Almost Paleo…gingerbread cupcakes with marscarpone frosting – by Isabella Fuentes
Almost a year ago, my partner got serious about his rock climbing and mountaineering training and adopted a “paleo” diet. As a lover of bread, French fries, and all things dessert, I was not immediately on board. However, I was mindful in the kitchen when preparing meals we could both enjoy. We began to evaluate more closely the source and quality of our ingredients, but being a full time graduate student means I have limited time and money to spend in the kitchen. As a result, we often eat simply (seasoned ground beef, sautéed/roasted/fresh vegetables, and eggs), but the scientist in me is always down to experiment. I want to share with you paleo-friendly recipes that my trusty crew of taste-testers have deemed winners. Try something new and enjoy!
One of my favorite people had a birthday this week and I made cupcakes to celebrate. When I heard she had a late-night barf fest after eating her weight in cake on her actual birthday (no judgment; we were all 6 years old once), I wanted to make her a party treat that was free of grains, refined sugars, and industrial seed oils; something her dad, a good friend of ours, would eat. I decided on my paleo-fied Laura Ingalls Wilder gingerbread cupcakes with sugar-free marscarpone frosting. Mouthwatering descriptions of warm country cooking were some of my favorite passages from Wilder’s Little House series; recipes for which were published in The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook. I’ve made a few tweaks to the recipe and paired it with a marscarpone frosting, rather than the boiled chocolate icing she suggests.
These cupcakes topped with a simple chocolate buttercream (butter, powered sugar, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder…not paleo) were well received around the holidays, especially when paired with an ice-cold glass of whole milk or a white Russian. However, my trusty taste-testers thought a cream cheese frosting would pair better with the gingerbread than chocolate, so this time around I experimented with a marscarpone frosting. Marscarpone is a soft Italian cheese used in tiramisu and I think it adds a little sophistication to this country gingerbread. I’ve also included a simple paleo-friendly buttercream frosting. The tasters liked both frostings, but the marcarparone was the crowd favorite. For a spicy twist, add ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the dry ingredients and top with a dark chocolate ganache.
This recipe makes one 8” square or 9” round cake or 13 cupcakes (yes, 13).
I used organic ingredients when I could, but every ingredient was simple with no added preservatives or artificial flavors.
- 3 cups paleo-friendly flour (recipe below)
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp pink Himalayan salt
- ½ cup coconut oil, softened at room temperature (I used Spectrum brand)
- 1 cup blackstrap molasses (must be blackstrap! It has a strong flavor and it’s lower carb, rich in minerals, and easy on digestion; I used Brer Rabbit brand)
- ½ cup coconut sugar (I used organic, Hy-Vee brand)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup boiling water
- 2 eggs, beaten (organic, pasture raised; purchased from a farmer friend)
Sugar-free marscarpone frosting
- 16 oz marcarpone cheese (or cream cheese; I used BelGioioso brand marscarpone; gluten free, hormone free)
- 1 tsp non-bitter, liquid stevia (I used NuNaturals brand Clear NuStevia)
- ½ tsp vanilla extract (I used Simply Organic brand)
- ½ cup whole milk or cream (I used Shatto brand)
Paleo-friendly buttercream frosting
- 1 cup coconut butter (or coconut oil, but frosting will be quite soft) (or grass-fed, unsalted butter; I used Kerrygold brand)
- 2 Tbs raw honey (purchased from a bee keeper friend)
- ¼ cup tapioca flour/starch (I used Trang brand from my local Asian market)
- Preheat oven to 3500F and prepare your baking vessel; grease lightly with coconut oil or line with paper cups.
- Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, spices, and salt.
- The paleo flour can be very dense. Sifting the dry ingredients yields a fluffier texture.
- Combine the coconut oil and molasses before creaming in the coconut sugar.
- The coconut sugar will not dissolve like brown sugar would. Just be sure there aren’t any dry pockets of sugar.
- 1/3 at a time, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
- Batter will be really stiff. Fold enough times that the wet and dry ingredients look evenly distributed.
- Dissolve baking soda in hot water and add to the batter. Fold the batter repeatedly until the water is absorbed.
- Fold beaten eggs into the batter until just combined.
- Don’t over mix, or you’ll end up with a dense cake.
- Pour your batter into your prepared baking vessel.
- I chose a muffin tin. I filled each well with 2-3 tablespoons of batter; basically to the top.
- Bake the gingerbread for 40-45 minutes for cakes or 20-25 minutes for cupcakes.
- A toothpick should come out clea
- Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for at least 5-10 minutes before removing. For cakes, cool completely.
- These cakes will be really soft until they have cooled completely.
- While the gingerbread is baking and cooling, whip your frosting ingredients together. Store in the fridge until you need it.
Transfer frosting to a piping bag or a disposable storage bag with the tip cut off (my go-to method).!
- When the gingerbread has cooled completely, decorate as you wish!
Makes 20 ¼ cup servings. Nutrition per serving: 150 kcal, 8 g total fat (2.4 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 30 mg sodium, 72 mg potassium, 16 g total carbs (6.6 g dietary fiber, 1.2 g sugars), and 4.8 g protein.
I used organic, Hy-Vee brand almond and coconut flowers and Bob’s Red Mill brand arrowroot starch.
Nutrition per serving: 325.8 kcal, 16.8 g total fat (9.8 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 258.6 mg sodium, 630 mg potassium, 38.2 g total carbs (6.1 g dietary fiber, 19.7 g sugars), and 6.6 g protein.
Nutrition per serving: 178.5 kcal, 17.8 g total fat (10.8 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 15.4 mg sodium, 9.2 mg potassium, 0.6 g total carbs (0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugars), and 1.2 g protein.
Nutritional per serving using Kerrygold, unsalted butter: 143.1 kcal, 14.8 g total fat (9.8 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 0 mg sodium, 0 mg potassium, 5.4 g total carbs (0 g dietary fiber, 2.5 g sugars), and 0 g protein.