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Today is a big day. Not only is it the start of another year of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, but it’s also my 2-year Blogiversary! Yay! Two years of delicious goodies coming out of my kitchen and onto your screen. I hope you haven’t had to replace your keyboards because of all the drool!
This past year was, in many ways, more difficult than the first. After taking almost 5 years off to stay home with my kids, I returned to the working world in December 2011, taking up a lot of the time I previously used to plan, bake, photograph, and blog with commuting and being a regular ole person in the real world. It took quite a few months to adjust. Add to that our decision to move on from our apartment after 10 years of living in its cramped quarters, and it became a really hectic year. There were times when I wondered if I could make it another month, if I had any more baked goods left in me to share with the world. I wasn’t sure I could do it anymore. Those were dark times.
Luckily, the dust finally settled in late August and the baking bug bit me again. I was back on track! I stopped being so hard on myself and started going with the flow. Why let something like the quest for perfection hold me back from what I would otherwise do? It’s more important to enjoy what you’re doing than worry about optimal lighting conditions and whether your cupcakes look like they should. I’d really prefer to just eat them anyway. Case in point:
I’ve always said that it’s taste that matters most. The other stuff–the beautiful piping, the placement of each little accessorizing morsel just so–is window-dressing. It’s nice and it may get someone to stop and pay attention who would have otherwise walked on, but if what you baked doesn’t taste good, what difference does it make? There’s nothing worse than biting into a gorgeous slice of cake and finding it resembles cardboard. I’m looking at you, wedding cakes draped in fondant! No, thank you!
So to celebrate my 2-year blogiversary and usher in Meal Planning Magic‘s 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, I present to you…Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting. Which are a tad sad looking, I know, but I baked them twice in an attempt to get them to look pretty for you. And I failed miserably both times. I am no pastry chef yet. The taste, however, is amazing. Christmas itself, if Christmas were a cupcake. Sweet, sticky, spicy gingerbread slathered with a cream cheese frosting that is to die for. I ended up with that very same frosting all over my hands, being the graceful specimen that I am, and did not mind at all, for now I had the perfect excuse to lick it up all by itself. And I could have eaten more.
Because I love you so much for toughing it out with me during the dark times this year, I also have a VERY quick giveaway, something to tide you over til Saturday’s really big deal. From the bottom of my heart, I have for one lucky reader a copy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours that I bought with my very own money and will ship all by myself. You’re worth it! This enormous cookbook is one of my favorites, full of yummy treats and a fun dialogue. You’ll feel like you’re in the kitchen with Ms. Greenspan herself, taking a lesson from a pro. Every kitchen should have this!
I will make this easy. All you need to do is share in the comments which post I’ve written over the last 2 years is your favorite. There are 294 to pick from, so you have a lot of material to work with. One entry per person, please, and I will accept them until Friday, September 28th, at 8:30 PM ET, at which time I will randomly select the winner with my newfangled contest app (because I have to test it out anyway). Does that sound good? I thought so. Make sure you provide your email address so I can get in touch with you. If the winner does not get back to me within 48 hours, I will select another winner. (For rules and information on poet in the pantry giveaways, click here.) Entries for the contest have closed and a winner has been chosen. Thank you.
Bake yourself some Gingerbread Cupcakes in the meantime. Then you won’t have to bite your nails while you wait!
- 2¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 3 large eggs
- 1¼ cups molasses
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 Tablespoons candied ginger, finely chopped
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 4 cups confectioners sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners and set aside. (Be ready to use another pan, if necessary.)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the softened butter and brown sugar.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each until well incorporated.
- Add the molasses, mixing on low until just mixed in.
- Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the water for 3 additions. (So ⅓ the dry, mix, ⅓ the water, mix, ⅓ the dry, mix, ⅓ the water, mix, the last ⅓ of the dry, mix, the last ⅓ the water, mix.) Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Stir in the candied ginger.
- Using a large cookie scoop, portion out the batter between the prepared muffin cups, filling no more than ¾ of the way.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops spring back after lightly pushed.
- Leave in tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
- Place ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium to medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
- Using a knife or pastry bag fitted with a tip, spread/squeeze frosting onto fully-cooled cupcakes.
Here we are… the start of year 3 and some big things on the horizon. More #FirstOnTheFirst and #MuffinMonday. Add to them #BundtaMonth #SeriousSandwich and #PiePartyGE. And that’s just in the next month! You’ll stick around for it all, right? I promise you won’t regret it!