Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream and Candied Pears

Oops! I seem to have taken an impromptu break from blogging. Sorry friends. I thought when classes ended and I only had work to deal with that I would be all over this blogger thing. But I just could not get with the program! As much as I wanted to want to whip up decadent sweet treats, and photograph them, and write about them here for you all. I guess I wanted more to spend my few free hours on the couch, in my pyjamas, eating cereal from the box for dinner and tending to my overflowing PVR. 

So I did. And it was wonderful.

Anywho, I seem to have gotten my motivation back. Here I am and suddenly the Holidays are in full swing! I think I must have slept through the first week of December because there are now only 12 days until Christmas. That's right. TWELVE. Holy moly, have I a lot to do! And I have lots of recipes I want to share with you. So lets start with cupcakes, shall we?

I cannot believe I have yet to post a cupcake recipe here. The summer before I started the blog, I was in cupcake overdrive. I was a one woman cupcake making machine. I baked cupcakes for every baby shower, bridal shower, birthday, barbeque, potluck, and picnic (hooray for accidental alliteration!). My clothes were permanently coated in flour and sugar, my fingers stained with a rainbow of food colouring and sticky with fondant. I’m pretty sure my kitchen walls are still spackled with ganache and marshmallow fluff in some places. Sorry, Henry.

But then something awful happened… I got sick of cupcakes. 

Shocking, I know. But I think I just got bored. Making cupcakes had become something I could do in my sleep... 

Wet ingredients.Dry ingredients.Measure.Mix.Scoop.Bake.Whisk egg whites.Add butter.Beat butter cream. Piping bag. Swirly frosting. Sprinkles. Wash dishes. Wash frosting out of hair. Sleep. Repeat.

My love for cupcakes had died. The passion was gone. The flame extinguished.

So I took a hiatus from the cupcake thing. I tried out some pies, some cookies, some cakes. For a while I even stopped eating (or making) baked goods completely. It was gluten free August. I may have been thinner, but there was a void in my heart that could only be filled by Swiss buttercream.

And then recently, friends of mine held a party, and when I asked what I could bring there was an enthusiastic request for cupcakes. There is something you should know about me and it is that I am a people pleaser. I like giving people what they want. I like to see my friends smile. And not much can bring on a smile like the combination of moist cake and sweet, fluffy frosting, all in a cute little portable bundle. A cake. In a cup. It's as simple as that.


They want cupcakes? Cupcakes they will get. But still, I wanted these cupcakes to be different. I wanted to create a mature, elegant, grown up cupcake. Not too sweet. Not covered in rainbow sprinkles. But still rich, sweet, and indulgent. So this is my interpretation of a grown up cupcake. I combined this light molassas cake, studded with candied ginger, with a creamy subtly maple flavoured Swiss meringue buttercream. Then I topped each little gem off with a candied pear slice, shards of glowing crystalized sugar, and more of the sparkly candied ginger.

 Now, thats one classy cupcake, if I do say so myself. But I'll let you be the judge. What do you think?!

I think the flame is rekindled.

I'll apologize now for the crazy amount of photos. I think these cupcakes are all so uniquely beautiful that I have to show you each and every one of them. 

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Candied Ginger


3 Cups all purpose flour
2 Teaspoons baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
1 1/2 Teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or combine cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and all spice to make your own)
1 Teaspoon ground ginger
1 Cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Cup dark brown sugar
3 Eggs
3/4 Cup molasses
1/2 Cup warm water
1 Cup candied or crystallized ginger, chopped into small pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. 

2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a large bowl and have a hand mixer ready), beat the butter and brown sugar together. Add the molasses and mix well. Beat in the eggs one at a time. 

4. With mixer on low, add half of the dry ingredients, then the water, followed by the rest of the flour mixture. Use a spatula to gently fold in the candied ginger. 

5. With an ice cream scoop or large spoon, fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full. Careful not to over fill your cups, or your cupcakes will end up with an unsightly muffin top. And no one likes a muffin top.

6. Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cupcakes are done with a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for a few minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Maple Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This is my all time favourite frosting for cakes and cupcakes. It is so perfectly smooth and heavenly, and isn't nearly as sweet as American buttercream. You can swap the maple for pretty much any extract or flavouring you'd like.


1 1/2 Cups liquid egg whites (375 grams, or about 12 egg whites)
3 Cups granulated sugar
4 Cups (2 pounds) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
2 Tablespoons maple extract
Pinch of salt

1. Wipe the bowl of an electrical mixer, whisk attachment, and wire whisk with a paper towel and lemon juice to remove any trace of grease. Bring a pot of water to a boil, reduce to low and let simmer. 

2. Combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of your mixer and set over top of the simmering water. Make sure the water does not come to a boil. Whisk constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are warm (feel a drop between your finger tips to make sure there are no sugar granules).

3. Remove the bowl from the heat and place it back on your electric mixer. Whip the mixture with the whisk attachment until it is thick, glossy, and cool. 

4. Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add the butter one cube at a time. Increase the speed and continue to mix the buttercream until it is smooth. If it curdles, just keep mixing. Add the maple extract and salt and continue to mix until it is smooth and fluffy.

Swiss buttercream can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks or frozen for 6-8 weeks. Leave at room temperature before using.

Candied Pears

3 Small pears (these were labeled as "fragrant pears" and were quite miniature)
1 Cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour sugar into a shallow dish. 

2. Slice the pears from root to tip, as thinly as you can. Or use a mandolin if you have one. Dip each pear slice in the sugar, coating each side well, and place on the parchment.

3. Bake for about 40 minutes, flipping after 20 minutes, until pear slices are golden and caramelized. Carefuly transfer each slice to a wire cooling rack to harden. 

Transfer the icing into a piping bag and give each cupcake a generous swirl of buttercream. Top with a candied pear and sprinkle with candied ginger. I also scraped some of the sugar from the pear pan and threw this on top too.

Cupcake and Buttercream recipes are adapted from Marth Stewart.


  1. These are absolutely gorgeous with the pears!

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