gingerbread cookies using an old recipe from Colonial Williamsburg. When I did living history for a national park, we would often make either the cookies or gingerbread in the fireplace of an historic cabin on the site. It was a lot of fun and the taste just couldn't be beat - particularly on cool Autumn afternoons when the park was quiet and we could sit down at the table and enjoy the fruits of our labor while playing Farkle, Cribbage, or Whist.
For years I've made this recipe and people always want to know what ingredient it is that gives it a little extra something. Well, when we would cook gingerbread in dutch ovens in an open fireplace or over a campfire I noticed that the gingerbread took on a slightly smokey tone. It's hard to describe but there's a little extra flavor from the wood smoke that just makes the ginger and spices perfect. So, when I started making this at home I used a few dollops of Liquid Smoke which you can find in most grocery stores. It's not a perfect substitute for wood smoke, but it does round out the spices and gives a depth of flavor to the gingerbread that sets it apart from the ordinary.
I finally got around to adapting this to a cupcake recipe. I've used a pretty similar recipe for muffins in the past, but the addition of the lemon buttercream frosting melds my gingerbread, which is always glazed with a lemon glaze and my cookies (or cakes to be 18th Century about it) which have a bit of lemon in the batter and are lightly dusted with powdered sugar.
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
3 cups all-purpose flour (or whole wheat flour) sifted
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon flavoring
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)
1 cup hot water
Preheat oven to 375°F. Cream together shortening and sugar. Beat in egg, lemon flavoring, vanilla, and optional liquid smoke, and then molasses. Sift together the dry ingredients in separate bowl and stir into wet mixture. Gradually add hot water, beating continually until batter is smooth. Line muffin tin with cupcake papers and fill to about 3/4 full and bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Lemon Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, room temperature sliced in 1/4" pieces
2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tbl. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. fresh lemon zest
Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and mix together with mixer fitted with whisk attachment until smooth. Transfer to pastry bag fitted with round or star tip and decorate cooled cupcakes.