Gingerbread Cupcakes with Molasses Buttercream

A perfectly sweet and spiced pairing for fall

Photo: copyright © 2022 by Aubrie Pick

“Thick brown molasses is central to Southern soul food, where it was once a prized sweetener saved for special occasions,” writes Tanya Holland in her new cookbook, Tanya Holland’s California Soul: Recipes from a Culinary Journey West, which explores her family’s migration from the South and celebrates the multigenerational food traditions the California chef has maintained and modified. “But its sweetness is tinged with sadness too, as it is a by-product of the sugar production that drove the transatlantic slave trade. Molasses adds a distinct, earthy sweetness to this buttercream, which shines with ginger.”


  • Gingerbread Cupcakes with Molasses Buttercream (Yield: 12 cupcakes)

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour

    • 2 tsp. baking powder

    • 1 tsp. fine sea salt

    • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

    • ¼ tsp. ground cloves

    • ¼ tsp. ground allspice

    • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

    • ⅛ tsp. freshly ground pepper

    • 2 eggs

    • ½ cup granulated sugar

    • ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

    • 1 tbsp. molasses

    • ⅓ cup vegetable oil

    • 2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger

    • ¾ cup whole milk

    • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

    • ¼ cup molasses

    • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar

    • 2 tbsp. heavy cream

    • 1 pinch fine sea salt


  1. Make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-well cupcake tin with cupcake liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and pepper.

  3. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, molasses, vegetable oil, and ginger on medium speed until well combined, scraping down the sides of the mixer with a spatula. Add the flour mixture and milk in three intervals, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until smooth.

  4. Using an ice cream scoop, fill each well three-quarters full of batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

  5. Make the buttercream: Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, mix the butter and molasses on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix on low speed until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the mixer with a spatula. Add the cream and salt and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

  6. Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag or a resealable plastic bag with the end snipped off. Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. Alternately, spread the frosting with a small offset spatula.

Reprinted with permission from Tanya Holland’s California Soul: Recipes from a Culinary Journey West by Tanya Holland, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Text copyright © 2022 by Tanya Holland.