Saturday, August 15, 2009

Zucchini Ginger Cupcakes (aka what you do when your father sends you a box full of zucchini in the mail)

My father is a sensational gardener. And harvest time has come in Colorado. So, how do you get rid of extra zucchini? Send them to your daughter in the mail. That's right, the other day the mail man left a box full of summer squash and zucchini from my father's garden on my door step. And this got me thinking, how many different ways can I use 4 pounds of zucchini? My mind immediately went to zucchini bread. But, I wanted something a little jazzier than a loaf. So I thought, how about zucchini muffins? Epicurious saw those muffins and raised them ginger, cupcake, and cream cheese frosting.

I know, I know. Zucchini cupcakes? Zucchini cupcakes? Well, let me tell you, these cupcakes were absolutely wonderful.

The first bite you think, mmm, this frosting is good. The second bite you think, these cupcakes are pretty tasty. The third bite you think, huh is that orange and ginger? With the fourth, fifth, and final bite when you shove the whole cupcake in your mouth, you are too busy being bowled over by deliciousness to think any more. And even after you are done, the ginger sparkles in your mouth, lingering and reminding you of the whole experience.

The cupcakes were no more complicated than quick bread and the icing took 4 minutes. You could also omit the icing (or keep it) and serve it for breakfast.

For the 'dry ingredients', you use both crystallized and ground ginger to give the cupcakes their wonderful spice. For the crystallized ginger, I pulsed it in my mini-food processor, but you could probably mince it very finely with a knife.

Once the crystallized ginger is ready, mix it with the orange zest and other dry ingredients.
(The orange zest is wonderful in this recipe. It brightens all the other flavors).

For the wet ingredients, grate 2 cups of zucchini. The coarse grates add such lovely color and texture to the cupcakes; they are key. I just pressed hard on my box grater and it did the trick.

Mix in the other wet ingredients. A tip from Mark Bittman: use the same measuring cup for the oil and honey, and measure the oil first. This way, the honey doesn't stick to the sides of the cup. Brilliant!

Add the flour mixture. Stir until just incorporated.

Spoon into liners.

I baked them at 350 degrees for 21 minutes, until the cake tester came out clean.
Let them cool for 10 minutes and remove to a wire rack.

While they were cooling, I whipped up this marvelous cream cheese frosting. I used the measurements form the epicurious recipe, but I borrowed the method from Joy of Cooking.

Mix the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla.

Once that is blended, add 1/2 cup of sifted confectioner's sugar. Joy of Cooking claims that sifting the confectioner's sugar helps give you smooth icing.

Mix that at high speed for 3 minutes or so, until light and fluffy.

Stir in the ginger, cinnamon, and orange zest.
(The flecks of spice are so very pretty)

As soon as the cupcakes are cool, get the frosting assembly line together and frost! I garnished the cupcakes with just a touch of orange zest.

Zucchini Ginger Cupcakes (adapted from
Makes 12 cupcakes

1/3 cup (1 3/4 ounces) crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder (which I completely overlooked!)
2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (2 medium)
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup honey
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla

For the cream cheese frosting:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, measured and then sifted
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp grated orange zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with paper liners.

Pulse crystallized ginger in food processor until finely ground. Mix crystallized ginger with flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, orange zest, salt baking soda, and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, whisk the zucchini, olive oil, honey, eggs, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Stir until just incorporated.

Spoon batter into muffin pan. Bake 20-24 minutes until golden brown and a tooth pick comes out clean. Let stand in pan for 10 minutes. Remove to rack and cool for an hour before frosting.

(This diverges from the epicuiorus recipe a bit. I used the measurements from the epicurious recipe, but I let the Joy of Cooking be my guide for the technique). For the frosting, mix the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until just incoporated. Add the confectioner's sugar and beat on high speed for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Stir in ginger, cinnamon, and zest.

Frost top of cooled cupcakes and, if you want, garnish with a little orange zest (Ina Garten says she always likes to add a little garnish to clue people into what is inside the dish. And, I always like hints of orange.).

Note: even if you omit the baking powder, don't worry, they come out just fine... Oh the problems of reading recipes on-line...

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