Chocolate gingerbread cupcakes with chocolate icing

If you can’t choose between gingerbread and chocolate for your holiday dessert, these are just for you! Make them even more festive with the addition of candied ginger, citrus peel and raisins or currants plumped in warm rum. These cupcakes are rich and intense, a perfect holiday dessert in a highly portable format. The recipe can also be made into an 8-inch square or 9-inch round cake, if that fits better with your menu!

Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes with Chocolate Icing

Adapted loosely from “Baking from my home to yours” by Dorie Greenspan

Makes 12 cupcakes

For cupcakes
2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoons sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar (packed), dark/hard bits removed
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, divided (2 oz melted and cooled, 4 oz chopped or in chips/chunks form)
1 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tablespoons candied ginger, finely chopped (optional)
1/4 cup candied orange peel, chopped (optional)
1/3 cup raisins (soaked in warm brandy or rum until plump, then drained) (optional)

For icing
3 oz bittersweet chocolate (chopped, or in chips form)
1 tablespoons instant coffee powder or granules, finely ground
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces, at room temperature
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar

To serve
Unsweetened crème fraîche or whipped cream (optional)

Make the cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the fresh ginger and sugar, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and ground spices (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg). Place 1/2 cup of the flour mixture in a small bowl, and toss in the chopped bittersweet chocolate, chopped candied ginger (if using), chopped orange peel (if using) and raisins (if using), mix with a fork, and set aside.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or a large bowl with beaters, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition (Always break eggs into a small bowl, and then mix into the batter, to avoid getting shells into the main cake batter!). Mixture may seem curdled, but keep going! Stream in the molasses while beating, and continue to beat (at medium speed) until smooth.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, and beat in melted chocolate and sugared fresh ginger (that was set aside earlier) until well incorporated.

Continuing on low speed, add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, starting and ending with the flour (that is, add 1/4 of the flour mixture, then 1/3 of the buttermilk, followed by 1/4 of the flour, the 1/3 of the buttermilk, again 1/4 of the flour, and finally the remaining 1/3 of the buttermilk, and then remaining 1/4 of the flour). At each step, mix only until the batter comes together, and resist the temptation of over-mixing. Turn off stand mixer/beaters.

Using a wooden spoon, fold in the mixture of flour, chopped bittersweet chocolate, chopped candied ginger (if using), chopped orange peel (if using) and raisins (if using), until no flour streaks remain.

Divide batter into muffin tin, and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the cupcakes comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, and then take them out of the pan gently to cool the rest of the way (on a cooling rack).

Make the icing
Once the cupcakes have cooled almost completely, make the icing.

Set a small pot of water (about 2 inches) on the stove and bring to a simmer. In a heatproof bowl, place the chocolate and instant coffee (finely ground), and place it over the simmering water, such that the bottom of the pan does not touch the water (double boiler method). Whisk on and off until the chocolate has melted uniformly, and then whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time until completely incorporated. Take the bowl off the heat, sift in confectioners sugar over the chocolate-butter mixture and stir well. Leave icing in the bowl on the counter to set for 10 minutes.

Using an offset spatula, or by dipping and swirling the cupcakes, ice the cooled cupcakes. Let the icing set for 30 minutes or so before serving (this step can be expedited by placing the cupcakes in the fridge for few minutes).

Serve as is, or with whipped cream or whipped crème frâiche (unsweetened).

Cupcakes (iced or not iced) can be kept at room temperature for 2-3 days. Un-iced cupcakes can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months (can be thawed in the fridge overnight, and iced prior to serving).

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