Gingerbread Cupcakes With Orange Buttercream are the cupcakes of the late fall/ winter season. They are a wonderful blend of molasses, spices, then topped with the orange cinnamon buttercream. As if that wasn't enough, I also topped with toasted pecans and a drizzle of caramel sauce. It all works so well together!
I know a lot of people aren't really into the stronger molasses flavor, so I cut back on it in this recipe. These cupcakes have a much more mild molasses flavor I think will appeal to more people!
This is a recipe that uses whole wheat flour for part of the flour called for. If whole wheat isn't your thing, don't worry, sub it out for all-purpose. If you are willing to give the wheat a try, you will not be disappointed. It is such a great compliment to the gingerbread spices!
Mise En Place
As in any recipe, it is so much easier to prepare the food if you have everything ready to go. This is a process called Mise en place. Meaning, everything in place and ready to go! This will make the baking process so much easier!
One of the best things about gingerbread recipes is the mix wonderful mix of spices that flavor the baked goods. In mine, here is the lineup and the sources for my spices:
All of these spices can easily be found at your local supermarket. For me, it was Walmart and Fred Meyer. I know there are more expensive versions, but let's be real, most of us are on a budget. So, I take the best quality I can get with the best price. These are it.
I used a blend of all-purpose flour and whole wheat pastry flour for my flours. Why whole wheat pastry flour? It is lower in protein and produces a nice soft crumb on your cupcakes. If you have not baked with wheat flours before, this is a great place to start! This all-purpose flour and whole wheat pastry flour is a blend I use often, trust, and it produces really great results. If you don't have a grain mill and want to purchase the flour, King Arthur Flour is a great source. If you do have a grain mill, I love to use soft winter wheat from Farm Fresh Wheat in Washington. Their wheat has been amazing and they are an incredibly nice generational farming family. I really like to know my sources for the foods I purchase.
Make sure all dry ingredients other than the sugar, are mixed together in a small bowl and ready to go!
A Note About Grain Mills
I realize a grain mill isn't in everyone's budget. Or it might be a struggle space-wise. Maybe tuck these ideas in the back of your mind for another day. If at all possible, I recommend purchasing one. Nutrimill has been my go-to for years now. I love their mills. I recommend a grain mill for several reasons. First, freshness matters. Obviously, most flours you buy off the shelf are pretty old, at least 2 weeks, but in most cases, even longer. Also, flours get compacted with shipping and handling as well.
Mixing the Gingerbread Cupcake Batter
Once the dry ingredients are mixed, start on the wet ingredients. Add your brown sugar, butter, and oil to a bowl. Why use oil when making these cupcakes? I hear a lot of people struggle with dry baked goods. A few tips to minimize dryness are these:
- Make sure it isn't over baked. I know, obvious, right?
- Use oil AND butter. I use the butter for flavor and oil for moisture.
- Another trick I use when baking cupcakes and muffins to increase moisture is using Greek yogurt or sour cream.
Once the fats and sugar are blended, add in your molasses, eggs, and vanilla. Now, once you add in the eggs, be mindful not to overmix. You only want to mix to incorporate it at this point. The eggs are a protein and if they get mixed too much, it will make your cupcakes a little more tough than you want. You will see in the next photo what the finished mix should look like.
In the photo below, you can see it is mixed, but now over mixed.
Next, combine the wet and the dry.
Preparing the Gingerbread Cupcakes for Baking
Let's get these cupcakes in the oven! Honestly, these gingerbread cupcakes are pretty simple to make! I used a tulip cupcake wrapper, I think they are so pretty to use!! I love the Wilton muffin pans and have used them forever. Another trick I use is scooping the gingerbread batter in with a cookie scoop. This ensures I am getting an even amount for each cupcake. This makes sure the cupcakes all bake at the same time.
A note on baking with whole wheat. It is so important to under bake your whole wheat baked goods just a touch, this will keep them from drying out. Whole Grains will absorb more liquid than their refined counterparts, so be mindful of this!
The Finished Baked Gingerbread Cupcakes
Here are the finished baked gingerbread cupcakes. Your house will smell amazing after baking these!! The smell of gingerbread is so warm and cozy. It's that blend of the spices and molasses that smell like the holidays.
I used toasted pecans for a topping on our gingerbread cupcakes. This is optional, of course, but really good. Toasting pecans is really simple. Place them on a baking sheet, bake at 350 degrees until slightly darkened and they smell toasted. It changes the pecans and adds a depth of flavor That is perfect for the cupcakes.
