Gingerbread Cupcakes

Please welcome guest author Garrett McCord of Vanilla Garlic as he kicks off our holiday baking season with gingerbread cupcakes. ~Elise

As much as I love gingerbread, it’s a pain to make. The last time I made it I was attempting to put together a gingerbread Christmas manger scene. My mom’s old Kitchen-Aid from 1970 (bought second-hand, and still works!) was having a heck of a time turning the dough and I swear I could smell it overheating. After making who knows how many shapes and 2 hours struggling to put it together I lost patience. My decorating job was jaw-dropping in its sheer ugliness as I was never any good at arts and crafts. By the end, I was pretty well ready to bite the head off of little gingerbread baby Jesus out of frustration and call it a day.

The whole experience pretty much put me off making gingerbread, which is a shame since I love the taste of it so much. Thankfully, there is an alternative to the pains and rigors of gingerbread making (house or otherwise). Gingerbread cake.

Or in this case, gingerbread cupcakes. Lighter and easier than regular dense and flat gingerbread, it still possesses the sweet flavors of brown sugar and molasses, and the fragrant spices, and the snappy bite that comes from plenty of ginger.

Drizzled with a bit of lemon icing, the citrus aggressively compliments the rich ginger-n-spice flavors of the dark gingerbread. You can feel free to add some dried cranberries or orange zest to the cupcake batter if you want to add a few other layers of flavor but personally I like mine simple with little to distract me from the gingerbread.

Gingerbread Cupcakes Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon of ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick of unsalted butter)
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of unsulphured molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup of grated ginger

Lemon Icing

  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice

Combine the sugar and lemon juice together in a bowl and stir until smooth. Allow to stiffen up a bit for 4 minutes. Spoon over the cooled cupcakes and allow to harden.

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, melt the butter and water together in the microwave, covering the top with plastic wrap.

2 Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and dry spices in a bowl.

3 Beat together the molasses and brown sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds between each.

4 Beat in the flour mixture slowly until just incorporated. Add the butter mixture and the grated ginger and beat until smooth. Batter will be runny.

5 Spoon into cupcake papers, about 3/4 full. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for a minute to set before moving to a wire rack to fully cool.

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33 Comments

  1. jonathan

    I can sympathize with your Kitchen-Aid experience. Thanksgiving morning was spent boiling 8 pounds of turnips and then pureeing them in a circa 1970 (’71?) Moulinex La Machine food processor. One of the first food processors made for the general public. It chugged along…thought I smelled the motor burning for a moment…but it was up to the task.

    It gets cleaned, has a prayer said over it, and gets put away until it’s called on again to fight another day and another food prep battle like an aging soldier in the Juila Child Culinary Armed Forces.

    I might be inclined to take these cupcakes over the top with the slightest sprinkling of finely chopped crystallized ginger. But that’s just how I roll.

    Gingerlicious job, Garrett.

  2. Jean Prescott

    When we were children, the only gingerbread my mother ever made was more like cake…more dense, but definitely cake-like, not flat, rigid and cookie-like. It was dark and exceedingly sweet, and she served it with unwhipped whipping cream. It’s still my favorite, though I have eaten my share of gingerbread people. Your recipe sounds more like my mother’s.

  3. Esmeralda

    I love all things gingerbread. Would Lyle’s Black Treacle be an appropriate substitution for the unsulphured molasses?

    I honestly have no idea. I’m not familiar with the stuff. ~Garrett

    Treacle is what they call molasses in some parts of the English speaking world, like the UK and Australia. No idea about that particular brand. ~Elise

  4. Annie

    I made Shuna’s Famous Gingerbread for the last two Christmases. So good – and the house smelled fantastic for days. Might try these this year for fun. Two questions, first – how many cupcakes does this recipe yield, and why do you specifically nix blackstrap molasses?

    The recipe should make about 12-14 cupcakes.

    As for the molasses, the quality of molasses depends on the maturity of the sugar cane it is taken from, the maturity of the sugar, and the method used to extract it. The method often used is roasting and boiling in order to extract the sugar.

    There are three main types of Molasses:

    Unsulphured: Is the highest quality and is made when the sugar and juice are taken from sun-ripened sugar cane which is then clarified and concentrated. Distinct molasses flavor without any processing additives like sulphur.

    Sulphured: Made from green sugar that has not been matured enough, it is treated with sulphur fumes during the sugar extracting process in order to help preserve it and give it flavor. It goes through two boiling processes in order to give it flavor and color, however as the sugar cane is young and the sugar and juice is distilled twice, the flavor isn’t as sweet.

    Blackstrap: Like Sulphured but it’s gone through a third boil. This is used on a commercial level for economic reasons and usually has a poor flavor. It’s also often used in various mixes to feed livestock. My suggestion? Avoid using it.

    Hope this helps! ~Garrett

  5. Jeannine

    I know this may seem silly…but what is the yield of this recipe/how many cupcakes?

