A few weeks back, my family asked for bananas to have on-hand for lunches, snacks, etc. That’s easy enough, I thought, so I happily obliged, bought a bunch and set them on the kitchen counter. At the time they were a bit under ripe so everyone stayed clear. A couple of days later, they were picture perfect ~ no takers. Fast-forward a few more days and they were rapidly approaching overripe ~ no takers. No big deal, I thought, I’ll just wait until the skins are nice and black and then pop them into the freezer and save ‘em for my next banana baking adventure.
Keep in mind that my family is just nuts for all things ‘baked banana’. So much so that our classic birthday cake is, wait for it, Banana Cake with Fudge Frosting. And one of our fave breakfast treats are, wait for it, banana-chocolate chip muffin tops. So you can see why having 4 or 5 super-ripe bananas in the freezer isn’t a problem for this family. But…
When the family repeated this same exercise ~ “Bananas, please” + OK by me + no takers = more bananas for the freezer ~ several more times, I wondered whether this wasn’t just a slightly bizarre and completely benign yet possibly passive-aggressive way to get Mom to bake a banana “whatever”. Heck, guys… all you have to do is ask!
So I baked up a batch of banana cupcakes and then I did something that rocked my daughter’s world. I topped these little gems with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting -NOT our normal pairing of bananas & chocolate. At first, she couldn’t comprehend what had just happened. She stood there, jaw-dropped and uttered a simple “brown butter?? does it have ANY chocolate in it?” Mind you, she’s as smart as a tack and knew the answer, it just took her a moment to wrap her head around a non-chocolate banana cupcake. Chris and I took most of the ‘cakes to the beach that night but we set aside a few for T’s dessert and for next day snacking. Later that evening, Tierney reported that the combo was, “surprisingly”, delicious. And, later the following day, she chimed in that they were even better and the flavor of both cake and topping really stood out.
I can’t say that the Dodge family has a new favorite flavor (“FLA-vorite” as it’s known here) but I can say that this combo is simply sensational.
* “Switch-Ins”: With the exception of adding chopped, toasted nuts to the cupcake batter and/or sprinkling on the frosting (see recipe for amounts, I’m breaking with tradition and offering these recipes straight-up.
* These cupcakes taste best when baked up to 2 days ahead and stowed at room temperature They can be frosted up to 1 day ahead and, once again, stowed at room temp (unless it’s super hot and then keep ‘em in the fridge and bring to room temp before serving.)
* 24 cupcakes more than you need ~ no problem! Both the cupcake and frosting recipes can be cut in half to make 12 frosted cuppers. Most ingredients divide evenly in half but, for the cupcake’s granulated sugar, use 1 1/3 cup and the frosting’s confectioners’ sugar use 1 1/4 cup.
Tips 4 Success:
*Use really, really, REALLY ripe bananas.
These are OK…
But this is what you are looking for..
* Freeze ‘em: Most all of my banana recipes call for 3- 4 bananas or a total of 12 to 14 ounces including the peel so I package and freeze this measurement. Of course, you can also package each banana individually so you can use according to the recipe. Packaging is easy. Just peel the banana(s), squeeze the fresh into the bottom of a heavy-duty Ziploc bag and discard the peels. Press the banana into the bottom, squeeze out all of the air from the inside of the bag and zip it closed. Label and date the bag, pop it into a larger Ziploc bag (extra protection + leaves room for your next batch of over-ripers) and stow in the freezer. Thaw at room temperature before using in a recipe.
* Mixer? I use my KitchenAid mixer with the BeaterBlade but, if you don’t have this attachment yet, use the paddle and scrap the sides of the bowl a few times during mixing.
*Oven thermometers: Make sure you are cooking at the correct temps by investing in one for the oven. I think the mercury-filled ones are the most accurate. Set it in the center of the oven, heat to 350, wait about 15 or so minutes and check and see if your dial and the thermometer agree. If not, simply adjust your dial up or down to get the correct temp.
Banana Cupcakes with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
Make 24 cupcakes
For the Cupcakes
12 ounces (2 2/3 cups) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ¾ cups granulated sugar
3 medium very, very ripe bananas (about 14 ounces total weight including peels), peel and/or thaw as necessary
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
3/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts, optional and as long as you’re not serving these up to my non-nut loving crew
For the Brown Butter-Cream Cheese Frosting
14 tablespoons (7 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt
Toasted chopped walnuts, for garnish, optional
To make the Cupcakes:
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup regular-sized muffin tins with foil or paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda and whisk until well blended. In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer (use the paddle or BeaterBlade attachment) until smooth. Add the sugar and continue beating until well combined. Add the bananas to the butter mixture along with the vanilla. Beat until well blended and only small bits of banana remain. Add the eggs, two at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture will look curdled and a bit lumpy – worry not as it will all come together. Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended. Add the buttermilk and mix until just blended. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended.
3. Using a 3-tablespoon scooper, divide the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tins. Bake until the tops are light brown and a pick inserted comes out clean, about 17 to 19 minutes. Set the pans on a rack and cool the cupcakes completely before frosting or transferring to an airtight container and stowing at room temperature.
To make the Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting:
1. Make the brown butter. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium low heat. Cook, swirling the pan, until the butter is melted and the milk solids on the bottom of the pan turn deep golden brown (almost dark drown but not black). Pour the butter and solids into a small, heat proof bowl. Refrigerate until the butter is firm (the browned solids will sink to the bottom) or cover and refrigerate up to 4 days ahead. Bring the cold butter to room temperature before making the frosting.
2. Scrape the room temperature (but not melted) brown butter into a large bowl leaving most of the brown solids behind. Add the cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle or BeaterBlade attachment on medium until very smooth and creamy, about 2 minute. Scraping down the beater and sides of the bowl as needed. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and salt and beat on medium-high until blended and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Frosting can be used immediately or covered and refrigerated up to 3 days before bringing to room temp and frosting the cupcakes.
To frost the Cupcakes:
1. To frost the cupcakes as pictures, fill a large pastry bag with a round plain tip and, holding the tip and bag perpendicular over the center of each cupcake, squeeze a round, thick disc of frosting onto each one. Or, instead of the pastry bag, you use a small offset spatula to spread a thick layer of frosting. If desired, sprinkle with toasted, chopped walnuts. They can be frosted up to 1 day ahead and covered and stowed at room temp (unless it’s super hot outside and then keep ‘em in the fridge and bring to room temp before serving.)