Sunday, 23 December 2012

Gingerbread cupcake Christmas trees with salted caramel buttercream


As someone who doesn’t like ‘traditional’ Christmas baking such as mince pies, Christmas cake or pudding, I have looked further afield for my own favourite traditional flavours – and decided that ginger is top of the list.  Any spice is perfect for winter but ginger always seems warmer and spicier than the others...not that I don’t love them too.

These cupcakes mix traditional with modern due to the addition of salted caramel in the buttercream.  I like my salted caramel more caramel than salt – it’s the hit of sweetness just tempered by salt that tickles my taste buds.  Obviously, we all make things to suit our own palate, so feel free to add more salt or entirely omit it if it’s not your thing.  The cakes will be lovely whichever path you choose.

I’d seen the idea of stacking cupcakes into a tree on a website selling silicon cases for the job.  However, you only got three of each size...who can exist on three cupcakes?  (Even huge cupcakes like these!)  So I decided to adapt it to foil cases and make a forest! 

Gingerbread and salted caramel is a lovely combination and not one I’d considered putting together before.  Surprisingly, given the huge amount of sugar in the buttercream, it doesn’t taste too sweet.  It also helps that – because of the stacking – each cupcake gets only a ring of buttercream rather than a huge pile.

When the lovely people at Tala asked if I’d like to try out some of their products my answer was – of course – a resounding yes!  Tala has a special place in my affections; the CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma) didn’t have much baking equipment but she did have a set of Tala cockolly cutters which she used to make pie decorations from spare pastry.  Her set probably dates from the 1960s and it’s incredible that the flimsy cardboard box still survives:

 I decided to use the lovely snowflake cutters as the lid for my mince pies this year...and I think they look rather good!

This is my last blog post before Christmas so all that remains is to wish everyone an extremely happy and tasty Christmas!


For the gingerbread:
210g unsalted butter – at room temperature
300g golden caster sugar
90g black treacle
90g golden syrup
3 eggs plus 3 egg yolks
450g plain flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 teaspoons baking powder
360ml full fat milk – warmed gently

For the buttercream:
190g caster sugar
6 tablespoons cold water
120ml double cream
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
240g salted butter – at room temperature
300g icing sugar
Dr Oetker natural green food colouring gel


Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/gas mark 5.

Line two 12 hole cupcake pan with cases – you’ll need 16 of each size case.  If you have a mini cupcake pan use this for the mini cupcake cases.  For the truffle case sized cases, simply place on a baking sheet.  If you use foil cases they will hold their shape.

Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth, creamy and light.  At first it will seem like this will never happen – but persist!  It may take five or ten minutes depending on how soft the butter was.

Beat in the treacle, golden syrup, eggs and egg yolks until well combined.

Weigh out the flour and add the spices and baking powder to it.

Stir in half the flour mix to the butter mixture.

Stir in half the warmed milk.

Stir in the remaining flour, followed by the remaining milk taking care to ensure the batter is well mixed.

Spoon into the prepared cases.

Bake the larger cupcakes for 20-25 minutes.  You can risk baking all the different sizes together but you might disturb the larger cakes when you open the oven to remove the small ones.

Bake the medium cupcakes for approximately 15 minutes or until well risen and a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean.

The smallest need only about 10 minutes.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Now make the caramel: place the caster sugar and water in a saucepan (a silver one is best as you can monitor the colour better) and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.  Shake the pan to mix the ingredients rather than stir – stirring can make the sugar crystallise and produce a grainy caramel.

Increase the heat and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the caramel has turned golden and thickened a little.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream.  It may spit a bit so be prepared for it – I wore my oven gloves so my hand didn’t get burned.

Stir in the salt and vanilla and leave to cool.  Taste it (when cool enough to do so safely) to gauge the salt.  It should be a smidge too salty at this point because the saltiness will be greatly reduced when you beat it into the butter and sugar.

It must be completely cool before you make the buttercream.

Beat together the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy – it will look almost whipped.  It will be a little thicker than is normal at this point but don’t fret, the caramel will soften it.

Beat in the caramel.

Beat in enough green colouring to tint the buttercream.

Spoon into a piping bag and – if the buttercream is particularly soft – pop it into the fridge for 5 minutes.

Now build the Christmas trees: push a cocktail stick into the centre of a large cupcake.  Skewer a medium sized cupcake onto it.  Take another cocktail stick and skewer the smallest cupcake to the medium one - cut the sticks to size so nothing is poking out the top.  It is best to do this before piping as it’s cleaner!

Now pipe the buttercream in small points over all the visible gingerbread to replicate a Christmas tree.

Decorate with sprinkles and baubles.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.



Anonymous said...

They look utterly delicious! Merry Christmas

Debs Dust Bunny said...

Gingerbread and salted caramel...the perfect combination for us grown up kids! Delicious!

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year! : )

Cakeyboi said...

They are so creative and delicious looking! Happy holidays to you CC - I hope you have a fantastic time! X

Ulla said...

Very good idea. I think I need to steel this one. Cupcakes with too much buttercream on top are not edible. Have a Tasty Christmas! Greetings from snowy Finland!

Kezia said...

Wow, they look so tasty! Merry Christmas and thank-you for all the delicious recipes over the last year:)

Maggie said...

Great idea stacking the cupcakes - I haven't seen this one before.
Happy Christmas CC!

Susie @ Fold in the Flour said...

Lovely flavour combination and the stacked cupcakes look really pretty - great little Christmas trees.

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2013! :)

Nicola said...

Oh wow they look and sound amazing! I'm going through a bit of a salted caramel obsession at the moment. I also love gingerbread so I think these could be my ideal cupcake! Merry Christmas to you, hope you have a lovely time xxx

Cakelaw said...

OMG - these look sensational! And salted caramel buttercream - I am there. I love the traditional Christmas baked goods but I am also happy to go further afield for something different. Merry Christmas CC.

Recipe Junkie said...

MMMM Happy Christmas. So lovely to have CCM's cutter set. Most of my baking equipment has been passed down to me from various relations - it always adds a certain affection to my baking when I use those bits and pieces.

Katie said...

Wow what a cool idea, looks fab. Love the shiny green cases too. That's one tasty Christmas tree!
Have a wonderful Christmas

Laura Loves Cakes said...

Your little stacked Christmas tree cupcakes are so cute...this is a great idea! And the salted caramel buttercrem definitely adds an extra dimension! I think I put a little too much salt in mine! :-)

Jo said...

I love this idea and the flavour combination sounds delicious. Merry Christmas CC! :)

Lemony said...

What an excellent way to scoff 3 cupcakes whilst truthfully being able say you've only had one! They look delicious, loving the sound of ginger/ salted caramel combo

Xinmei @ Pudding Pie Lane said...

Wow I love the vintage cookie cutters! This is such a creative idea with stacking the cupcakes. And I see that someone has taken a sneaky bite in the second photo? ;)

Caroline said...

Oooh, I do love ginger and these look fantastic. I love the way you've layered them up and the fact that there isn't too much buttercream - it can become overwhelming can't it! A belated Happy Christmas too - hope it was a good one.

Hazel - Chicken in a Cherry Sauce said...

This is such a great idea!! I've never seen a cupcake Christmas tree before! I love the idea of gingerbread and salted caramel... I really want to try and make a gingerbread house next year. If I make it, I'll have to decorate it with some salted caramel - sounds like a divine combination!

Mrs Deer said...

So cute ans so original!
I love them!

Jax said...

Saw these in Cupcake Heaven and love them. Where can I get different sized green foil cupcake cases from?

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Jax

I got them from Amazon, if memory serves me correctly

Happy baking