    I LOVE the idea of sprinkling them with a bit of minced crystalized ginger!

    Oh, and I have my grandparents old Kitchen-Aid…with the manual (gotta love Grandma never throwing anything away!), which still says “Hobart”! It works great, but stiff doughs do create that “overheating” smell.

    About 12-14 cupcakes, depending how much you fill the cupcake papers. I too am digging the crystalized ginger idea myself. ~Garrett

  6. annie

    Garrett, this recipe seems very easy and utterly delicious. Seeing as we are not big fans of cupcakes in our house (GASP), I was wondering if I could make a loaf with is recipe and how long would that need to bake? Thank you and Elise for the wonderful array of recipes. Happy holidays.

    I haven’t baked this in a loaf pan before, so I’m not sure. Look at the banana bread recipe on this site and maybe use that as a guide for the baking time. Drop another comment here and let us know how it works out! ~Garrett

  7. Parker

    Can you make this into a bread? Would it take additional cooking time? (As I think a thick slice with just a bit cream cheese sounds tasty.)

    And how long will they store?

    This is a recipe for gingerbread cupcakes, if by bread you mean pop the batter into a loaf pan, I don’t know. Give it a try and tell us in the comments how it works out. I would suggest maybe trying these with cream cheese frosting. As for storing, they keep about three to five days depending if you store them in an air-tight space and in the fridge or not. ~Garrett

  8. jonathan

    For Esmeralda, re: Lyle’s black treacle. I’ve used it, and it’s a perfectly acceptable substitute. I also use Lyle’s golden syrup almost exclusively in my pecan pies (Google Rose Levy Berenbaum pecan pie/tart recipe). Doesn’t have that cloyingly sweet taste and thickness of corn syrup. It’s light, delicious, and I’ve even used it in place of maple syrup.

  9. Gwen

    Ha, someone else who knows the yummy of lemon with gingerbread. I grew up eating the cake version, it was just baked in a 9″ square (or 9 X 13 depending on the size of your recipe) and we cut it into squares and drowned it in a tart lemon sauce… I know a lot of folks who think it’s best with whipped cream but when I can get someone to try the lemon they’re hooked.

  10. nina

    I have 2 quetions please:
    What is 1 stick of butter in grams?
    Can I use honey instead of molasses?
    Many thanks.

    Nina, please use the conversion tool on the left. As for the honey, no. ~Garrett

  11. Laine

    These sound great – they’re sure to be another family favorite. Darby, if you’re listening, would you be willing to share your Browned Butter icing recipe? PleasePleasePlease ;-) It sounds perfect for both these cupcakes and for soft pumpkin cookies.

  12. Kris Coulter

    Elise and Garrett, these were so unbelievably fantastic! I love both of your blogs! Thank you for the recipe!

  13. April

    Would it work to make these mini-cupcakes? It seems like they would be fine, but I’m worried they would be too soft to hold up in a small bite.

    They should be fine. Just grease and flour the mini cupcake pan, and bake about 8-10 minutes (may need a bit more or less time depending on your oven). ~Garrett

  14. Checka

    Oooooo, Darby, your grandmother’s Ginger Molasses Cookie sounds yummy!! Are you willing to share the recipe?

    Thanks Elise and Garrett for another fabulous recipe. I’m another fan of gingerbread flavor but not the work. Can’t wait to try these cupcakes.

    Just got a micro-planer from my betrothed a few weeks ago and now I’m looking for things to grate. Before this gift, a 1/4 cup of ginger would have been daunting but now I can’t wait to get started grating!!

  15. Jeniroo

    I made these and they’re very good! Tip: I used a pastry brush to brush on the lemon glaze. It was runny and ran right off when I used a spoon. A few applications with the brush, though, and I had a nice glazed top. Great recipe!

  16. Gordon

    It was a cold and foggy morning here – need I say more? Made these cupcakes (the first cupcakes I have ever made) Delicious!! And now the whole house smells yummy! Thanks for this recipe – it’s a keeper.

  17. Michelle

    Thanks for the recipe! These were fantastic. I made them for dessert for a cold New England tailgate and they were a hit. I love the hint of lemon in the glaze. Next time I may try topping them with a light cream cheese frosting, just have to figure out how to incorporate the lemon flavor.

  18. Thomas

    Speaking of gingerbread, have you seen this:
    sprintsweets.com. You get to make a virtual gingerbread man. Not as good as the real thing of course, but fun nonetheless.

    Absolutely adorable! ~Elise

  19. Pille

    Oh, dear Garrett, gingerbread cookies are NOT a pain to make – at least not when you try my recipe: http://nami-nami.blogspot.com/2007/12/estonian-christmas-recipes-piparkoogid.html :D

    But I agree that gingerbread cupcakes or muffins are a worthy alternative (I’ve just posted about gingerbread muffins myself). I love the idea of glazing them – never done it myself, but I can see it’s a great idea.

