Gingerbread Cupcakes with Brown-Butter Cream-Cheese Icing

Temps des Fêtes 2018
food and drink

BY: Joanne Yolles

It wouldn’t be the holiday season without ginger in some form, so why not use fresh ginger whenever possible. Both the cookies and cupcakes featured here call for finely chopped fresh ginger—no need for the powdered form. The cookies can be left plain, dusted with icing sugar, or decorated with royal icing and sparkly sugar. Because they’re so small, there will be plenty of extras. The cream cheese icing on the cupcakes is beyond the ordinary with its use of browned butter and real vanilla.

1¼ cups (310 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ tsp (1 mL) baking soda
⅛ tsp (0.5 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) nutmeg
½ tsp (2 mL) cinnamon
¼ tsp (1 mL) cloves
⅛ tsp (0.5 mL) ground pepper
¼ cup (60 mL) unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup (60 mL) packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup (60 mL) fancy molasses
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp (15 mL) very finely chopped fresh ginger

1¼ cups (310 mL) sifted icing sugar, divided
1 egg white
Coarse sugar for dipping cookies, optional

1½ cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
½ tsp (2 mL) baking powder
½ tsp (2 mL) baking soda
¼ tsp (1 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) nutmeg
⅛ tsp (0.5 mL) allspice
⅛ tsp (0.5 mL) ground pepper
½ cup (125 mL) fancy molasses
½ cup (125 mL) buttermilk, room temperature
½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup (125 mL) packed dark brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
3 tbsp (45 mL) very finely chopped fresh ginger

¾ cup (175 mL) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean
2 cups (500 mL) icing sugar, sifted
2 pkgs (250 g each; 500 g total) cream cheese, room temperature

1. For the cookie dough, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ground pepper and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the molasses and beat to combine, followed by the egg yolk and fresh ginger. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating on low speed just until blended. Form the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. The dough can be made a day ahead.

2. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough about ¼ inch (5 mm) thick and cut out with mini cookie cutters. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, then refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes. Bake in the middle of the oven for 6 to 7 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges and feel barely firm when touched gently. Cool on wire racks. The cookies can be baked 1 or 2 days ahead and stored at room temperature in an airtight container.

4. If using the royal icing to decorate, whisk together ¾ cup (175 mL) of the icing sugar and the egg white in medium bowl. Add the remaining sugar and whisk until smooth and thick. Using a small paper piping cone, or a pastry bag with a small round tip, pipe decorations on the cookies. Before the icing sets, dip the cookies in coarse sugar, if desired.

5. For the cupcakes, line 16 muffin cups with paper liners, then place the muffin tins on a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

6. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, allspice and ground pepper and set aside. Combine the molasses and buttermilk and set aside.

7. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar until smooth and lightened in colour. Beat in the egg until combined, followed by the fresh ginger. (The mixture may look curdled after the addition of the ginger but will come together with the addition of the remaining ingredients.).

8. On low speed, add the molasses mixture alternately with the dry ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix just until combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, filling them no more than two-thirds full.

9. Bake the cupcakes until they’ve risen to the tops of the liners and are dry on top, about 20 minutes. Cool on wire racks. The cupcakes can be made 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

10. For the icing, place the butter in a small saucepan. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the black seeds into the butter; add the vanilla pod. Place the pot over medium heat and cook the butter until the foam subsides and the butter takes on a light, nut-brown colour. Remove from heat, discard the vanilla pod and transfer the butter to a bowl. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

11. Transfer the cold butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the icing sugar and beat on medium speed until the butter is smooth and creamy. It will look dry and crumbly at first, but will come together after a few minutes. Add the cream cheese a few tablespoons at a time and beat until smooth. Transfer the icing to a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip and pipe the icing overtop each cooled cupcake. Decorate with 1 or 2 mini gingerbread cookies. Serve at room temperature.

Makes 16 cupcakes, with extra cookies

What to Serve