Sunday, August 23, 2009


Just as summer tends to lead to an overabundance of certain garden fruits and vegetables (zucchini comes to mind...) bananas are also a summer fruit that I can almost never seem to get through before the bunch seems to speckle and soften almost overnight. Such was the case this weekend when I came home from a business trip to be greeted by the sickly-sweet smelling present of overripe bananas I'd inadvertently left on the counter in the mad dash to make it out of the house the week before. Yummy. My mom is almost religious about freezing overripe bananas, which is a great idea for not wasting food and also to have bananas on hand whenever you need them for dishes like banana bread or even smoothies. Eyeing up the brown bunch, naturally banana bread was my first thought but having just made more zucchini bread than one human needs to eat, I was hoping to skip the loaves and mix it up a little.

Flipping through the tome of Martha Stewart Cupcakes I'd received for my birthday, eagerly deciding which recipe I should pick to take the plunge into the 175 (Yes, 175) recipes, I happened to stumble across one for Roasted Banana Cupcakes with Honey-Cinnamon Frosting. Bingo! At first I thought "Roasted Banana" was simply the name of the recipe but, reading on, Martha does in fact call for you to actually roast the fruit. Don't worry, there are no spits or fire pits involved, simply placing unpeeled bananas into a 400 degree oven to enhance the flavors. Similarly to roasting almonds or hazelnuts (which, admittedly, I often skip in recipes) you'd be surprised how much a shot of heat really increases the taste.

Lately I'm also a really big fan of nontraditional frosting combinations, and I think that cinnamon-honey does a lot more for this cupcake than a typical vanilla or even cream cheese would. Because the cake recipe itself doesn't call for any spices, the cinnamon in the frosting makes it just slightly reminiscent of banana bread but in a modern way. Also because banana is a more neutral flavor, this would also be a good candidate for a filled cupcake (I just bought a Wilton #230 Bismarck Tip, stay tuned!) maybe with an apple cinnamon, or chocolate hazelnut filling, or something of that nature. I'm so glad I gave these cupcakes a whirl and I know they will definitely be on my recipe rotation from now on for whenever I have those pesky brown bananas hanging around.

Roasted Banana Cupcakes
makes 12-16

3 ripe bananas, plus 1-2 more for garnish
2 cups cake flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Place 3 whole unpeeled bananas on a baking sheet and roast 15 minutes (the peels will darken). Meanwhile, sift together cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Remove bananas from oven and let cool before peeling. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

2. With a mixer on med-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add roasted bananas, and beat to combine. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of sour cream, and beating until just combined after each. Beat in vanilla.

3. In another mixing bowl, with mixer on medium speed, whisk egg shites to soft peaks; fold one-third whites into batter to lighten. Gently fold in remaining whites in two batches.

4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a tester in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before frosting, thinly slice remaining bananas and place atop cupcakes just before serving, if desired. Cupcakes can be stored up to 3 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Honey Cinnamon Frosting
2/12 cups powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 Tbs honey
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat all ingredients until smooth. Use immediately, or refrigerate up to 5 days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat until smooth.

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