November 22, 2010

Spiced Gingerbread Cupcakes with Molasses Coffee Buttercream

We almost didn't write these cupcakes up. I had a couple of coworkers with birthdays last week so we decided to use that as an excuse to bake on Sunday afternoon. And the cupcakes looked so beautiful coming out of the oven that we just had to photograph them. Then, after finding the icing with the original recipe too sweet, we whipped up a Swiss Buttercream and ooooh these were so good that we couldn't, in good conscience, keep them to ourselves. Not only are they photogenic, they are also delicious. I mean, really good. With stout beer, coffee, fresh ginger, and molasses, they have a complex and sophisticated flavor that makes these cupcakes for grownups.

We were skeptical of some of the things going on in this recipe. The amounts are strange (lots of cups plus tablespoons) and we aren't sure why some of the steps are required (like cooking the beer, coffee, and molasses, then adding the baking soda to that mixture). But they came out just perfect, so we will trust Karen on this one.

Gingerbread Cupcakes (makes 12)
Very slightly adapted from The Craft of Baking

- 3/4 cup stout beer (we used Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout; Guinness would work fine)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
- 3/4 cup dark molasses
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons Demarara sugar (sub turbinado or more brown sugar if you don't have it)
- 2 and 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 egg
- 1 and 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 and 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted (or 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder)
- 2 and 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin tin with paper liners. Combine the beer, coffee, and molasses in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Mix well, then remove from the heat and whisk in the baking soda (it will foam up quite a bit so make sure your saucepan is big enough).

Combine the brown sugar, oil, Demerara sugar (if using), melted chocolate, and fresh ginger in a large bowl, then whisk in the egg. In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together, and stir. Then add the beer mixture and the flour mixture to the sugar mixture in parts, alternating between the two (half of the beer mixture, then half the flour, back to beer, then flour). Mix well.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let them cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing them to cool on a wire rack.

Coffee Molasses Buttercream

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen's Swiss Buttercream

- 2 egg whites
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 13 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup brewed coffee
- 2 tbsp molasses
- 1 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in a metal pan sitting on top of a pot of simmering water (confession: we didn't do it this way. We just cooked it directly over low heat, whisking constantly. Nothing bad happened, though it's probably better to play it on the safe side and use the double boiler so your egg whites don't cook weirdly). Continue stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely (you will have to actually stick your fingers into the mixture to test for this).

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment ready (you could also use a hand mixer for this, but be prepared to stand at the counter for a long time!). Whip the egg white mixture until it turns white and doubles in size. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time, then add the coffee, molasses, and vanilla. Keep whipping until the frosting is smooth and creamy - and don't worry! 

When we first started to add the butter the frosting had a very alarming, chunky texture, but we waited and whipped and waited and whipped and it did turn into creamy, beautiful frosting.

Frost the cupcakes as you like and eat them!


  1. Yours turned out so beautifully! I just made the recipe (from the cookbook) and mine have huge craters in the center. I'm so bummed! I had to check to see if anyone else had trouble with them because I also thought the measurements were strange, but it looks like I just messed something up. Since I see now that they do really work, I'm going to try these again soon. Thanks for the reassurance!

  2. Craters are just receptacles for extra frosting! I'm sure yours still tasted great, but you should definitely try again, because we made it as written and had no problems. Baking is sometimes mysterious.