Sunday, July 24, 2011

Banana Pudding Cupcakes, aka "The best ones yet"

Banana cake filled with pudding, bananas and vanilla wafers

Soooooo when I made these cupcakes, I realized mid-bake that my camera batteries were dead. I apologize for the low quality cell phone pictures. I think I deserve a little credit for not taking them in the mirror of the bathroom with the toilet in the background, Facebook style.  I realize my regular pictures aren't super high quality, because I use a regular point-and-shoot digital camera, but these pictures are truly horrid. It's sad, because it was such a beautiful cupcake. Anyway, enough about my camera.

Most of the inspiration for the cupcakes I make comes from other people. My sister and her family are my biggest cupcake fans, and they offer suggestions for flavors to me from time to time. She asked me if I could make a banana pudding cupcake, and my mouth watered. I volunteered to give them a try and bring them to a giant waterslide party at her house a couple of weeks ago. I made a huge batch of them, and they were instantly inhaled. The next day, I made another batch and took them over for all the friends who didn't get one. Again, inhaled. These may very well be the best cupcakes ever, unless you hate bananas, but who hates bananas? They seem like a good amount of work, but they're not that bad... a doctored up cake mix, some instant pudding and an easy frosting. SO worth the work.

If you've never heard of the Cake Mix Doctor, you should check her out. The cake recipe I used was a slight modification of hers. I would have made it exactly the same way, but I bought the wrong cake mix and skipped a step. Oops. Honestly, they came out awesome, so I'm not complaining.

Here's the cake recipe.

 medium ripe bananas
1  package vanilla cake mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk 
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Smash the bananas. You can food process them, mash them with a fork, or put them in a Ziploc and squish them until they are mush. Smash, mash, squish, mush. Lovely words. Anyway, once the bananas are pulverized, mix everything together until it is smooth. Fill cupcake papers 2/3 full and bake 18-20 minutes until they just spring back if you touch them on top. DO NOT wait for them to brown. You want them just done.

Let me tell you something about this cake recipe. It is moist and banana-y and delicious, and I will be using it again. Not only does it taste good, but it has a great texture and it is easy. I'm all about easy.

Now we're going to fill the cupcakes.

Here's what you need:

1 box vanilla wafers
1 box vanilla pudding, prepared according to directions
1 tub of Cool Whip
2 bananas, sliced into 12 slices each

You are probably thinking, "Shouldn't she have baked the vanilla wafers in the bottom of the cupcakes?" Yeah, that's the step I skipped. I remembered about 8 minutes before they were done baking that I forgot the wafers, so I came up with a Plan B. I have to do that a lot. I'm kind of forgetful.

Put about 24 of the cookies into a large Ziploc bag and crush them with a meat hammer (or a can, or a rolling pin) until they are in pea-sized pieces. Get your pudding out of the fridge and stir all but one cup of the Cool Whip into the pudding. For the love of all things Southern, please do not use banana flavored pudding. Vanilla pudding with banana slices is the gospel rule of banana pudding.  Now you're ready to fill.

Wait! You have to actually core the cupcakes for this recipe. I love cramming a pastry bag tip into a cupcake and squeezing in the filling, but sliced bananas do not fit through a pastry bag tip. Take a sharp knife and cut a circle into the top of each cupcake, coring it to about 2/3 of the way down. Gently pull the middle out and slice the extra off the core so you have a flat top to put back on the cupcake after you fill it.

When you're done, it will look like this.:

Ready to fill tiny bowls of sweet banana goodness

Now fill 'em up. A little dot of pudding, a sprinkle of cookie crumbs, a banana slice, more pudding. Put their little hats on them and they're ready to frost!

I was torn over what kind of frosting to put on these. I wanted to just put whipped cream on them, but that is just not a good plan for cupcakes that have to be transported and served outside. Nothing seemed quite right, so I made something up. I actually had banana flavoring in my cabinet, but if you don't, you can use a little vanilla instead.

Frosting Ingredients:

1 stick butter, softened
1 8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 C Cool Whip
3-4 C powdered sugar
1/4 tsp banana flavoring

Whip the butter. Whip in the cream cheese. Whip in the Cool Whip. (I say whip it! Whip it real good.)  Add in the flavoring, then start adding sugar until you get a good, soft frosting that forms soft peaks. Eat a spoonful of it. Get a vanilla wafer and smear some on it, then put a banana slice on it and consume. 

