December 25, 2015

Happy Holidays: Spiced Gingerbread Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Is it just me or is the holiday season absolutely lovely. The cheer, the festive feels, the food — oh my God, the food! That’s what it’s all about, right? Peace, love, and obscene gluttony? Really, forget the formalities, just lead me to your table, and I’ll take it from there. 

Pro tip: the larger the spread, the better. Don’t worry. I’m wearing my Joey pants. 

Of course, because holiday feasting is all about abundance, all that cooking and prepping can get overwhelming, so I always encourage hosts to divvy up the workload. Asking friends and family to pitch in will give you a much needed break from the mayhem and it’s a great way to get everyone into the spirit of giving. 

All it requires is a little bit of pre-planning, but once those appetizers, and salads, and sides, or, for the ambitious ones in your group, mains and desserts, have been assigned, you’re on the highway to a happy holiday.

And in case you’re not hosting, offer to lend a hand. Do good, feel good, and all that jazz. 

Personally, I like sticking to the savory side of the menu — I suck at the sorcery that is dessert-making — but I’ve copped out of bringing something sweet to the table for so long, I’m convinced my luck’s about to run out soon. In anticipation of this crisis, I dug up and tweaked a super Christmas-y recipe I scored off petite patissier, Muneeze Khalid, a couple of years ago. Hopefully, these cupcakes should keep any confectionary fiasco from unfolding.

I asked Muneeze for this particular recipe for a couple of reasons. 

First, who doesn’t love a cupcake? Little portable cakes, zero plates and utensils required. WIN. Also, let’s be real, what’s more festive than gingerbread? Finally, any excuse to gorge on an inappropriate amount of cream cheese frosting is a-okay by me.

Good gingerbread is all about that deep bitter-sweetness of brown sugar and the mild heat of the ginger melting together and marrying beautifully. And the smell, oh, that smell. It’s the stuff scented-candle dreams are made of. It’s what imagine Ina Garten smells like.

Muneeze’s original recipe definitely ticked all those boxes. 

But I’m crazy for so many those warm and cozy spices and scents that scream of the holidays — cinnamon, cloves, ginger, orange zest, vanilla — so this year, I coughed up the courage to toy with the master recipe and feature some more of my favorite seasonal flavors

Top these babies off with light, orange-scented cream cheese frosting and let the festivities begin. 

Spiced Gingerbread Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting (12 large cupcakes)
Adapted from, Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing, by Muneeze Khalid

Ingredients Spiced Gingerbread Cupcakes
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup water

Ingredients Cream Cheese Frosting
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons orange zest (optional)
1 to 2 tablespoons milk (enough to make a spreadable frosting)

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Line a cupcake tray with paper liners.

For the cupcakes, in a large bowl, combine the baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and water together.

Add dry ingredients you mixed earlier to the butter-sugar mixture and stir together.

Use an ice-cream scoop to spoon out individual portions of the batter into cupcake liners.

Bake for about 20 minutes. To test the cupcakes for doneness, insert a toothpick. If it comes out clean, your cupcakes are ready.

Cool for at least 30 minutes before frosting. 

For the cream cheese frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy. 

Add the sugar and orange zest (if you’re using it) and mix well. 
Add a little bit of the milk at a time, until the frosting becomes a thick, creamy, spreadable consistency. 

To frost, feel free to pull out those piping bags, unless you’re interested in my cheat route, heaping it on with a spoon. Messy is a look these days.

Until next time, happy holidays, kittens!

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