Gingerbread Man Mini-Cakes

I love gingerbread men. They are so cute, so sweet and you can bite their heads off if they give you any attitude. Okay, I'll admit I saw that last line on a coffee mug, but it's pretty true. The one thing I don't love about gingerbread men? The dry, flavorless consistency of the finished product. So many gingerbread men you buy at the store taste like cardboard and have the consistency of concrete. The frosting is dry and crunchy, too...exactly the opposite of how gingerbread icing should be. So instead of making gingerbread men cookies, I decided to make mini gingerbread men cakes with an adorable pan I got from Crate & Barrel. They were really easy to make, came out perfectly from the non-stick pan and were deliciously moist. Best of all? You can decorate them just as you would a typical gingerbread cookie.

Here's what you need to make them:
  • Softened unsalted butter, as needed
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (I substituted 1/2 cup apple sauce and 1/2 cup vegetable oil to lighten up the fat in the recipe)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsulphured molasses (I used Grandma's brand molasses)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten with a fork
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter or spray a non-stick decorative gingerbread man pan (this recipe also works well in a 9x13x2" cake pan and later cut into squares).

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, molasses and crystallized ginger. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt, and cloves. Whisk the molasses mixture into the flour mixture until evenly combined. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. Whisk the hot water into the batter until just combined. Transfer the batter into the prepared gingerbread man molds. To make things easier and more importantly, keep my kitchen clean, I scooped the batter into a piping bag and piped the batter about 1/3 up the sides of the molds. Don't have a piping bag? No problem. Scoop the batter into a large Ziploc bag and then cut off the corner. Ta-da! You've got yourself a piping bag.

    Bake the cakes in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pan for about five minutes before moving to a cooling rack. This is what they'll look like:

    Now comes the fun part: decorating your mini cakes! Let you imagination run wild, get your kids involved or just leave them plan and eat them with a scoop of your favorite ice cream. I made one batch of Gingerbread Whoopie Pie Frosting and split it into two small bowls, leaving one white and tinting the other with 2-3 drops of red food coloring. I piped on white dots for the eyes and buttons, then piped squiggly lines on their arms and legs. I used the red frosting to add a smile and then topped the buttons with some multi-colored sugar crystals. I think they turned out really cute!

        Once I had decorated a few of the mini cakes, I decided to see if I could make a mini cake sandwich that would stand up. If it worked, I thought it would be a fantastic presentation at any holiday- or Winter-themed party. I cut one of the cakes in half, piped the vanilla icing onto it and pressed it against one of the decorated cakes so both sides had a gingerbread man front.It worked perfectly and as you can see below, it stood right up on the platter! As a matter of fact, it's 30 minutes later and the cute little guy is still standing. I'm no architect, but I'm pretty proud. So go ahead and give these a try; your house will smell amazing, your children can get in on the decorating fun and you'll actually have a finished gingerbread product that tastes wonderful and doesn't break your teeth!

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