutters. I will say this, I am having the best time ever recreating all my fav kiddie snacks, that is for sure. xo

      January 12, 2012
  11. OMG this is what has been missing in my life – why have I never seen or tasted these adorable little cookies before now – clearly my childhood wasn’t as wonderful as I thought it too be, considering these cookies were missing from it!

    January 12, 2012
    • Whaaaaaa? You never had Mother’s Circus Animal Cookies???? <–you are not missing out on much, except how cute they look. Despite the waxy taste, I would still eat them… See? Wax? Not missing out…

      January 12, 2012
  12. you are awesome. these are awesome. Cambria is lucky to have an awesome auntie.

    I am so happy you are taking a positive approach to your allergies – and so happy you reached out to me back then! 🙂 your attitude and creativity is an inspiration every day.

    January 12, 2012
    • Girl, I am so happy you reached BACK out to me 🙂 hehe. You have a very special place in my heart because of that, for reals. xo
      Thank you for your sweet words. You are MY inspiration so it’s funny to hear you say that 🙂

      January 12, 2012
  13. Laurel #


    January 12, 2012
    • Crap, I wasn’t ready for that. Now I have to get up and chase you around the circle… I suck at running!

      January 12, 2012
      • Laurel #

        Well, you live by the water. You’re always prodding people to get on with it and not be soggy and I’m glad you suck at running. I suck at walking. 🙂 I’d be jabbed to smithereens. I wouldn’t mind if they were pink and white and covered in sprinkles though.

        January 12, 2012
        • Aren’t we both the perfect couple. One sucks at walking, one sucks at running. Together, they are amazing 🙂 Oh, and did I tell you how the waves were crashing and I could hear them from the kitchen window??? haha

          January 12, 2012
  14. These are perfect! I love those dang cookies! I bet your inner child is doing a happy dance right now! (And awesomesauce on the guest post!)

    January 12, 2012
    • My inner child was having a hay day! (what does that mean anyway?) And those dang cookies love YOU. They are saying: Make us! Make us!

      January 12, 2012
  15. If I liked to bake… yummmmm. 🙂 These are adorable.

    January 12, 2012
    • Carolyn, this means you have to befriend those who do like to bake and convince them to cook tasty treats for you 🙂

      January 12, 2012
  16. You are rockin’ that front page! I left a comment there but wanted to tell you again – these are PERFECT looking and I can only imagine how yummy they taste 🙂 Genius, just genius!

    January 12, 2012
    • I was super thrilled with how they turned out! I think I even squealed a few times in Greg’s ears 🙂 hehe. I cannot help it though, my childhood was brought into the kitchen… THANK YOU, Nora! xo

      January 12, 2012
  17. how cute!

    January 12, 2012
    • Thank you, Nobody. That always makes me feel weird to refer to you as nobody because you ARE somebody 🙂 xo

      January 12, 2012
  18. These look awesome and so adorable!!

    January 12, 2012
    • Thank you my little fellow baker 🙂

      January 12, 2012
      • I am merely a copy-cat.

        January 12, 2012
        • Aren’t we all in some way or fashion? There is no such thing as an original idea 😉

          January 12, 2012
  19. These are so adorable! I love animal crackers. Now I will have to search for tiny cookie cutters!

    January 12, 2012
    • If you have a Michaels nearby, that is where I found mine. I believe it is the Noah’s Ark animal cutters 🙂

      January 12, 2012

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