It’s now December, which means tis the season (despite the fact that I’ve done Christmassy recipes the last two weeks). I have my advent calendar (Peppa Pig, chosen by my housemate), and we’re putting up our decorations next week! The semester is almost over, which means I have more essays to write, but I’m really looking forward to having a break and have time to catch up on some reading.
For one of my seminars each week someone presents, and whoever is presenting brings cake. This week was my week, and I wanted to make something very seasonal, so I decided on gingerbread cupcakes! These are delicious – and not only because they have cream cheese icing on. I’d never thought about making gingerbread in cupcake form before, and I’m really glad I came across this recipe!
The icing was supposed to have lemon zest in, which sounds like an excellent addition, but I forgot to put it in because I was so preoccupied with my icing becoming lumpy. Try mixing 600g icing sugar into 100g butter by hand – then you will feel my pain. I felt like my arm was going to fall off, and then I added the cream cheese and there were lumps and it felt like a disaster at the time, but once I’d iced them it wasn’t noticeable. Phew. I swear I used to be able to make cream cheese icing without anything going wrong, but the last few times I’ve made it, something has always gone wrong, which has made me reluctant to ever make it again. I probably need a hand whisk back in my life.
The original idea was that I’d decorate these cupcakes with the gingerbread men I made last week. That didn’t happen – not least because I iced the cupcakes so beautifully (if I do say so myself) that I didn’t want to ruin it by plonking a gingerbread man on top. That said, both cupcakes and gingerbread were well received separately – I think if I make the cupcakes again I might make some smaller gingerbread decorations to go on, like little circles or stars or something.
Gingerbread Cupcakes (from ‘Cake Days’ by The Hummingbird Bakery)
makes 12-18 cupcakes, with plenty of icing left over
140g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
60g black treacle
60g golden syrup
2 tbsp sour cream
310g plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
240ml hot milk
600g icing sugar
100g butter, softened
200g cream cheese
1 tsp lemon zest
1. Preheat the oven to 190c/Gas 5 and line a muffin tin (or two) with cupcake cases. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the treacle, syrup, eggs, sour cream and mix until all are evenly combined.
2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, spices, salt and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 2 or 3 batches, alternating additions with the hot milk. Mix until all the ingredients are well incorporated and the batter is smooth.
3. Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases, filling about 2/3rds full. Bake for about 18-20 mins or until risen and springy to the touch. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 mins, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. Using an electric whisk (!), slowly whisk the icing sugar with the butter until no large lumps of butter remain and the mixture is sandy in consistency (best to add the icing sugar in batches, about 150g at a time). Add the cream cheese and mix on a medium-high speed until the icing is light and smooth. Stir in the lemon zest by hand.
5. Ice cakes – either with a palette knife, or pipe it on. Decorate with gingerbread or other edible Christmassy decorations.