I’m a list keeper. I keep shopping lists, lists of books to read, lists of desserts I want to make, lists of writing topics, and my never-ending to-do list. Of all my lists, my favorite is one I’ve entitled “Things I Love” and it captures some of the things, from the silly to the sublime, that put a smile on my face. If you want to know what makes me happy, you can read my list here.
Looking back, I can’t recall why (or even when) I started this list. Remembering how crazed my work world used to be, I was likely attempting to bring a little contentment into my life. By reminding myself what truly brought me happiness, I could remember to appreciate these simple delights.
Christmas light displays didn’t make the list, but they’re a much-loved part of my holiday season. When I was little, my siblings and I would squeal from the station wagon’s back seat, “Pretty lights! Pretty lights!” whenever we’d drive by a festively lit house. As adults, we road trip to other neighborhoods – and other cities (Portland!?) in search of flamboyantly adorned holiday houses. If Jesus, Santa, Snoopy, AND a giant snow globe all make it into one tableau, our holiday is complete!
I’m thinking about Christmas light displays today because I’ve had a request to bake a few treats for a neighborhood holiday light stroll next month – a request I happily accepted. These sticky, spicy gingerbread cupcakes are my first contibution, adapted from Gramercy Tavern’s Gingerbread. My coworker, John, took a bite and said, “This is dangerous.” He then took a second bite and said, “This is really dangerous.” By his third bite, the cupcake was gone. Others agreed.
Sticky Gingerbread Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Dangerously sticky, spicy, not-too-sweet cupcakes topped with lashings of cream cheese frosting, salted caramel and candied walnuts.
- 1 cup Guinness Stout
- 1 cup dark molasses
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 2 Tablespoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup vegetable oil Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
- 16 ounces cream cheese, chilled
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
- ⅓ cup good quality salted caramel, plus more for drizzling (It’s worth making your own!)
- 24 candied walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 muffin tins. Bring stout and molasses to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda, and then cool to room temperature.
- Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugars. Whisk in oil, then molasses mixture. Add to flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
- Fill muffin tins ¾ full and rap pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering, about 25 minutes. Cool completely.
- To make frosting: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and salted caramel. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes until creamy. If frosting is too soft, refrigerate for 15 minutes before piping.
- Frost cupcakes, drizzle with additional salted caramel, and garnish with a candied walnut.