I made gingerbread a while back, and posted the recipe. We all enjoyed it. I was particularly pleased because my previous foray into gingerbread had been a fairly complicated gluten-free recipe developed by America's Test Kitchens, and it was pretty disappointing. More recently, I just used a Betty Crocker recipe, but with gluten-free flour, and it turned out fine.
Shortly after the gingerbread was all gone, I was leafing through Square Meals (Why yes, I do read cookbooks for pleasure, thank you for asking) and happened upon what the Sterns describe as "our all-time favorite gingerbread". Well! There are some authors who speak so passionately and knowledgeably about food that I feel compelled to sit up and take notice. Anything recommended that highly by Jane and Michael is certainly worth consideration.
So I whipped up a half-size batch of "After School Gingerbread", and I must say, it's pretty wonderful. The whole crew here agreed that while the previous gingerbread was good, this was even better. It's hard to put a finger on what exactly was better about it; it just seemed to have an all-around superior flavor.
As a good data scientist, I am naturally a little concerned about recency bias. This is the phenomenon that makes whatever you have encountered recently loomed larger in your mind than things further in the past. Thus, if you are hoping your film will win some Academy Awards, you release it late in the year so it will be fresh in the minds of the judges. This is also why sports fans will be disproportionately upset about a recent loss, even if the team has had an spectacular year overall. I guess if I were a better data scientist, I would have done double-blinded side-by-side taste tests of the two gingerbreads. But it turns out I'm not that dedicated, at least in the kitchen. Maybe you are: if so, let me know what you find. In the meantime, enjoy.
This is a gluten-free recipe. If you do not want it to be gluten-free, you can replace the flour with all-purpose flour, or cake flour (in a pinch, I would even use bread flour), and omit the xanthan gum.
The cream cheese icing is just enough to add a thin layer to the cupcakes. This is intentional; cream cheese icing has a lot of punch, and I wanted it to complement, rather than overpower, the gingerbread flavor. If you are of the "more is more" school of icing, you can easily double the icing recipe.
As mentioned above, I started with "After School Gingerbread" from Square Meals by Jane and Michael Stern. They credit The Household Searchlight Recipe Book as their source. They improved the recipe, however, by replacing the original "melted shortening" with melted butter, and the original "sour milk" with buttermilk. Shortening and butter are not always interchangeable, but in this case, I feel sure that butter is better.
I added my own "improvements" by half-sizing the recipe and making it gluten-free. I also turned it into cupcakes and added a little cream cheese icing to make it less "after school" and more "dessert". Yum.