Holiday Almanac December 11: Wrapping Gifts & Gingerbread Pumpkin Cupcakes

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 Gingerbread pumpkin cupcake with vanilla buttercream, garnished with a sugared cranberry. 

Gingerbread pumpkin cupcake with vanilla buttercream, garnished with a sugared cranberry. 

I love wrapping gifts. I get really sad when I buy something for someone that needs to be put in a bag, or if I can't find a box that fits the thing that I bought, because I seriously enjoy wrapping gifts, especially if I have a whole lot to do. (Fun fact: the first year we were married, I made stocking for Judson and myself. I filled them both and presented them as though Santa had left them... and I was so excited about the goodies inside that I wrapped every single thing in the stockings. Christmas took a long time that year.) Anyway, I find wrapping gifts very zen and I love doing them up in simple papers and then stacking them up under the tree, so I was excited that today, my last vacation day off before Christmas, I would be able to get a jump on that task. (And seriously: it's a good thing I'm putting a dent in our gift wrap stash-- after spending last winter working at a stationery store, we have a lot of gift wrap, ribbons, tags, and tissue, and it feels good to put it to use.)

 Decorate with white chocolate stars, Candied cherries, sliced almonds & currants, or sugared cranberries.

Decorate with white chocolate stars, Candied cherries, sliced almonds & currants, or sugared cranberries.

The gifts I've bought are now wrapped up and nestled under the tree, and I'm rapidly checking things off my Christmas to-do list, which is a great feeling... but nothing beats the smell of warm gingerbread and spices that's currently wafting through the house from the kitchen. I know, I know: cupcakes are played out and boring these days, but if you think so, it's only because you haven't had these ones. I whipped up the gingerbread pumpkin cupcakes today from a 'from-scratch' recipe in the box (called, mysteriously, Colonial Gingerbread) because I couldn't find any gingerbread cake mix at the shops. But if you can, then you're welcome to make this with cake mix, as Ms. Crocker originally intended. However, this colonial gingerbread recipe requires only one bowl, cooks in 20 minutes, and is so delicious I'd really encourage you to make it. From the quantities below, you'll get about 9 cupcakes or 2 small loaves of gingerbread-- note that this cake is delicious by itself and you could serve them as muffins without frosting, or feel free to frost them up as per the below if you're looking for something a little more festive.

The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. Pumpkin is incredibly hard to find in the UK and insanely expensive in cans when you do find it, so I don't like to waste it on recipes I'm not sure will be good. But these cupcakes did not disappoint and were totally worth cracking open my last can of pumpkin purée for. These are a perfect party food and honestly I wish I had made them for our party last week, but alas, I didn't know about them then. Oh well, here we are and they taste delicious. Enjoy!

The recipe:

Colonial Gingerbread Pumpkin Cupcakes

the directions:

Preheat oven to 165C/325F.
Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
Into large bowl, combine all ingredients.
Beat well until blended but not completely smooth (a few lumps will help it rise).
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter and bake 20 minutes or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool and frost with vanilla buttercream frosting and decorate as you wish.

the ingredients:

1 c flour
½ c black treacle or molasses
¼ c + 2 tbsp buttermilk
¼ c sugar
Heaping ¼ c pumpkin
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp salt
1 batch vanilla buttercream frosting (I used this one)