One of my favorite things about this time of year is the smell of maple-sweetened baked goods filling my home. It reminds me of holiday parties, Christmas music and hot breakfast on a cold Maine morning.

With the frost and ice of a nor’easter pressing in from the windows, a spicy warmth spreading from the oven is the perfect antidote to winter’s worst chill. Of course, such sweet smells draw everyone toward the kitchen. Warm up some apple cider and you have an instant festive feel.

At this time of year gingerbread is a favorite, and I often make vegan gingerbread muffins. But there’s no need to stop there with so many seasonal flavors to explore. That’s why this Christmas I’m also sharing my recipes for vegan pumpkin pie bread and vegan cranberry-pecan coffee cake.

All use whole-grain spelt flour. Spelt is an ancient relative of wheat and as such contains gluten. However, many people I know who avoid gluten for reasons other than celiac disease find they can digest spelt without any difficulty. If you don’t have spelt flour and do eat wheat, you can easily substitute ordinary whole-wheat flour. All three recipes use nondairy milk, as well; I often use oat milk, but almond milk or soy milk will also work. You can find all these milks for sale at Whole Foods.

In addition to sugar pie pumpkins, I’ve been roasting a lot of long pie pumpkins this season to make pumpkin pie bread and its traditional inspiration, pumpkin pie. This heirloom variety (which Fedco Seeds calls “the best pumpkin for Yankee pumpkin pies”) is elongated like an oversized zucchini but with the distinctive orange rind of a pumpkin. I buy them at the Portland Farmers’ Market. Cutting a long pie pumpkin in half is easy, and both sides typically fit, flesh side down, on a single rimmed baking sheet.

You’ll find all three of these recipes come together quickly, and once they’re in the oven each adds a warm, sweet feel to even the shortest and darkest of winter days.

Gingerbread muffins

Makes 1 dozen

3 cups whole-grain spelt flour

1½ teaspoons baking soda

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¾ cup unrefined (virgin) coconut oil

¼ cup maple syrup

1½ cups hemp milk, oat milk or other dairy-free milk

2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

¼ cup unsulphured molasses

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a muffin tin and set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

If the coconut oil is solid, melt it in a saucepan over low heat. Then mix it thoroughly with the flour mixture.

Meanwhile in another saucepan over low heat, warm the maple syrup and milk. (If neither has been refrigerated, you can skip this step.) Once the milk mixture is warm (do not let it boil), add it to the flour mixture along with the lemon juice, molasses and vanilla. Stir until well blended.

Fill the muffin tin with batter. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick placed in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Pumpkin pie bread

Yields 1 loaf

1½ cups whole-grain spelt flour

1½ teaspoons baking soda

1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

½ cup unrefined (virgin) coconut oil

¼ cup maple syrup

½ cup hemp milk, oat milk or other dairy-free milk

11/3 cups cooked pumpkin

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

If the coconut oil is solid, melt it in a saucepan over low heat. Then mix it thoroughly with the flour mixture.

Meanwhile, in another saucepan over low heat, warm the syrup and milk. (If neither has been refrigerated, you can skip this step.) Once the milk mixture is warm (do not let it boil), add it to the flour mixture along with the pumpkin, 2½ teaspoons water and the vanilla. Stir until everything is fully incorporated.

Pour this mixture into the prepared pan and place in the center of the oven. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow to cool before serving.

Cranberry-pecan coffee cake

3 cups whole-grain spelt flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup unrefined (virgin) coconut oil

½ cup maple syrup

1 cup hemp milk, oat milk or other dairy-free milk

½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ cup pecans, chopped or crushed

2 cups fresh cranberries, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 10 x 10-inch square baking dish and set aside.

Whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.

If the coconut oil is solid, melt it in a saucepan over low heat. Then mix it thoroughly with the flour mixture.

Meanwhile, in another saucepan over low heat, warm the maple syrup and milk. Do not boil it. (If neither has been refrigerated, you can skip this step.)

Create a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add orange juice, milk mixture and vanilla. Slowly mix together. Once the batter is fully blended, add pecans and cranberries, reserving ¼ cup of cranberries to be used as topping.

Pour the batter into the oiled baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cranberries over the top. Bake 45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at

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Twitter: averyyalekamila