“Gravy in cupcakes?” my husband cried. Well. Crazier things have happened…
Saturday was, shall we say, a tad busy. It was “Caterpillar Day”, when I did my first ever baked-for-a-stranger cake. I keep taunting you but there will be a full post on the Very Hungry Caterpillar after Christmas. Lots of you have been asking for pictures but I want to show how I made him and cannot do it justice yet with all these festive treats in the pipeline. So picture the scene: it’s 3pm, I was up until 3am and now I am 3 hours away from a party to which I’m taking cupcakes.
I like to fly by the seat of my pants. Actually I don’t. Nevertheless, rather like Teri Hatcher’s kooky Susan in Desperate Housewives, I tend to find myself these mad situations again and again. Sat in the kitchen, I had a rabbit-in-headlights moment mentally calculating the number of trays of cupcakes I intended to bake, time required in the oven and whether this was possible inside three hours. It was… just about.
I had been inspired by these Lola’s Cupcakes that I’d first spotted on the I Heart Cupcakes blog. Their new gingerbread flavour is part of a bigger Christmas Ho Ho Ho and Snowflake collection on sale this month. I thought these gingerbread men sprinkles were adorable but there was no way I had time to source them. The alternative was to bake my own gingerbread cookies. My husband, the graphic designer and general typographic geek likes the Lola’s logo because it looks like icing sugar sprinkled over the letters and the apostrophe is round like a cupcake not apostrophe shaped.
Nigella does several recipes which are based on batters that you melt in one saucepan and this was one of them. I was able to pour the brown sticky mixture direct from my plastic jug into the cake cases. Hence my husband’s comment about the gravy, it was an easy mistake to make from across the room.
150g unsalted butter
125g soft dark brown sugar
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle
2 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
200ml milk (less than Nigella… I err on side of caution with all liquids in recipes)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 2 tbsp warm water
300g plain flour
50-100ml milk (I use semi not whole as Hummingbird stipulate)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Ingredients for the cookies (adapted from Rachel Allen’s Gingerbread House recipe, Bake)*
40g caster sugar
40g soft dark brown sugar
75g of golden syrup or treacle (I did 50/50)
240g plain flour
2/3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Flour for rolling out
*These quantities represent one third of the gingerbread house recipe. It would be enough for around 36 cookies although I only made 12 and still have loads left for two forthcoming Christmas blog posts.
Ingredients for fondant stars*:
50g white fondant
1/2 tsp silver sparkling edible dust
Icing sugar for rolling out
*I made 12 small fondant stars for mini cupcakes so you would need more fondant if you were making fondant tops for more cupcakes than this.
1. Preheat oven to gas mark 3 or 170c. Line your baking tins with paper cases.
2. In a medium size saucepan melt the butter, sugar, golden syrup, treacle, ginger and cinnamon. Off the heat add the milk, eggs and bicarbonate of soda in its water.
3. Sift the flour into a bowl and pour in the sticky liquid and beat until well mixed. Decant into a jug and pour into your paper cases to about 2/3 full. It will be very liquid (like thick gravy ha ha) so you should have no trouble pouring it out. This is much easier than dolloping blobs about with spoons.
4. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes (bun or muffin sized) or 12 minutes (mini cupcake size) or until a cocktail stick comes out clean. I quickly turned mine round after around 60% of the expected baking time had passed.
5. Allow to cool for ten minutes in the tray then transfer to wire cooling rack.
Method for ginger buttercream:
1. If your butter is not soft, give it 10 seconds in the microwave.
2. Put the butter in a large mixing bowl and pour over half of the milk.
3. Sieve the spices and a small amount of the icing sugar on top and mix with electric hand mixer. I say to mix just a bit of icing sugar at first as I hate it flying everywhere.
4. Keep adding a little more sieved icing sugar at a time and mixing with hand mixer. Add the rest of the milk if dust is flying about. As you reach adding the last of the icing sugar, add a little more milk if you feel buttercream is too thick. It should be easy to spread with a small palette knife but hold its shape.
5. Spread the buttercream over the cooled cupcakes. Go right to the edge of the cases but it’s ok to leave it thinly spread on top as we will spread extra buttercream on the back of the biscuits to cover this in a minute. For the fondant star cupcakes, you need to cover them a little more thickly as the stars will not have that extra buttercream on their bottoms.
Method for gingerbread cookies:
1. Set oven to gas mark 4 / 180c / 350f. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
2. Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a medium sized saucepan.
3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices in a large bowl. Add the melted butter and sugar mixture to the dry ingredients and mix into a dough.
4. Knead the dough, add a tablespoon of water if necessary. Flatten into a fat disc and wrap in a plastic bag and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
5. Dust your surface and rolling pin with flour and roll to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out shapes with cutters. Transfer to baking tray.
6. Bake for around 10-12 minutes. Cool on the tray for a few minutes before transfering to wire cooling rack.
1. Sprinkle the buttercream surface of your cupcakes with edible glitter. I used gold.
2. Paste a blob of ginger buttercream to the centre of the bottoms of the cookies and gently press them onto the tops of the cupcakes.
3. For the fondant stars, roll out your white fondant icing to 1/4 inch thick, cut out stars with small cookie cutter. Brush a few drops of water to the top of each star before sprinkling with edible silver glitter. Turn each star over in your hand and brush a few drops to the reverse before gently pressing it onto the buttercream surface of your cupcakes.