My gluten free circus animal cookies are the perfect sweet treat, and so much fun to make, especially with little ones!
This recipe is from my first cookbook, Just As Tasty: Gluten-Free & Eggless Baking Through the Seasons. Click here to grab your copy for even more fun, easy, and delicious allergy-friendly dessert recipes!
I'll be honest -- this gluten free circus animal cookie recipe has been a long time coming. It's been brewing in my mind for a while simply because this is one of those guilty pleasures we used to indulge in every once in a while, B.A. (before allergies). We used to love to buy those little Mother's Circus Animal Cookies! Needless to say, we hadn't had these in a looong time.
Until! I finally cleared space on my editorial calendar and decided to write this recipe and test it out. I was SO thrilled with the results and, bonus: they are super fun to make. So we're taking a break from the Fall content for just a minute, because you need to try this recipe.
First things first, I needed some little animal cookie cutters.. which is harder to find than you would think! Of course, I wanted to be as accurate as possible. So I went for zebras, lions, giraffes, and elephants!
This set worked out perfectly (although I'm going to keep it real with you, they're a little bit of a pain to wash afterwards simply because you will get dough in all of the little crevices -- pro tip: soak them in warm soapy water first).
And if you really want to make these authentic, you just HAVE to finish these off with pink icing and nonpareil sprinkles. Well, you don't have to. I actually think these circus animal cookies are delicious without icing, too. Or you can just use white icing. Or tint your icing any color you like. Have fun with it!
Why You'll Love These Cookies...
- Simply put, these cookies are so, so delicious. Good luck having just one! Personally, I love them even more than the store-bought kind. And no, I'm not just saying that.
- They're actually softer than the ones you get at the store, which I also like. The powdered sugar we're using really helps with the texture.
- They're so much fun! I don't think you can make these without a smile on your face. Plus, this is a great activity to do if you have little ones at home. They'll love cutting out the animal shapes and decorating the finished cookies.
What You'll Need...
- The dry ingredients: flour + baking powder + salt.
- The flavor: powdered sugar + vanilla extract.
- The fat: unsalted butter.
- Instead of eggs: Bob's Red Mill Egg Replacer.
- For extra soft cookies: Greek yogurt.
- Top it off: powdered sugar + heavy cream + vanilla + food coloring + sprinkles. Color Kitchen was nice enough to send me one of their allergy-friendly frosting mixes, so that's what I used here.
How To Make...
To make my gluten free circus animal cookies, you'll start by mixing your dry ingredients together in a small bowl. Then, using a mixer, beat the butter with the powdered sugar until it's smooth. Add the vanilla, yogurt, and prepared egg replacer and beat to combine. Finally, add the dry ingredients right in and mix on low speed.
Place your cookie dough between two sheets of parchment paper and use a rolling pin to roll it out until it's about ¼ of an inch thick. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Once your cookie dough has chilled, you'll start working on cutting out your animal shapes! Gather any scraps of dough and re-roll as necessary, so that you're able to use up as much of the dough as possible. It goes without saying that you may get more or less cookies depending on the cookie cutters you're using, but I'm always able to get 36 little cookies with this recipe.
Once you have your animal cookies all cut out, arrange them on lined baking sheets and pop back into the refrigerator for another 20 minutes, until your oven is done preheating. Bake on 350ºF for 8 minutes. These are small, relatively thin cookies so watch them carefully!
To decorate, simply mix your powdered sugar with whole milk, vanilla extract, and food coloring (if using). Dip the tops of the cookies into the icing, allow the excess to drip off, then replace on parchment paper. Add sprinkles right away, before the icing sets.
And that's all there is to it! These will keep in an airtight container for a few days, but are best enjoyed the first 1-2 days after they're made.
- For best results, I always recommend weighing the flour with a kitchen scale rather than using measuring cups. This is the best way to ensure accuracy, which is important because even adding a little bit too much flour will result in a very different texture.
- The chill time is very important in this recipe! This is a soft cookie dough and it will be much easier to work with after it has chilled a bit. It also helps keep the cookies from spreading in the oven.
- Making the icing can take a bit of eyeballing, which is why I recommend adding the milk in gradually, one tablespoon at a time. If you do accidentally thin out the icing too much, it's an easy fix! Just add more powdered sugar -- again, working slowly, one tablespoon at a time.
- I haven't tested it myself, but you might be able to make these gluten free animal cookies vegan. You will need to swap in your favorite non-dairy butter and Greek yogurt. Just make sure the yogurt is similar in texture and fat content as regular Greek yogurt. For the icing, use non-dairy milk.
- If you are not looking to make these animal cookies without eggs, you can substitute 1 egg instead of the egg replacer.
Did you make my gluten free circus animal cookies? Leave me a comment below or tag me on Instagram @justastastyblog and #justastastyblog!
Gluten Free Circus Animal Cookies
- 1 ½ cups (222g) gluten free flour blend
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter room temperature
- ⅔ cup (75g) powdered sugar
- ¼ cup (56g) Greek yogurt room temperature
- 1 tablespoon Bob's Red Mill Egg Replacer mixed with 2 tbsp water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the icing:
- 2 cups (226g) powdered sugar sifted
- 3-4 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- gel food coloring optional
- In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
- Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the powdered sugar until smooth. Add the yogurt, prepared egg replacer, and vanilla and beat to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low speed until cookie dough forms.
- Use your hands to shape the dough into one large round. Place between two sheets of parchment paper and roll with a rolling pin until dough is about ¼ inch thick. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Use cookie cutters to cut the dough into shapes, then place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Combine the scraps and re-roll to cut additional shapes. Chill in refrigerator for another 20 minutes.
- Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes. Let cool on sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before decorating.
For the icing:
- To make the icing, stir the sifted powdered sugar with milk and vanilla until you have the desired consistency. Stir in the food coloring. Dip cookies into icing, allowing excess to drip off, then place on parchment paper to set. Add sprinkles while icing is still wet.
Be sure to follow the instructions on the package of Bob's Red Mill Egg Replacer. Once mixed with water, the egg replacer must sit for just a few minutes to thicken.
If you are not looking to replace eggs, you should be able to use 1 egg instead of the egg replacer.
- You may have to eyeball how much milk you add to your icing, depending on the consistency. Just add in one tablespoon at a time and, if your icing gets to be too thin, add just a bit more powdered sugar.