Gingerbread and Cranberry Chocolate Cups (Vegan and GF)

two stacks of two gingerbread and cranberry dark chocolate cups with holly decorations

Throughout history, winter solstice festivals have been held across the world to celebrate the changing seasons and to mark the longest night of the year and rebirth of the Earth. Interestingly, it is these solstice rituals that mark the origin of baking cookies and treats for holiday festivities such as Christmas.

Since it was often necessary to feast before the winter famine, the solstice celebrations tended to revolve around food. In addition, the festivities and food often had an emphasis on the Earth itself and tended to incorporate natural foods such as nuts, berries, and spices.

assortment of gingerbread and cranberry chocolate cups (white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate) with holly decorations

How long have we been baking holiday treats?

In an article, The Medieval History of the Christmas Cookie Stephanie Butler mentions that by the Middle Ages, these solstice feasting traditions were being taken over by Christmas celebrations in much of present day Europe. Around this time, Christmas baking started to include traditional Christmas spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger as well as dried exotic fruits including citron, apricots and dates. 

Butler adds that ingredients like sugar, lard and butter would have been prized as expensive delicacies by medieval families which led to a baking bonanza on special occasions such as Christmas. Unlike pies or cakes, cookies and treats could be easily shared and given to friends and neighbors and thus began the ritual of baking Christmas cookies and treats.

stack of gingerbread and cranberry dark chocolate cups with white chocolate cups in background with holly decorations

Recipe for Gingerbread and Cranberry Chocolate Cups

This recipe is inspired by Pheebsfoods and makes 12 delicious, healthy treats which can be enjoyed as part of holiday celebrations or packaged and shared as special gifts. Unlike cranberries and ginger, goji berries are not traditional Christmas food but they add to the festive red colour of the filling. However, if you don’t have any on hand, they can be replaced with something like dried cherries, blueberries or even more cranberries.

stack of 3 gingerbread and cranberry dark chocolate cups and stack of 3 gingerbread and cranberry white chocolate cups with bottle of molasses and two dark chocolate cups in background and decorated with holly

Ingredients:

Base Layer:

  • 8 medjool dates (soak in boiling water for 10 mins)
  • 1/2 cup roasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Middle Layer:

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup goji berries
  • 2 tbsp almond meal
  • 2 tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Top Layer:

  • 250g white, milk or dark chocolate (vegan)
aerial view of assortment of gingerbread and cranberry chocolate cups (white chocolate, milk chocolate and ark chocolate) with holly decorations

Instructions:

1. For the base layer, drain the dates and place them along with the roasted almonds, shredded coconut, almond meal, vanilla, spices and salt into a food processor and blend until a sticky dough forms. Press this mixture evenly into the base of a muffin tin about 1/3 the way up and place into the fridge.
2. Place all middle layer ingredients into the food processor and blend until sticky and press this mixture into the cups leaving a small amount of space at the top of each for chocolate.
3. Melt the chocolate and divide amongst the cups, place into the fridge for an hour or overnight before removing them. (I used silicone muffin cups which made the chocolate cups easy to extract.)

stack of 3 gingerbread and cranberry chocolate cups (white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate) with holly decorations

What are Goji Berries?

The goji berry is a bright orange-red berry that comes from a shrub native to China and they have been eaten for generations in the hope of promoting long life. Goji berries have been branded as a β€œsuperfood,” and can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried (like raisins) and are most used in baking, herbal teas, juices, wines, and medicines.

Goji berries are rich in nutrients and early studies found possible benefits that include a boost to the immune system, better athletic performance, weight loss, improved sleep and a feeling of well-being and calmness.  Apart from being tasty and nutritious, all these benefits of the goji berry would definitely be a welcome bonus at any time but especially over the hectic holiday season!

Closing Thoughts

The tradition of baking treats for holiday festivities has been around for eons. However, in my kitchen, the ingredients used for treats has definitely changed over the years. As referred to in Triple Layer Tahini or Caramel Bars, the ingredients used in whole foods plant-based (WFPB) baking can definitely contribute to making traditional treats healthier and more nutritious. 

As with baking for the ancient winter solstice celebrations, these Gingerbread and Cranberry Chocolate Cups still emphasize the Earth by using natural ingredients such as nuts, berries and spices. Sometimes it seems that WFPB foods is a new way of eating, however, I wonder if it is more just coming full circle and is actually more a matter of moving back to old traditional rituals.

dragon icon lying next to plate of cup cakes

Other seasonal treats:

22 Comments

  1. These look absolutely scrumptious. I was thinking – probably takes a while to make them. Doesn’t appear to be so long. I’ll inventory the cupboard and see what I need for my last grocery trip for the year. Then, I’ll get permission to use the kitchen…

    • Thanks and they are actually not that fiddly to make. It can all be done fairly quickly in a food processor and then only one thing to clean! Hope you get your kitchen privileges so you can try them πŸ™‚

  2. These cups look equally delicious as they do adorable! Thanks for sharing another great plant-based recipe!

    • Thanks, glad you enjoyed and I am continually pleasantly surprised at the tasty plant-based recipe options out there!

      • It really is great! I’ve been vegetarian since I was 7 (20 now) but I’m slowly transitioning to a more plant-based diet and love that there are so many delicious and available options!

        • I totally agree. I started the plant-based diet in the last few years. At one time the whole idea of a WFPB died would have seemed really restrictive but I can honestly say I have never eaten so well nor had so much variety in my diet. Now, I can’t imagine eating any other way πŸ™‚

  3. This looks so delicious 😍😍

  4. Delicious cookies!πŸ˜‹πŸ˜€πŸ˜ŠπŸ€—

  5. So cute and look so yummy and festive!

  6. These look absolutley divine and easy to ollow too πŸ™‚

  7. These look awesome! It seems like as soon as I realized I needed to go gluten-free, our lactose-intolerant foster kid moved in. I’ve been at such a loss for how to combine our dietary restrictions πŸ™ I can’t wait to look through your blog for more inspiration!

    • I am so glad to hear that you have found this helpful. I can honestly say that since I moved to this type of eating, I have never eaten so well and have more variety in my diet than ever before. I hope you find some additional recipes on the blog that work for you but also feel free to check out my Resources on the blog as I list sites that I found helpful when I moved to this type of eating πŸ™‚

  8. Wonderful presentation

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