"Serve them to little monkeys, and big ones too." - Karen DeMasco, The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies, and Other Sweets with Ideas for Inventing Your Own
That, right there, is the reason I made these cupcakes... and perhaps the way-past-their-prime bananas taking up residence on my counter. I don't know, I have a thing for monkeys. They're pretty cute, especially little ones. I guess I also have a thing for baked goods, especially ones with bananas and, um, peanut butter buttercream. Yeah, peanut butter buttercream. I could have just made that, plopped on the couch with the mixer bowl and a rubber spatula and been perfectly content.
It's slightly salty and mostly sweet. Think about eating peanut butter right out of the jar but instead of being sticky and heavy, that peanut butter is light and fluffy, sort of cloudlike. Now pair that soft buttercream with banana cupcakes, spiked with cinnamon, and studded with mini chocolate chips. Any little monkey, including this one, would go nuts for that combination.
Even this puppy hoped he could pass for a little monkey. (Unfortunately, he has to stick with his special diet of venison and sweet potatoes -- but at least that's not too shabby!)
The only monkey who wasn't interested was my boyfriend, until I offered to leave some cupcakes without bananas, chocolate chips, and frosting. He was excited over the prospect of plain-old cinnamon cupcakes. We definitely don't share the same tastes, but it was easy to play around with this recipe and create something we would both enjoy.
Banana Cupcakes With Peanut Butter Buttercream -- And Cinnamon Cupcakes
(adapted from The Craft of Baking)
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3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (recipe calls for grapeseed oil, but I didn't have any)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional, my addition)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 banana, mashed with a fork (use 1 1/2 bananas if not leaving any plain, and whisk into wet ingredients)
Handful of mini chocolate chips (optional, my addition)
2 large egg whites (1/4 cup)
1/4 cup sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and oil. Whisk in the egg, egg yolk, buttermilk, and vanilla.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Using a whisk, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Divide slightly more than half of the batter evenly among six muffin cups, filling them three-quarters full.
Whisk the banana into the leftover batter and then stir in the chocolate chips. Divide the rest of the batter among the remaining six muffin cups.
Bake, rotating the tin halfway through, until a cake tester (or toothpick) inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 15 to 18 minutes. The cinnamon cupcakes may be done first, so remove them as soon as they are. Leave the banana cupcakes to bake about 2 minutes longer, or until cake tester comes out clean.
Invert the cupcakes onto a wire rack, turn them top side up and let them cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the buttercream: Fill a medium saucepan with 2 inches of water and bring it to a simmer. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl on top of the saucepan, and whisking constantly, heat the egg mixture until it is warm to the touch, about 3 minutes. Transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whisk on medium speed until the whites become translucent and shiny and form a soft peak, about 5 minutes more.
With the machine running, add the butter, one piece at a time, and mix until combined. Increase the speed to medium-high and add the peanut butter, vanilla, and salt. Scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, beat until the buttercream becomes shiny and creamy, about 10 minutes. (The buttercream can be refrigerated for 1 week of frozen for up to one month. Before using, bring it to room temperature and beat it for a few minutes until smooth.)
Spread (or heap) the buttercream on top of the banana cupcakes (and the cinnamon ones too if you like).
The cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
This recipe creates some incredibly moist cupcakes. Even two days after I baked them, when my boyfriend was eating one of the cinnamon cupcakes, he noted that they hadn't dried out at all. This is incredibly important to me, considering I can't eat six cupcakes in one sitting. I had two per day for the next three days: one for breakfast and one for an after-work snack. They all tasted incredibly fresh. I stored the frosting-topped ones in the fridge and the cinnamon ones on the counter. I recommend taking the refrigerated ones out and letting them come to room temperature before eating them for the best flavor and texture.
Someone asked me a while ago if I would recommend getting The Craft of Baking. At the time I said it wasn't necessary if she had a ton of other baking books, like I do. But the more I've been using this book, the more I've been realizing that it would be a great addition to any baker's library. I've really enjoyed everything I've made from it so far -- raised cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, simple sugar cookies, back-to-school raspberry granola bars, and vanilla bean ice cream -- and I've found the recipes to be straight-forward, well written, and easy to follow. So I think I've changed my mind, and I think you all need this cookbook!