Thursday, June 10, 2010

*Cake or Death? II: Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon-scented Cream Cheese Frosting

When social girls come to America,
they bake their own cupcakes and sit on their flag**

Last weekend, the boys wanted me to bake for them. (Again.) And I was in the mood to try a new recipe. Something different--a spice cake, perhaps. But most of my dessert cookbooks and scribbled-on notecards were over at the apartment in St. Pete--what to do? Then I remembered something: I had brought my Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts over with me when school finished up a couple of weeks ago; it was probably still in my duffel bag.

Fast-forward a couple of hours, and we were mmm-ing our way through yet another plateful of sweet success, courtesy of the brilliant Moosewood cooks (and a little creative fiddling around by Mama):

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon-scented Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cakes:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup of unsulphured molasses
2 large eggs
3 rounded teaspoons ground ginger
1 scant cup crystallized ginger pieces, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup boiling water

For the frosting:
4 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup cream cheese, softened (I used whipped cream cheese)
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons pure lemon extract
tinted sugar for decorating (optional)

Preheat oven to 350º F (remembering to adjust according to your oven's idiosyncrasies). Line two muffin tins (the 12-cakes size) with paper cupcake liners.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light. Then add the molasses and eggs and beat until smooth. Switch to a wooden spoon, add the ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and flour, and stir gently until blended. In a small bowl or cup, dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water, then add this to the batter and mix until smooth. Stir in the chopped crystallized ginger.

Pour the batter into the cupcake liners--I use a small ladle for this--and bake for about 20 minutes; the cakes are done when they're slightly springy to the touch (don't over-bake them). Once you've removed them from the oven, let them cool for a couple of minutes, then gently lift them from the tins and let them finish cooling on wire racks.

To make the frosting, just cream the butter and cream cheese together with your electric mixer, sift the confectioners' sugar over it and beat until fluffy, then add the lemon extract and beat again until smooth.

Once the cakes are cool, frost them--I like the quick-and-dirty method of holding them upside-down and swirling them directly in the frosting bowl--and, if you like, sprinkle a tiny bit of tinted sugar on each one, for color.

Now brew yourself a nice pot of tea, sit in your own favorite chair, and savor the gingery-lemony sweetness of at least one of these treats before everyone gets home and "disappears" the lot.

* Cake or Death? I

** That's one of various dining room chairs I've painted with acrylics--mine is covered with three weathered-looking Union Jacks, inspired by David Bowie's Alexander McQueen frock coat, and Robert's features green bamboo against a crimson and white background, alla bandiera Italiana. Son Three is currently designing one in Early American Sharks.

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