Sugar, Spice & All Things Nice

On a recent cold, rainy San Francisco night, Neon and I were sat by the fire with hazelnut hot chocolate in hand (recipe coming soon!) discussing our most memorable Christmas presents. After extensive deliberating I came to the conclusion that one of the most memorable gifts I received for Christmas was a gingerbread house that my Father brought back from a German Christmas market for my sister and I.

I forget exactly how old we were, but I can’t have been much more than 10.

It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Or at least, that’s how I remember it. Over the years, I have learned that the mind can play tricks on us, sometimes leading us to remember things as bigger/better/more impressive than they actually were.

The sentimentalist in me is choosing to believe that it really was that beautiful… Intricate white piping, multi-coloured candy and that unmistakable scent of Christmas.

The only sad thing about this story is that I never actually got to eat the gingerbread house. It stayed at my Dad’s house when my sister and I went back to our Mum’s for Christmas. By the time we returned it had gone bad.

I might not have been able to taste it, but I have never forgotten its magical aroma. I’m sure it could even get Scrooge in the Christmas spirit. And this year, I need all the help I can get.

I haven’t been able to travel back to England for Christmas with my family. And while that means its going to be a tough holiday season for me, I also know how lucky I am to have happy and healthy friends and family scattered all over the globe. Even if I can’t be with them right now.

So what do I do to cheer myself up? I bake. A lot.

This festive recipe is one I made for my roomies and I to enjoy while we decorated our Christmas tree a few weeks ago. Just like that gingerbread house, these cupcakes encapsulate everything Christmassy in one bite. If you need help getting into a festive mood this year, I recommend you put Mariah Carey’s All I want For Christmas on full blast, and bake these cupcakes.

Oh, and cover them in glitter. Anything baked between Dec 1st and 31st, MUST be covered in glitter. Its the law.

IMG_4105

Gingerbread Cupcakes

Adapted from Taste of Home

Serves: 12 standard cupcakes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

METHOD

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F and line your cupcake tray with cases.
  • In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in egg and then beat in water and molasses.
  • Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg and allspice; add to the creamed mixture. Beat on low speed until combined. Beat on medium for 2 minutes.
  • Fill cupcakes cases about two-thirds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  • Cool for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

You can top these cupcakes with whatever you feel like, and I felt like my dulce de leche cream cheese frosting. It’s always a winner, I figured it would pair well with the sticky, spicy cakes. Thankfully I was right! It goes as follows:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 & 1/4 cups (about 13 ounces) prepared dulce de leche
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Beat cream cheese and dulce de leche until well-blended. Mix in vanilla and salt, beating until combined. DONE!

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2 thoughts on “Sugar, Spice & All Things Nice

  1. Hi Sarah, Over the past two days, I have spent my time holding the sides while the icing dries, dipping the chocolate fingers in more chocolate and sticking them on the roof, cutting the jellies in half so they can be stuck to the walls, trimming the biscuits to make the doors, working out the engineering and generally being a father to my own Sarah who was making her first ever gingerbread house as a Chris Kindle gift for a friend. I took a couple of pictures and put them on Facebook (with my name, I am not hard to find there). It was wonderful time making a pretty funny house that glows in her eyes. (She is 20 and still as much a kid as her father is).
    Wishing you and yours a very happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.
    Conor

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