I got all excited last month about the new blog challenge dreamt up by Janine at Cake of the Week: Baking with Spirit (so excited that I entered it twice…). Apparently I must come across as a bit of an alcoholic since it turned out that Janine expected my enthusiasm – in the September round-up she admitted/confided that she’d hoped the challenge would be “right up my street.” For the record, that comment amused me no end – Janine clearly knows me remarkably well! My enthusiasm for the challenge hasn’t abated, and the alcohol of choice for October is… can you guess? It’s “beer!” Because, you know, Oktoberfest. Clever, eh?
Now, I have a little confession: I don’t like beer. There are a couple of exceptions – I do quite enjoy fruit beers (although I’m not sure they really count as beer), and I’ve had one or two beers that tasted pretty good for a few sips but then they warmed up too much and the hoppy flavour started coming through too much for me to finish the bottle. I really wish I did like beer though – I suspect that there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had in good beer and I feel like I’m missing out. And I don’t like being left out. I think part of the problem is that I’m not particularly knowledgeable about beer, so I wouldn’t know where to start.
Luckily, Baking with Spirit is about baking or cooking with beer rather than drinking it. I baked some rather scrumptious chocolate Guinness cupcakes about a year ago, but that’s been my sole foray into baking with beer. I really had no idea what I was going to make, so I was sort of hoping that something would magically come to me. And then, a few days ago, I came across a recipe for Guinness gingerbread cupcakes. Bingo! The combination of Guinness and gingerbread completely intrigued me – I would never even have thought to pair them together.
Boy am I glad that I tried the recipe out, because these cupcakes are phenomenal. It’s a dark gingerbread, packed full of spices, wonderfully gingery and with a fabulous undertone of treacle that is perfectly matched by the Guinness, which comes through subtly enough but definitely adds depth to the flavours going on in the cupcakes. They’re also surprisingly light. I was initially going to make the recipe as one large cake, but after a stressful day I decided that cupcakes were the way forward since the piping bit calms me. Don’t be put off if you don’t like Guinness – I cannot stand it as a drink, yet I can’t get enough of these cupcakes.
Guinness gingerbread cupcakes
Adapted from Tea with Bea
In the icing I used the Equagold vanilla extract with star anise that I won in a giveaway the other week as I felt the hint of star anise would complement the spices in the gingerbread, but normal vanilla extract would also work, and is what I would ordinarily have used (I don’t usually have vanilla extract with star anise). These cupcakes will keep for a few days in an airtight container kept away from any direct heat or sunlight (the icing will get a bit melty if it gets too warm), but not in the fridge.
For the cupcakes:
250g black treacle
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
280g all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 heaped tbsp fresh finely grated ginger (a piece of about 2-3 cm)
100g caster sugar
100g dark brown sugar
200ml organic rapeseed oil (canola oil)
For the icing:
225g cream cheese
60g unsalted butter, softened
175g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (I used vanilla extract with star anise)
2 tbsp honey
Crystallised ginger pieces, to decorate (optional)
To make the cupcakes:
1. Add the Guinness and black treacle to a tall saucepan (it needs to be tall because the mixture will bubble violently in the next step, and you don’t want it to overflow) and heat over a high heat. Remove from the heat once the mixture comes to the boil, and stir in the bicarbonate of soda (this is the bubbling violently bit). Set aside to cool completely whilst preparing the rest of the cupcake mixture.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C. Line two cupcake tins with cupcake liners or set out 24 silicone liners on baking trays.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, spices and salt into a medium-sized mixing bowl and stir together.
4. Peel the ginger and finely grate it, adding it to a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs and two sugars and whisk together. Make sure there aren’t any little clumps of brown sugar left, then gradually mix in the oil. Whisk in the cooled Guinness syrup.
5. Fold in the flour mixture with a spatula or spoon until just combined (it’ll be quite a liquidy mixture).
6. Spoon the mixture into the the prepared liners or moulds, filling them about ⅘ full. Bake for 25-35 mins until the tops are springy to touch and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the tins or silicone moulds and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
To make the icing:
7. Prepare a piping bag with your chosen piping nozzle (I used a Wilton 1M large star nozzle).
8. Whisk together the cream cheese and butter in a medium-sized bowl with an electric whisk until smooth. Sift in the icing sugar and add the vanilla extract and honey and whisk until light and fluffy. Transfer to the prepared piping bag and pipe swirls onto the cupcakes.
9. Chop the crystallised ginger pieces and sprinkle them over the cupcakes to decorate.