Champagne pear cupcakes: Happy Almost-New Year!

For several years now, I have spent New Year’s Eve with friends from college. We have a feast of a dinner, play lots of games, drink champagne, and generally have a silly time together!

One of our favorite games is a German children’s board game called “Waldschattenspiel”, which one of my friends discovered while studying in Germany. It’s a perfect game for playing late on New Year’s Eve because it has to be played in the dark. One person is the candle (an actual lighted candle) and the rest are gnomes on a three-dimensional board representing a forest. The game is a race to see whether the candle can find all the gnomes before the gnomes all find each other. Playing in the dark adds a lot of excitement to the experience … particularly when someone tries to refill their wine glass or find the plate of cookies mid-game 😉

This Thursday, I’ll be bringing these celebratory champagne pear cupcakes to our gathering and looking forward to playing Waldschattenspiel once again! What are your favorite New Year’s Eve traditions?

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Pear Ginger Cupcakes

Makes 10 cupcakes.


  • 1 moderately ripe pear
  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp minced candied ginger
  • 1 c unsweetened almond milk
  • ⅓ c canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ¾ c granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or substitute vanilla extract)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners or lightly grease the wells with oil.

Grate the pear using the medium-sized holes on a box grater.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in the candied ginger, making sure it is well-distributed throughout the mixture and not clumped together.

In a medium bowl, combine milk, oil, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla, and ½ c grated pear. Make sure the ingredients are well mixed.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine the two mixtures quickly and gently. Immediately scoop the mixture into the muffin cups. Bake for 21-26 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes are light golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Champagne Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes enough to frost 10 cupcakes.


  • ¼ c champagne
  • ⅓ c vegan margarine
  • ⅓ c vegan cream cheese
  • 2 ⅓ c powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger

Pour the champagne into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil on the stove. Continue to boil until the liquid is reduced to 1 Tbsp.

Once the reduced champagne has cooled to room temperature, add the margarine and cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Beat in 1 c powdered sugar. Next, beat in the reduced champagne. Finally, beat in the remaining powdered sugar in two parts, and the cinnamon and ginger.

Put the frosting in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up, then frost each cupcake in a thin layer and serve.

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Do giant zucchini haunt your garden?

Once when I was young, my dad, my brother, and I participated in a canoe race at my dad’s annual work picnic. The paddling skills of two elementary schoolers were no match for having a second able-bodied adult in the boat, and when our team puttered in dead last, the race organizers handed us our consolation prize: a baseball bat-sized zucchini. I thought the zucchini was just fabulous. We had won a prize, after all, and a big one! With a productive garden at home, my parents were probably not so thrilled.

If you are buried in giant zucchini yourself from end-of-summer harvesting, here is a recipe for you!


Ginger in the Garden Muffins

Makes 16 muffins.


  • 2 c grated zucchini
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c (75g) minced crystallized ginger
  • 1 c (150g) traditional whole wheat flour
  • 1 c (150g) whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ c canola oil
  • ¼ c + 3 Tbsp lightly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 c unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • zest of 2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare muffin tins by spraying the wells lightly with oil or by inserting cupcake liners into the wells.

Spread the zucchini in a strainer placed over a bowl, and sprinkle with salt. Set aside and let the zucchini drain off some liquid while you prepare other ingredients, about 10 min.100_7784

In a large bowl, combine crystallized ginger, flours, ground ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix well.

In a small bowl, combine oil, brown sugar, applesauce, vanilla, and lemon zest. Discard the liquid that has drained out of the zucchini by this point (about ¼ c), and stir the drained, grated zucchini into the applesauce mixture. Continue to stir until the wet-ingredients are well-mixed.

Pour the zucchini mixture into the dry ingredients in the large bowl, and gently fold all ingredients together until just combined.

Scoop about ¼ c batter into each muffin cup and bake for 20-22 min until the tops of the muffins are springy and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.