Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cupcake Saturday Part I: Bananas Foster

Yesterday was my second foray into the delicious and manly world of cupcakes with my friend Jenny. Jenny was a fellow chemistry grad student at UCLA and bakes about twice a week. She is one of the best teaching assistants out there, so she was a natural choice to teach me all about proper baking techniques and show me the error of my flour packing ways.  For our first cupcake, we decided to use the New Orleans favorite dessert Bananas Foster as inspiration.

Note: All parts of the recipe are adapted from This makes 24 cupcakes.

Bananas Foster Mixture
Time: 5 minutes

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 ripe bananas, halved and chopped
3 tbsp bourbon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat then stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon until dissolved. (Note some of the butter fat will rise to the top. This is normal.)
  2. Add the bananas and cook until tender (about 1 minute per side).
  3. Turn off the burner and add the bourbon and vanilla extract. From a safe distance (read: with a long match) light the mixture and stand far away. It should extinguish in a few seconds. If like mine your mixture won't catch on fire, then boil off some of the alcohol over medium heat for about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Remove the bananas and set aside to cool. Store the sauce for use later as a glaze.
My failed attempt at lighting alcohol on fire. I'm a bad chemist. 
The only hard part about making the bananas foster mixture is keeping from eating it all, so you still have something to put in your cupcakes. Again, I substituted bourbon for the traditional rum.  This recipe also works great topped with ice cream (a la my Bourbon Peaches Foster) if you don't feel like going through all the trouble of making cupcakes.

Time: 15 minutes prep + 20 baking

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
3 eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp bourbon
3/4 cup sour cream
Bananas Foster from above

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda and salt) in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  4. Add the eggs 1 at a time to the creamed butter until fully incorporated. Then add the vanilla, bourbon, and banana mixture. The bananas may still be quite large after mixing, so you can use a fork to mash them further if you like.
  5. Now alternate adding the dry mixture and sour cream over low speed (1/3 dry -> 1/2 sour cream -> 1/3 dry mixture -> 1/2 sour cream -> 1/3 dry mixture). Scrape down the sides after each dry/wet cycle. Be careful not to over mix.
  6. Using an ice cream scooper, fill a lined cupcake pan. Each cupcake should take up between 1/2 and 2/3 of the liner. Anything higher will give unsightly muffin tops.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the toothpick test comes out clean (note: this is a tricky toothpick tests because you might hit a moist banana). Be sure to rotate them after 10 minutes.
  8. Let cool for an additional minute in the pan then remove to a wire rack.
The blog might be called My Mess Their Kitchen, but luckily this was her mess in her kitchen. Just wash it in the sink. It'll be as good as new...
The cake itself lies somewhere between a traditional cupcake and a muffin, which is pretty common for banana cupcakes. It was nicely moist and the occasional banana pieces were always fun to bite into. The only real change I might make is to put a little more banana into them next time to really emphasize the flavor.

Time: 10 minutes

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp bourbon
2-3 cups powdered sugar
Sauce from bananas foster (above)
Banana chips

  1. Beat the cream cheese, butter, cinnamon, vanilla and bourbon together over medium speed until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the powdered sugar half a cup at a time and mix well. Stop when you reach the desired tanginess/ sweetness combo.
  3. Glaze the tops of the cupcakes with the bananas foster sauce.
  4. Pipe the frosting on in the desired shape.
  5. Garnish with a banana chip.
Since they have bananas in them, they surely make a healthy breakfast...

The frosting is absolutely incredible. We went with 2 1/3 cups powdered sugar because we didn't want the sugar to completely overpower the cream cheese, and it worked wonderfully. The real star, though was the decision to glaze the tops of the cupcakes with the leftover sauce. We found that we kept tasting the mouth-watering sauce while we were baking, so it only seemed right to not let it go to waste (really a philosophy that should apply to anything containing bourbon).

If you look closely, you can guess which ones Jenny frosted. Additional frosting help was provided by my former labmate Xiaoming.

Of the four batches of cupcakes Jenny and I have made, these were hands down everyone's favorite. You get three fantastic layers of flavor as you bite into it from the frosting to the glaze and the cake itself. The bananas foster really comes through in all parts of the cupcake.  While I did think that the banana chip was a cute and tasty garnish to the cupcakes, I would like to figure out a way to add a little color to give them more visual pop. Any suggestions? 

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