I’m thrilled that Baked Sunday Mornings has gone back in time to Baked: New Frontiers. I feel like I’ve said this already… maybe more than once?… but it’s no less true. One of my favorite recipes (that I’ve tried so far) from Baked NF are the banana espresso muffins, so I was pretty certain these banana cupcakes would be at least as delicious. I was right.
The batter comes together really easily; there’s nothing particularly complicated about the recipe for the cupcakes themselves. Cream the butter and sugar, add the banana, then the eggs & vanilla, then alternate adding buttermilk & flour (starting with the flour). Pretty “standard” as Baked recipes for cakes go.
I made one tiny tweak: A few years ago I started blending my bananas into a purée instead of relying on mashing them smooth for baked goods. One particularly gross bite of a muffin I’d made, in which I hadn’t quite mashed the bananas enough, convinced me I needed a better strategy. (I’m not a huge banana fan. Those latest banana chunk snacks are my worst nightmare.) I needed 5 bananas to get just over 1.5 cups of banana purée (328 g) was the total amount I used, with a weight of 99g per 1/2 cup.
I lost all my muffin liners in the muffin, so I greased my tins with butter and flour, then used a 1/3 cup measure to fill each well. My cupcakes baked exactly 25 minutes, at which point the tops were nicely browned and toothpick testers came out cleanly. My apartment also smelled amazingly good.
The banana cupcakes were simple, and in principle so was the pastry cream. I get nervous about making custards without scrambling the egg, especially on cooktops I’m not used to, but this pastry cream seemed to go well. It started thickening after only 3-4 minutes, but I let it continue cooking until at least 6 minutes before removing it from the heat, then strained it (I only lost a little bit) and chilled it with plastic wrap on top overnight. Despite this quick thickening, mine didn’t turn out to be pipable or spreadable; it was really really thin. I used arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch, which might have contributed to my failure to produce a thick enough pastry cream, but I don’t think so.
As a result, “frosting” these banana cupcakes created a real mess. I considered filling the cupcakes with the pastry cream, but in the end just put a little on top with an offset spatula and let it run down the sides. Since it was so thin, I wound up with half the pastry cream leftover to use on something else.
Although the pastry cream seemed not quite right, these banana cupcakes were still very good. The crumb of the cupcake is very light and tender, and the banana flavor is perfect. The amount of sugar in the cupcakes seemed a little much, but in the end, I thought the amount of sweetness was spot on – not overly sweet, so eating one for breakfast didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Better still, although thin, the pastry cream goes really well with the banana cupcake. My coworkers really liked these. No one was on the fence about whether or not they approved of banana cupcakes. In fact, it’s possible these cupcakes elicited the most praise I’ve heard for anything I’ve brought in to work.