    Oooo, I may give that a try Pille! ~Garrett

  20. Melanie

    I don’t have any fresh ginger in the house at the moment – can I just leave it out and increase the amount of ground ginger? If so, how much would you suggest I use?

    I would suggest doubling it and taste the batter, then add more if needed. ~Garrett

  21. Andrea

    These are amazing! Made them last night for the first time for an ornament exchange party today; there were many requests for the recipe (I sent them the link). BTW, I didn’t have allspice, so I just used a total 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, and used light brown sugar instead of dark. The icing is simple but adds a lot. Thanks, Garrett! These will get made again!

  22. Tiffany

    This recipe tastes SO good and is so easy! They smelled so good coming out of the oven, it was hard to wait for them to cool before I tried one. I made them as an end of year treat for my coworkers and everyone liked them. I used a little less then 1/4 cup of grated ginger from a jar instead of fresh and that worked fine. The lemon icing was the perfect finishing touch. I added a little bit of lemon zest to the tops for color.

  23. Reda

    Oh I can’t find molasses around here!! (I’m in Madrid, Spain) Maybe I’m not looking in the right places… Any substitute? or alternative? Please.

    Some people say you can use honey or maple syrup. Maybe you can but it won’t taste like gingerbread. You really do need molasses. ~Garrett

  24. SassyJ

    These looked so delicious, and I love gingerbread, so I gave them a try. A little help, w/in the same cupcake pan, some of my cupcakes acquired “belly buttons” (got a dimple of collapse in the center), others did not. Any insight? I never rotated the pan. Could it be the freshness of the baking soda? Also–made the icing–but it turned into a disapperaing glaze and never had the body of what you illustrate. Should I have given it time to set, rest before frosting? Many thanks!

    The dimpling could be for any number of reasons from the oven being too hot to the altitude to bad baking soda. If it happens again I would warrant concern but it happens to even the best bakers. Sinking however usually does indicate that they didn’t bake enough or that the batter was undermixed. As for the icing the longer it sits the thicker it will become. If you pop it on right away you will get a syrupy glaze, after a few minutes it will become much stiffer and more opaque. ~Garrett

  25. Alma

    I made the cupcakes yesterday and they were delicious. I used grated ginger in a tube and it worked out fine. Thanks for the recipe!

  26. Jodi

    I just made these into mini-bread loaves last night and they came out perfect – I filled the loaf tins half-full and baked them at 350 for 25 minutes. Perfectly moist and rich!

    My Christmas guests will love them!

  27. Carol

    I finally made the cupcakes (see my comment from December 1st) and they quite simply have the WOW! factor.
    Thanks again for an amazing recipe.

  28. Joanna

    Hi! I’m looking forward to trying this recipe out!

    Yes, Lyle’s Black Treacle is pretty much the same as U.S. molasses. Lyle’s Golden Syrup is dark corn syrup. Both can be mail ordered from the UK if you are in Europe. I live in Germany so I order from the British Corner Shop (http://www.britishcornershop.co.uk/). I can get all my baking products there although I’m beginning to see golden syrup around in department stores here.

    You can also replace molasses with sweet turnip syrup…sounds strange, but sweet beets and sweet turnips are usually processed into sugar here in Germany, and the syrup is a by product. I have vegan friends who use it.

    I used to share your opinion that making gingerbread was too time consuming and a pain. A friend lent me her ‘The New Best Recipe’ by Cooks Illustrated and the gingerbread recipe rocks! It’s completely the reverse of every other recipe I have seen or used, but the result is out of this world! I also really like that there are 2 pages of what happened in the test kitchen with all the gingerbread recipes they had before they got it right. It’s makes for good reading!

    Trivia: Did you know that Gingerbread in German is “Lebkuchen,” the cake of live? It was believed that all the spices in the cake might be able to cure the plague and it was a last ditch attempt made by families to revive their family members. You have to remember these particular spices were extortionately expensive 400 years ago.

  29. Kathy

    I made these little gems and gave them to an uncle who I know loves gingerbread and he heated them in the microwave and had vanilla icecream with them for dessert. Yum!

  30. Anju

    Made these today and my 2-year-old gobbled three down before I could stop him. (He then went on a sugar high but that’s another story.) They are delicious. I used 5 tablespoons of butter and substituted applesauce for the rest, and used perhaps 1/6 cup of freshly grated ginger because that’s all I had in the kitchen, but the cupcakes still turned out absolutely scrumptious! Amazingly soft and moist. Eating one now with coffee as I type this. Thank you, Garrett!!

  31. Dawid

    They are brilliant for Christmas, I’ve made them yesterday.

    By the way I want to wish you, Elise, and all cooks over the world Happy Holiday and a very Happy New Year.

  32. Vienna

    Hi, could I use syrup instead of molasses?

    Nope, then it’s not gingerbread. ~Garrett

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