Two days before Christmas I was meant to go to a party thrown by someone I’d never met.

Eggnog cupcakes with a eggnog buttercream icing

She was having a dinner party to celebrate, and had extended an invitation through a girl I’d met at a fundraiser for my job. We had planned on just bringing a bottle of wine but at the last minute, the girl I’d met forwarded an email from the hostess which asked for a “monetary donation and something to share.” Walker and I are a little strapped for cash right now, so I knew we couldn’t afford to really pitch in for groceries too. (I’m talking, we had like 100 kuai left. Not much considering Christmas was two days away.)

At 3 o’clock that same day, I realized I needed to make something else to bring. I had seen this recipe for Eggnog Cupcakes, but let’s face it. I can’t get half these ingredients in China. Especially not the eggnog, and much less soy eggnog.

Here’s the rundown: First I made the eggnog, then the cupcakes, then icing. But knowing me, I didn’t follow any of these recipes, so read on to discover the new and different ways I butchered those recipes.

Eggnog: I only made 3/4 of this recipe because I didn’t want to waste 6 whole eggs on a drink that we’d have leftovers of and that Walker doesn’t particularly like. So using the website’s tool, I readjusted the recipe size to 8 servings instead of 11. I followed the ingredient list exactly, but I don’t like the idea of drinking raw egg, especially because I get farm fresh eggs at the local markets. Instead, I made a custard, by combining the ingredients, and then stirring constantly in a double boiler over low heat until the mixture was warm throughout. I also didn’t bother with whipping the cream. I just added it to the mixture, and after the custard had cooked (it coats the back of a spoon properly), I blended everything for a while to make sure it was well incorporated. I bottled it, and chilled it and moved on to step 2.

Cupcakes: I’m not vegan so you KNOW I didn’t follow this recipe.

Scant 1/4 cup bourbon
1 cup eggnog (see above)
1/4 cup butter
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
1 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Pour into mini cupcake tins, bake at 150C for 20 minutes in my messed up oven, and cool on a wire rack. Let cool completely before icing. Don’t skip this step. If you do, your icing slides right off your cupcakes.

While the cupcakes are in the oven, start with step 3.

Icing: Well, I didn’t have any powdered sugar, because let’s face it, I hadn’t planned on making cupcakes. But I still needed something to go on top of my masterpieces. I thought about just whipping some cream, but it would fall flat at the party… And so I made some… Adjustments. I found a recipe for buttercream icing which called for no powdered sugar. I was a little skeptical because some of the reviews were raves and others stated that they’d had to throw the whole thing out.

1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup eggnog
6 heaping tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tbsp bourbon

Cook milk and flour until very thick (so thick you can’t stir). Make sure you whisk the entire time or you’ll get these really weird clumps and need to throw your mixture out. Put mixture in the freezer for 4 minutes or so.

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla and bourbon until very creamy. Add milk and flour mixture. Beat until thick and creamy (about 4 or 5 minutes). Spoon into a plastic bag and put in the freezer.

Once everything is properly chilled, pull out your icing, warm it slightly by working it with your hands until its a good piping consistency. Cut a decent size hole in the tip of the bag (mine was about 1 cm in diameter) and start your piping in a spiral, starting from the outside, working in.

Grate some fresh nutmeg over the top and at serve, room temperature.

Christmas cupcakes

There was not a single cupcake left at the party, and I got so many compliments on it. Walker pulled me aside to make sure I’d saved some extras for him at home. When I finally got around to eating once myself, the cupcakes were melt-in-your mouth good. And the icing I’d been skeptical about? It held the flavor beautifully, and wasn’t overpoweringly sweet like most powdered sugar based icings tend to be.

These recipes gave me 27 mini cupcakes, a left over pint of eggnog, and a left over 1 cup of icing. So if I had to do it over, I’d probably rethink the amount of icing I made. This was the first time I’d ever tried to make my own icing for cupcakes, so I really had no idea how much I’d need. Next time I’d definitely cut it back a little.

I love them, and will defintely be making these again for the holidays. The beauty of this recipe is (given you can find eggnog where you live) you can skip either making the eggnog, or making the icing, or both if you want. If you skip doing the icing by hand and instead buy something from the store, just stir in a little bourbon, vanilla and nutmeg for flavoring and people won’t notice that the icing was actually store bought! Me, I’m weird, and I get a sick pleasure out of a long drawn out process for a single cupcake.