These not-too-sweet gingerbread cupcakes are stuffed with cranberry sauce, making them taste just like the holidays. Skip the frosting if you want muffins! (Jump directly to the recipe.)
Thanksgiving came and went with a flash and my partner AJ and I made dinner like pros. We prepped ahead of time. We delegated dishes to family and friends (something I never do) and we woke up early so that we could finish cooking our meal and actually our Thanksgiving. And, as always, even though I stress about not having enough food, we had way TOO MUCH food.
We sent home some of it with folks, but we also came home with a ton more. Though I love having Thanksgiving dinner again and again, usually by the third or fourth night, I’m a bit sick of it. Luckily I’m a pro at repurposing leftovers, making Turkey and Noodles or Potato Croquettes. But one thing I always have a surplus of is cranberry sauce.
Now I grew up with the canned cranberry sauce, served up directly from the can, still shaped with those ring indentions in the jelly form. And though I appreciate the nostalgia of canned cranberry sauce, I always make my cranberry sauce from scratch. I love having the control over the amount of sugar I put in it, as well as the other spices and ingredients I can add to it (like white wine and cinnamon). But 12-ounce bag of cranberries makes a large amount of sauce and there’s only so much that will go on a plate.
So this year, I had the genius idea of whipped up a batch of gingerbread muffins and stuffed some leftover cranberry sauce in them. Except I’m not 100% sure I made them gingerbread muffins. After filling them with cranberry sauce, and adding some crystallized ginger into the muffins, and then piping cream cheese frosting over the muffins they sort of morphed into gingerbread cupcakes. Which I’m not complaining about. But the initial intention was muffins. AJ refers to them as mupcakes. I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with that portmanteau. But either way, one bite of these and I immediately realized they tasted like Christmas to me. So regardless of whether you eat these treats for breakfast or as dessert, these are worth having leftover cranberry sauce for!
Gingerbread Cupcakes (or muffins) with Cranberry Sauce inside
- 2 cups all-purpose flour 280 g
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour 150 g (see note below recipe)
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 3/4 cup white sugar 150 g
- 3/4 cups dark molasses, not blackstrap 255 g (see note below recipe)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil 95 g
- 1/3 cup dark rum or water
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger 50 g
- 1/2 cup cranberry sauce, homemade or canned (see note below recipe)
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces softened cream cheese 225 g or 1 brick
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature 115 or 1 stick
- 3 cups powdered sugar 340 g
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger 50 g
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spray a standard muffin tin with cooking oil (or place cupcake paper liner in each muffin cup).
Place the buttermilk, sugar, molasses, vegetable oil, dark rum (or water) eggs and fresh ginger in a different bowl. Stir vigorously with a balloon whisk until wet ingredients are well blended.
Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl. Using a large spatula, fold the dry and wet ingredients together. It’s ok if there are a few pockets of dry ingredients left.
Add the chopped ginger and stir in to distribute.
Fill each muffin cups halfway up. Then spoon a heaping teaspoon of cranberry sauce into each muffin, trying to keep the sauce in the middle of the muffin batter. Divide the remaining batter into the muffin tin covering over the cranberry sauce. The muffin tins will be very full.
Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F. Bake an additional 13-17 minutes, or until the gingerbread cupcakes bounce back when you press on them and a toothpick comes out clean.
Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then carefully remove them from the pan with a fork or a butter knife. Let cool on a wire rack completely to room temperature before frosting.
While the cupcakes are baking and cooling make the cream cheese frosting by placing the cream cheese, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until the cream cheese and butter are creamy and cling to the side of the bowl.
Sift in the powdered sugar (this is important, as powdered sugar clumps) and mix until absorbed. Add the vanilla and salt and mix until incorporated. Place the frosting in the refrigerator to firm up as the cupcakes cool to room temperature.
Once the cupcakes are completely cool, frost the cupcakes and sprinkle a few chopped crystallized ginger pieces on top of the frosting before serving.
White whole wheat flour is a milder form of whole wheat flour and can be found at well-stocked and specialty grocery stores. If you don’t have white whole wheat flour and don’t feel like going to the store for it, you can use the exact same amount of regular whole wheat flour or regular all-purpose flour.
Blackstrap molasses is a particular dark and intense form of molasses that can make this cupcake rather bitter in taste. Look for Dark or Robust molasses, though you can substitute light molasses if that is all you can find.
Cranberry sauce can be homemade or canned. If you don’t have cranberry sauce, feel free to substitute another preserve like raspberry jam in its place. Or leave it out. The gingerbread cupcakes will still be great without the cranberry sauce.