Holidays & Seasons, Sweet Treats

Vegan & Gluten-Free Mini Pinecone Cakes

A week or so back, we had our annual Norton Creative, Thanksgiving pot luck lunch. Usually I try out a new dip or appetizer for my item, but I thought I’d try a new treat instead this year. 

We are a team of 17 now and out of that 17, we have our resident vegan and our resident gluten-free eater. When we do group meals like this, we always try to make sure that there are plenty of GF/V options to go around. So when I decided to make a dessert, I started researching how to make it so they could both enjoy. 

I decided that cake or cupcakes would be easy to make GF/V and I found a picture online of some cute pinecone cakes by who else? Martha. But I think it must have been a super old post because there was no longer a recipe or instructions. 😒 I got the general idea and decided I would figure it out for myself anyway!

The gluten-free part was as easy as buying the Betty Crocker GF cake mix. To make it vegan, I found several options with applesauce, pumpkin purée, but what I landed on was a single can of diet cream soda. I had used this method before when I was doing weight watchers for a super low point dessert, so I was a little more confident in how it would turn out over the other options. Plus, there is usually at least a couple people on a diet at the office, so I knew it also being lower calorie would be appreciated. 


I poured the whole cake mix bag into a bowl, then poured a whole can of diet cream soda into it, and mixed it all together. Don’t worry if it seems a little runny. It will still bake fine. At this point I would usually rub a stick of butter on my baking dish and sprinkle it with flour, which I almost did out of habit until I remembered I needed this to be GF/V! Duh Alyson!

So instead, I checked the ingredients of one of my cooking sprays, saw it was safe, and used that to lightly spray my 9×13 baking dish before pouring in the mixture. I baked as usual according to the box instructions. Then let the cake cool fully before removing it from the dish. 

The next step was to cut it into mini cake size. I used a knife with a bit of a serated edge to cut the whole sheet cake in smaller rectangles by first cutting it once longways and then evenly into 10 rectangles. Then I cut the corners off of each of the rectangles to make them more pinecone shaped. 


After I finished with shaping all the cakes, things started to get a bit messy. To ice these guys, I had to hold them in my hand and ice all around the edges and top before laying them down on a tray. In hindsight, it would have been easier to make a mess of them on a different tray while icing them and then just transfer them to another tray. It would have saved me from getting icing all over my hands, but oh well! Getting messy is half the fun of being in the kitchen right?!


I used the Betty Crocker salted caramel frosting. It is surprisingly both gluten free and vegan! And I thought it would be a good flavor combo with the chocolate. 😛

Then it was time for the almonds. Now as always, I’m going to be REAL real with y’all. This was super tedious. To start off, I got sliced almonds and I’d say that more than half of the bag was broken pieces. So I dumped out a little of the bag at a time onto a large plate and had to sift through them, picking out the whole pieces. Starting at one end (the wider one if there is a wider side) you will need to place the almonds in rows slightly fanning them out like a peacock tail as you go. As you continue making rows you will have to start angling the slices down more toward the cake, until you’re at the top where they will be pretty much flat against it. 


This is how they look completed! So cute right?! I think they work great for fall and winter too. You can even do a light dusting of powdered sugar to make them look like snowy pine cones! They were also so delicious you wouldn’t have even known that they were low-calorie, vegan, and gluten free. 


After I finished just these two, I looked at the clock and realized it was past midnight. 😳 The potluck was the next day and I was totally out of steam you guys. So despite my best efforts, I just didn’t have the energy to pick out whole almonds and arrange them onto 8 more cakes. So, the tray ended up going to the potluck looking like the below. I knew my coworkers would get the idea and still love me anyways. 😉 But learn from my mistakes… this is not a quick, evening thing. I’d advise doing it on a weekend if you can. And maybe have a helper too!

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