Making The Orange Buttercream
I love the flavors of oranges and spice for the holidays. So when I was testing this recipe, I knew I needed to incorporate orange somewhere. After a little deliberations, I decided it should be in the icing. This is a blend of butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, orange zest, and fresh orange juice!
Icing The Cupcakes
I know a lot of people are intimidated by the idea of having to ice cupcakes. Let me show you a super simple method I use. Put away the piping bag, we won't need it here. Take your cookie scoop, fill it with icing. Can you see my son and I scooping on the scoop?? 🙂 The size of the scoop would be determined by the amount of icing you prefer. I like the medium scoop for this, but go larger if you like, no judgement here.
Now, you have 3 options. The 1st is to leave the scoop like it is on the cupcake. This is the simplest option. Second, you can turn over the cookie scoop and press down with the back of the scoop to flatten slightly. The 3rd, which I opted for, is to spread lightly with a small offset icing spatula.
Gingerbread Cupcakes With Orange Buttercream
Top with your toasted pecans if you choose to use them, and they are done!! Wouldn't these be the best cupcakes at your next holiday meal or get together? Gingerbread cupcakes are where it is at!!
You can also chop your toasted pecans and sprinkle then on top. That is really pretty too!
Now, if you want to add a little something extra to the top of these already perfect cupcakes, how about a little caramel sauce? I mean seriously, gingerbread cupcakes, the orange buttercream, toasted pecans, and now caramel. Does it get any better than this?? No, not really. You can use a premade sauce or do as I did. Melt 8 caramels in the microwave with about 2 tablespoons milk. Simple, but a nice finishing touch. These will certainly put you into a god sugar coma!
Want a little balance to all the sugar? How about a few healthy salad ideas?
- Autumn Kale Salad with Butternut
- How about this Kale Salad with Delicata?
- I also really love this Sprouted Barley Salad with Butternut and Beets.
- This Vietnamese Salad with Sprouts is really great too!
Gingerbread Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream
- bowl for mixing, hand mixer (optional), cupcakes pan
- ¼ cup oil
- ¼ cup softened butter
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup molasses
- ⅓ cup greek yogurt or sour cream
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon salt
Cinnamon Orange Cream Cheese Icing
- 4 ounces softened cream cheese
- 4 tablespoons softened butter
- 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- fresh orange juice The amount you use will be to the consistency you are looking for. I like my icing thick, so I used about 2 teaspoons
- 1 cup whole pecan halves
Simple Caramel Sauce
- 8 wrapped caramels
- 2 tablespoons milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with liners for 12 cupcakes. Set aside. In small bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.In another medium bowl, add softened butter, oil, and brown sugar. Mix well. Add in eggs, vanilla, Greek yogurt, and molasses. This time, only mix to combine. You don't want to overmix it. Last step is the dry ingredients. Add these in and mix again to combine. Be careful not to overmix here! A few small lumps is not a big deal. Scoop batter evenly into your lined cupcakes pan. Place in oven. These will take between 12-18 minutes to bake, depending on the actual temp of your oven. I like to under bake these just a touch. The reason for this is even after your remove the cupcakes from the oven, they will continue to cook. This is called carry-over cooking. It really important when working with whole grains as they absorb more liquid than refined flours. I test the cupcakes for doneness by touch. This is done by gently pressing in the center of the cupcake. If you can feel it slightly underbaked in the very center of the cupcake, like about ½ inch in the very center, it is perfect. Remove from oven, and the carry over cooking will finish off the last little bit. Remove from oven. Allow to cool aboout5 minutes in the pan, then carefully remove and place on a cooling rack. Now, they are ready for icing and doesn't your house smell amazing!!
- Toasted pecans
- Leave your oven on from baking the cupcakes, at 350 degrees.Pour whole pecan halves onto a baking sheet and place in the oven.You will want to bake these for about 7-10 minutes. They will darken a touch and start to smell "toasted". It is such a great smell. Remove from oven and allow to cool before using.
Orange Cream Cheese Icing
- Add softened cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and orange zest to small bowl. With a hand mixer, whip the icing until ingredients are well blended. Now, check for the consistency. Everyone perfers their icing a little different, so add orange juice to get to that consistency. If you want it to be more thick, add in another tablespoon or so of powdered sugar. Whip it really well, this will give you the best consistency for this icing. When cupcakes have cooled, pipe or spread the icing as desired.
Simple Caramel Sauce
- Add caramels and milk to a microwave safe bowl. You will wan the caramels to melt and then mix with the milk. Each microwave is different, but I would recommend starting in 15 second intervals. As soon as the caramel starts to soften, mix. Microwave back in as needed to get the smooth consistency you are looking for. Allow to cool just a touch, then pour it over the iced cupcakes.