Friday, March 25, 2011

Bob's Birthday Banana Cupcakes

Mini Banana Cupcakes with Rum-Caramel Buttercream
   Yesterday was Ai Fiori pastry chef Bob Truitt’s birthday, and at 2 in the afternoon I got a text from PJ saying everyone was going out after work to celebrate.  I wanted to make something special but didn’t have the time to put together a cake, so I opted for mini cupcakes- always a crowd pleaser.  I had a bunch of bananas rapidly turning brown in my kitchen, so I whipped up a batch of yummy banana cupcakes with caramel buttercream frosting.

  I was testing out a new recipe and looking for a little something different, so I searched my kitchen shelves for inspiration…  Cinnamon?  Too obvious.  Nutmeg?  Too common.  Then I came across just the thing: a little bag of dried mace that I picked up on my last trip to India.  Mace is the lacy covering of the nutmeg seed and provides a delicate, fruitier version of the same flavor; it looks like a dried reddish-orange flower and gave off a rich, spicy aroma when I ground it up. 

This dried mace gave off a peppery smell when ground

Banana Cupcakes
2 cups             AP flour
¼ t                 baking powder
½ t                 salt
½ t                 ground mace (and/or cinnamon, or nutmeg, or ginger)
½ cup             butter, soft
2 T                  vegetable oil
1 cup               light brown sugar
2                      eggs
4                      overripe bananas, the browner the better
¾ t                 baking soda
¾ c                 whole milk
yields 48 mini cupcakes, 24 standard sized

1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.  Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and spices.  Sifting aerates the flour and distributes the other ingredients evenly- this will contribute to a soft texture in the final product.
  What makes this a banana cake as opposed to a banana muffin is the mixing method- we use the creaming method for this recipe which gives the cake a fine crumb with small even holes throughout.  There is also a bit of oil in the recipe which helps to retain moisture.
2. Start with the soft butter in the bowl with the paddle attachment.  Add the sugar and oil and beat on medium for 2-3 minutes until the mixture becomes pale.

Creaming the butter

3.  Add the eggs one at a time with the mixer on low, making sure they are incorporated.  It is best if all your ingredients are at room temp- this makes it easier for the fats to absorb the liquids and for an emulsion to form without separating. 

4. Mash up the bananas with the baking soda and add them to the bowl, mixing until smooth.

5. Alternately add the flour in three parts and the milk in two, starting and ending with the flour.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until just combined.  Over-mixing will leave you with a tough cake, so don’t do it!  Stir in pecans- you can also use chocolate chips, coconut flakes, dried cranberries, or anything else you like.

6. Scoop into a lined cupcake pan and bake at 325° F for 15-18 minutes, until they are golden on top and spring back to the touch.  I use a small ice-cream scoop to do this, it is a great way to make sure your cupcakes are even and uniform in size.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting them, otherwise your icing might slide right off.  There is never a shortage of vanilla buttercream in my fridge, and I used a rum-caramel sauce to flavor some for these cupcakes.

  I love a garnish that tells you what you’re about to eat, so for these I topped each with a banana slice.  To keep the banana from turning brown, I heated a spoonful of caramel sauce and brushed it onto the slices with a paintbrush- you could also use apricot jam as a quick glaze.


  1. i felt so lucky to get to try these cupcakes. they were so tasty and perfectly delicious!! thanks for sharing archana!