Samin Nosrat first bloomed into my little world on Friday, April 28, 2017 by way of episode 123 of the Milk Street podcast. Her New York Times bestseller, James Beard award winning (!!!!!) book Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking had just been published a few days prior. Her enthusiasm in the interview was buoying and my impression was that she was smart and humble.
Then I, along with most of America fell in awe of her across the four episodes of her documentary with the same title. If you haven’t seen it, the series is beautifully shot, thought provoking and Ms. Nosrat is so incredibly human and achingly charming that you will want to go back to the beginning and start again when it’s over.
So, I was already smitten by the time I heard her on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert (Episode 107). Over the course of two and a half commutes homebound down the 110 S, what was a celebrity chef flirtation turned into full-on fan-girl infatuation. And it’s not just because she grew up in San Diego.
It’s also because she’s so immensely talented–in that way that gives you hope for humans as a species.
And because, as understated as she makes it out to be, Ms. Nosrat works incredibly hard. While the highlights version of her story sound like a Hallmark movie, dig in a bit and you see resilience and lots of good old, un-fairytale like grit.
I like grit. Unless it’s in ganache.
The next few weeks are an ode to Ms. Nosrat and her famous debut book starting with these ginger and molasses cupcakes. The recipe calls for fresh ginger–lots of it. The result is fragrant, warm and undeniably fall-like. As written, the recipe is made a double layer cake. However, I wanted to take them to work so I converted them to cupcakes and topped them with a zingy cream cheese icing.
If these ingredients sounds strangely familiar to you, it’s because this is effectively a brighter, more youthful gingerbread. Enjoy with a strong cup of black tea or coffee while you dive into Salt Fat Acid Heat.
Fresh Ginger and Molasses Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
from Samin Nosrat in Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking
make two 9-inch cakes or about 24 cupcakes
For the Cake
- 1 C (4 ounces) peeled, thinly sliced fresh ginger (about 5 ounces unpeeled)
- 1 C (7 ounces) sugar
- 1 C neutral-tasting oil (TMH: grape seed)
- 1 C molasses
- Scant 3 C (12 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 C boiling water
- 2 large eggs at room temp
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set rack to the upper third of the oven. Grease two 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment, grease again and then sprinkle with flour and tap out extra. If making cupcakes, line two-dozen cupcake wells with double liners.
- Puree the fresh ginger and sugar together in a good processor or blender until completely smooth, about 4 minutes. Pour the mixture into a medium bowl and add the oil and molasses. Whisk to combine and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper, salt and baking soda then sift into a large bowl. Set aside.
- Whisk the boiling water into the sugar-oil mixture until evenly combined.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and gradually whisk in the water-and-oil mixture until incorporated. Gradually whisk-in the eggs and stir until smooth. The batter will be thin.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans or cupcake tins. Drop the pans from a couple of inches high onto the counter a couple of times to remove any air bubbles.
- Bake in the upper-third of the oven for 20-25 minutes for cupcakes or 38-40 for cakes, until they spring back from the touch. An inserted toothpick should come out clean.
- Cool the cakes (cupcake or regular) before turning out and/or frosting.
For the frosting
- Zest from one large orange, chopped
- 1/2 C (4 ounces) butter, softened
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 4 C confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- 2 tsp vanilla extract.
- Beat butter and cream cheese until well blended.
- Add-in powdered sugar, vanilla and zest, beat until combined.
- Top cakes or cupcakes as desired.