When you frost the cupcakes, it will cover your cuts. sprinkle on a few of the crumbs from the crushed cookes and stick a wafer on top. You will get around 24 cupcakes from this recipe. If you are making them for a party, make a double batch, because every last one will get eaten.  Make them for your kids. Make them for your spouse. Make them for the people who just moved in down the street. Just make them.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

PB&J Cupcakes

Vanilla cake, grape jam filling, peanut butter frosting

This cupcake was a spur of the moment creation. It just felt like a day for cupcakes, so the kids and I dug around in the kitchen and decided on peanut butter and jelly. It's not a fancy cupcake, but it was easy and delicious, and the kids helped! We actually used a cake mix that was in the cupboard rather than making a from-scratch cake. This turned out to be a good thing, because box cake mix has a different texture when baked, and it gave it kind of a fluffy-white-bread feel.

Ok, so here's what you need:

1 vanilla cake mix (and whatever it calls for on the box to prepare it)
Grape jam (or jelly - we used jam)
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3-4 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons milk

Preheat your oven to 350. Prepare the cake batter as directed on the box. We used a french vanilla cake, but any type of white, vanilla or yellow cake would work. In your cupcake pans (don't forget the liners for this recipe!) fill each liner about half full. Plop about a teaspoon of grape jam in each cup. Don't push it into the batter... you're going to cover it up when you're done. When you have jam in each cup, go back and fill the liners until about 2/3 full. Don't worry about covering the jam completely, because the cake will bake up around it.

The box directions usually call for baking cupcakes about 18-21 minutes. Set the timer for 16 minutes and check them. Dry cake happens when you overbake. Check them every minute until they just start to brown the tiniest bit on top, then take them out. Cool completely. If you just can't stand it and have to eat one straight out of the oven, be warned... that jam gets HOT. Yeah, I made that mistake.

Tip: You will get around 27 cupcakes from a box mix.

Now it's frosting time! This frosting kind of tastes like these little balls of peanut butter and powdered sugar that my grandma used to make. It's good. Real good. Like eat it out of the pastry bag good.

Beat the room temperature butter until it gets nice and fluffy, then mix in the peanut butter. Beat it all until it is creamy, then start adding your powdered sugar. I used close to four cups, alternately adding a teeny drizzle of milk until it reached a good frosting consistency. A few taste tests are necessary, not for the quality of the frosting, but for your own well being and happiness. Trust me.

That's it! Frost the cupcakes however you want. I use a pastry bag, but you can use a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off, or smear it with a knife the old-fashioned way. When you're done frosting them, melt a little jam in the microwave until it is smooth and runny. Drizzle a little on top of each cupcake. Hide one for yourself and serve!

 These cupcakes are a great baking project with your kids (or your sister's kids, or the neighbor's kids). Let them hold the mixer while you crack eggs in the cake batter. If you're brave, let them crack the eggs. They can plop jam in the batter, smear frosting on the top, and drizzle them with jelly. Kids love to help cook, and baking together creates memories for the whole family.
Abigail and Molly, decorating PB&J cupcakes!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

4th of July!

Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.
It's been a while, right? The last few months have been kind of crazy for me, and cupcakes have been on the bottom of my to-do list. I'm back with a couple of recipes and a promise to try to make more cupcakes. It might not be a recipe a week, but I will make cupcakes and I will share them with you!

This week's cupcakes is all about the color (and making them quickly!). While I love stuffing cupcakes with interesting things, these were for an Independence Day get-together. What could be better than red velvet cake? Rich, red color with a hint of chocolate, covered in smooth cream cheese frosting.... delicious.

I used a tried-and-true recipe for red velvet cake from The Joy of Baking.*  I made my own cream cheese frosting, because the frosting recipe on the web page is a little softer than I like for piping on cupcakes. Easy peasy!  The decorating possiblities for a 4th of July cupcake are endless, but this was a quickie and I used what I had... blue spray coloring (found with the Wilton supplies at Walmart) and white sprinkles. Yum!

*Because I made the recipe to the letter, I just linked it to the original site.