Gingerbread Cupcakes

Holiday spiced molasses gingerbread cupcakes with tangy lemon icing.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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.

Gingerbread Cupcakes

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.

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



  • 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.


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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Garrett McCord

Garrett McCord is a professional writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in many print and online publications such as Gourmet Live, Saveur, Huffington Post, Smithsonian, and NPR. Past clients also include numerous food companies, wineries, and distilleries. Garrett writes about cocktails on his website, Coupe de Grace.

More from Garrett

Showing 4 of 28 Comments

  • Lindsey Jones

    This is my favorite gingerbread recipe to date – I have made it the past five Christmases in a row and it’s still going strong. I usually make it as mini-muffins (unfrosted), about a week before Christmas, and then dump them into a gallon freezer bag and freeze until Christmas Eve. Then, I pull them out Christmas Eve and let them thaw on the counter (still sealed) overnight. It gives them a nice moist, dense, sticky consistency, perfect to go with the crockpot egg casserole and coffee on Christmas morning.

    This year, I’m 7.5 months pregnant and there’s no way I’m making all kinds of pies, monkey bread, and other usual Christmas desserts. I’ve been having signs of preterm labor and decided to keep it simple, so I opted to make these full-sized cupcakes, with a lemon-cream-cheese frosting. The initial intention was for them to be dessert, but I may just eat them all before my brother-in-law and his wife come over tomorrow. :P

    Thanks for a wonderful recipe!

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

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