Sunday, November 25, 2012

Vegan Moravian Pumpkin Muffins

Moravian pumpkin muffins

Sometimes I bake things to help me remember, to transport me to another place in time. This weekend I was thinking about our family’s rare trips to Granny’s house in Winston-Salem when I was little, so I made some old-fashioned Moravian pumpkin muffins (veganized, of course) to help take me back. Granny and all of Dad’s family were Moravian.

Granny and Dad in 1939

As a child I didn’t know much about Moravian culture and traditions, but what I did know fascinated me. My knowledge was limited because, like I said, we seldom visited our Moravian relatives and because there’s no Moravian church in Tallahassee. There are Moravian congregations in 13 states including Florida (South Florida), but Winston-Salem and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, are the major Moravian centers in America.

The Moravian Church is a protestant denomination founded in 1457. Two things that make it special, I think, are its emphasis on music and on the brotherhood and equality of all church members.

We used to go up to Winston-Salem at Christmas sometimes, and all the front porches (it seemed) were decorated with Moravian stars. These are large, white, many-pointed paper ornaments that glow in the night. (Star-shaped paper lanterns is what they are, essentially.) At home in Tallahassee, we had our own Moravian star, but ours was always the only one on the block. Winston-Salem was another world. We’d drive through town and see the stars everywhere, all over, in profusion.

Naturally, there were special cookies to eat at Granny’s house at Christmas—Moravian ginger cookies. Dark with molasses, they were unbelievably thin, as thin as autumn leaves. Oh, I could eat so many! Ginger cookies were my favorite treats. Sometimes Granny and Great Granny baked their own, and sometimes they bought them from the Winkler Bakery in Old Salem. Winkler’s sold all the well-known Moravian goodies—ginger cookies and pumpkin muffins and Lovefeast buns. . . .

You can buy Moravian ginger cookies online at I bought some last Christmas and took this picture.

At Granny's house, with Great Granny Davis

I never attended a Christmas Eve Lovefeast, but I knew about them. I knew what would happenthat everybody in church would be served a sweet, golden bun and a mug of milky, sweet hot coffee amidst music and singing. And I knew that at the end of the service lighted beeswax candles would be passed around, symbolizing the light of Christ. Every year my dad would receive one of these candles in the mail from Home Moravian Church, his childhood church, and we’d set it out in the living room as part of our Christmas display. I don’t know if the church sends candles to all its members or only those who live far away—but Dad got one year after year. The candle was pale yellow, its bottom end wrapped in a red paper frill to catch the drips of wax after you lit it.

A Moravian Lovefeast candle

A Moravian Easter celebration is as wonderful as Christmas; it has all kinds of rituals associated with it. Days before Easter, Granny and Great Granny would go out to God’s Acre, the cemetery belonging to Home Church, and clean the family gravestones with toothbrushes. (All the stones in the cemetery are the same—flat and pure white—symbolizing our equality in death.) On Easter morning a Sunrise Service was held in God’s Acre, and afterwards, at Granny’s house, there would be Moravian sugar cake for breakfast. Sugar cake is a sort of pillowy, soft coffee cake topped with lots of butter and sugar. It’s heavenly, a child’s dream food, especially when served with Coke, as it always was.

At God's Acre. I believe it's 1974.

I would have liked to bake ginger cookies or sugar cake this weekend, but those recipes call for some pretty advanced baking skills, skills I just don’t have. So I decided to go with the pumpkin muffins just because they’re easy. They’re easy and delicious and they make great little time machines.

Vegan Moravian Pumpkin Muffins


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
4 Tbls ground flaxseed
12 Tbls water
¾ cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
¼ cup molasses
½ cup almond milk
1 cup canned pumpkin
½ cup golden raisins


Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a small bowl, mix the ground flaxseed and water with an immersion blender until thick and creamy. Set aside--this is your egg substitute. In another bowl, mix sugar, oil, and molasses. Add the milk, egg substitute, and pumpkin. Blend well. Stir in the dry ingredients and the raisins. Be careful not to over-mix. Pour into paper-lined baking cups and bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Be sure to test with a knife--it takes a while for these muffins to fully cook.

A pumpkin muffin with a glass of Meyer lemonade and our homegrown satsumas


  1. Such a beautiful post, Leslie.

    And your muffins look delicious!


  2. Thanks, Eli! I really enjoyed your Thanksgiving post!

  3. Moravian ginger cookies are my husband's all-time favorite cookie. So much flavor in such a thin wafer.

    Interesting to read about some of the Moravian traditions! :)

  4. I'll have a muffin and a glass of lemonade, please. I like your story and God's Acre (adorable name and so appropriate), as well as the grave markers all being the same representing our equality in death....wonderful! My mother-in-law from Pennsylvania hangs her Moravian star every Christmas although I'm don't think her heritage is Moravian. She's a Methodist and of German heritage.

    I'm assuming that you substituted the almond milk in place of regular that true? If so, is it the same amount as regular milk? We just tried almond milk recently and my daughter loves it. Do you use it when baking other sweets?

  5. What great memories! We need to make a trip to Old Salem soon. Do you have a Moravian Star?

  6. Sweetbay, the ginger cookies are so tasty. I want to try making them, but I doubt I'll be able to get them as thin as they need to be.

  7. Hi Susan, thank you! And, yes, I did substitute almond milk for regular milk. I use almond milk all the time, in everything--mashed potatoes, cookies, cake--and it always works perfectly. The much harder thing is coming up with a good substitute for eggs. The flaxseed works pretty well though in muffins and banana bread and stuff like that.

    So neat that your mother-in-law has a Moravian star!

  8. Hi Kris, I definitely want to go to Old Salem! And when I go, I need to take pictures! I was so mad when I was trying to find pictures to go with this post. There was nothing! Did you see the terrible Easter morning picture I had to use?

  9. Remember the way the North Carolina relatives called Coke "Co-Cola"? I loved that.

  10. Leslie what wonderful photos you take. I've got a bowl full of Meyers lemons on my counter right now. I dont' grow them but my part-time roommate does at her home.

  11. Hi Kris, I do remember exactly how they talked; I loved it too. We have got to go up there again. Maybe we could do it in spring so we don't freeze.

  12. Thanks, Randy! I think the Meyer lemons are so good--and they're so cold tolerant and easy to grow. They taste so much better than grocery store lemons! Thanks so much for visiting!