My daughter’s birthday is March 7. I have come to think about her birth—so many years ago, now—as the first hopeful sign of Spring to come. The day she was born the sun was shining, but I remember it being cold outside (Could it have been snowing?). When the nurses wrapped her up for us to take home, I remember an extra blanket, and a sudden fear ran though my head that we would not be able to keep her warm and safe. We were SO YOUNG. I’m sure the hospital staff waved us off wondering if we would survive at all. But like Spring, we are all still here. So there is a great deal of gratitude and cake spread around each year on Heather’s special day.

Of course, children, however much they are cherished, come with challenges, yes? Many, to be honest. I toss the word “teenager” out there just to make a point. Some challenges are years in the making and in the solving (or at least coming to livable terms). Others suddenly present themselves and promise never to totally go away: I refer here to my daughter’s intolerance for gluten that she discovered a few years ago and the proverbial birthday cake dilemma that has followed.

Over the years I’ve gotten really good at about three or four basic gluten-free cakes, rotating them for each special occasion that demands such a confection. So, when we were nearing March this year, I suggested an Orange Sunshine Cake for her Birthday—hadn’t had that one in a while. She sort of wrinkled her nose (still gets me every time) and said politely: “Why don’t you bake a new cake.” Sigh.

Ok, I can see a certain level of boredom with my limited cake clutch, but there’s always a struggle to find some new way to turn what I consider “less than ideal” ingredients into a spectacular birthday cake. “Does it have to be a cake,” I asked. “What about a new cookie?” I was trying to increase my chances for success. “Sure, a cookie would be fine….as long as we can have homemade ice cream, too,” she smiled. Sigh.

So this is how I came to turn over a new leaf on traditional birthday cake. This little leaf cookie has lots of buttery flavor, a lovely sandy texture and just a hint of green macha tea—perfect for Spring, and—what can I say—pretty darn good! Even Don—suspicious of anything labeled gluten free—ate more than his share.

Now, it’s true that to get a really good gluten-free cookie takes a bit of doing, but not as much as you might think. You will need to give the cookie dough a couple of chill times, so read through the recipe to make sure you allow for these. Other tips follow the recipe, so let’s get started.

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Leaf Tips

Process of rolling and shaping leaf cookiesPerfection is Overrated. At least that’s how I think Mother Nature sees it. A walk in the woods will show you clearly that while leaves may all be from maples, sycamores or oaks, each leaf has their own personality, as should your cookies! Spend your perfection energy on size and thickness, which should be uniform from cookie to cookie, but just let your creativity shape your leaves. Or maybe you are making daisies, or tulips, or just eggs—we are close to Easter, after all. Have fun!

Icky Sticky

Yep, this GF dough is super sticky. But chilling it well and giving it an initial roll in the sugar-nut mixture goes a LONG way to making it manageable. Further, unlike conventional cookie dough, GF dough really doesn’t care how much you handle it because no gluten develops and cookies stay tender. So if don’t like the shape of that leaf you just made—roll it over! No worries.

Not Sweet Tea

I purposefully kept these cookies on the low side of sweet. They are sandy, buttery and crumbly—the perfect tea cookie. But if you’d like yours slightly sweeter, try increasing the sugar in the dough to a full cup.

Love that Matcha

Yes, it is earthy and just screams Spring. But matcha green tea has a strong flavor—at least, the good quality ones do. So, if you are thinking you’d like a stronger tea flavor, that’s great, but I suggest you go about it cautiously. A little goes a very long way.

Planning a cookie tray or a spring cake for the upcoming seasonal holidays? Got you covered with Raspberry Thumbprints (gluten free), my often-asked-for MEGA cookies, last year’s Super Seed Cookies, my friend Susan’s Spectacular Carrot Cake and my favorite spring confection Strawberry Lemonade Pound Cake.