Cupcakes do not appear very often in our kitchen. Partly because the beloved has a strong aversion to them – oddly, they seem to make her angry – and partly because they are a bit too portion controlled for me. Some things work well in little uniform serves. Rich, creamy things like brulees, petit pots and mousses. But if I’m going to have cake at home I want the opportunity to cut a big wedge of it if necessary, or to be able to sneak a little sliver as I’m passing through the kitchen. As a gift though, cupcakes work well. They’re like shiny little baubles – fun to unwrap, pretty to look at and tasty into the bargain. My grandmother (The Great Granny) is celebrating her eighty-third birthday this month. She is a woman built, as Alexander McCall-Smith would say, for comfort. She is also a woman who enjoys food, gifts, gifts of food, a good cup of tea and ‘a little something for afters’. Despite various health-related threats, pleading and cajoling from her GP and brief periods of ‘being good’, The Great Granny has declared that from now on she’s going to eat whatsoever she pleases. Tomorrow I will be shamelessly supporting this declaration with a gift of these:
Sticky Ginger Cupcakes
from The Hummingbird Bakery, Portobello Road, London
120 grams of plain flour
140 grams of caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice
a pinch of salt
40 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature
120 mls of full cream milk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
200 grams of stem ginger in syrup (I used Buderim Baby Stem Ginger which comes in a 300gm jar – good for snacking as you go)
100 mls of full cream milk
~10cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into four chunks
400 grams of icing sugar
125 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature
finely grated zest of half a lemon
crystallised ginger to decorate
12-hole muffin tray
cupcake cases in any colour you like
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celsius (160 fan forced).
Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, salt and butter into a large bowl. Using a freestanding mixer or handheld electric beaters, mix on slow speed until the mixture is a sandy consistency and well combined.
Continue mixing and gradually add half the milk.
In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining milk, the egg and the vanilla extract. Add this to the flour mixture, continuing to mix slowly until smooth.
Drain the stem ginger, reserving the syrup for later. Then, finely chop the ginger pieces. This is the messiest and fiddliest part of the whole production. If you’re at all like me, you will end up with syrup stuck to all your utensils, the bench, your face, the baby and all your cupboard door handles. Of course, this is less likely if you don’t spend as much time trying to lick the syrup off your hands instead of just washing them.
Stir the chopped ginger into your cupcake mixture by hand gently, just mixing until evenly dispersed.
Spoon the mixture into the cases lining the muffin tin, filling each one ~2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes. They are done when they look golden and are slightly springy to touch.
While the little lovelies are baking put the reserved syrup and an equal amount of water in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and let boil until reduced by one third. When you pull the cupcakes out of the oven, spoon a little of this syrup over each one.
Now you could just stop here. Eaten this way, these little cakes are still gloriously moist, hotly gingery and with a lingering zingy aftertaste. But half the fun of a cupcake is in the icing:
Beat the icing sugar, butter and lemon zest together at medium speed until well mixed and smoothish. Switch to a slow speed and slowly pour in the strained ginger-infused milk. Once all the milk is incorporated, switch to high speed and beat for ~5 minutes until light and fluffy.
Dollop your icing generously onto the cooled cupcakes. You can be as artful as you like. In my haste to get one of these in my mouth I was not artful at all, but the snowy whiteness of the icing on the golden cupcakes is still beautiful. To finish, dot with sliced crystallised ginger and sprinkle with a little more fine lemon zest.
What could be better than a little something that has three different forms of heavenly ginger? For an even sweeter ginger hit, you could top them with Buderim Ginger Bears, serve them with ginger tea, followed by ginger nougat…..