Thursday, September 22
Scooping issues aside (I never add the right amount of batter to the liners), cupcakes are the good cops of the cake world. They never play half-baked mind games, and unlike some desserts I know, cupcakes won't 'tease' you into believing that all is well up until the eleventh hour (that's right layer cakes, I'm talking about you!).
Cupcakes are my safety net, my comfort zone, the lovingly-worn grey cashmere sweater that I've had since high school.
Cupcake...what an ingenious, to-the-point title. It's a cake that's small enough to fit inside a cup. I've yet to meet a cupcake that I don't like.
Birthdays will always have an aura of whimsy about them. Even as adults, it feels as though we can let go of logic for a while and make magic happen on that day, Our day.
My early thirty-something birthday was spent with close friends, scrumptious food, and killer margaritas (thanks, L.). It was lovely, quiet, and comfortable. And as usual, I made the desserts. Yes, I made two this year, and no, neither one included chocolate or *gasp*, lemons. I wanted a 'plan B' dessert, just in case my beloved cupcakes decided to pick up on the wily ways of their layer cake cousins. Oddly enough, the 'plan B' dessert happened to be a coconut-ginger layer cake.
These cupcakes were a labor of love. If you plan on making them, I suggest that you bake the cupcakes a day in advance, that way you can focus on the somewhat fussy, filling and frosting. It'll all be worth it in the end, I promise.
The cakes are super-moist...similar to banana muffins, only not as boring. But it's the filling and frosting that elevate these babies to stardom. The filling is caramelized sweet milk, and the frosting is basically a whipped buttercream version of that filling. This put's the 'offee' in banoffee (it's a glorified toffee sauce). As you may have guessed, these cupcakes are on the sweet end of the sugary spectrum, ergo they're soul mate is a good strong cup of creamy coffee.
I've accepted the fact that my layer cakes will never be symmetrical. Even though the coconut ginger cake was so lopsided that it appeared to have been baked by a rabid, one-eyed ferret, it was fabulous! I'll add the recipe soon.
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons of Cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of fine salt
1/2 cup (that's 1 stick), of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of buttermilk (well-shaken and at room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon of pure almond extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 large, ripe bananas (peeled and mashed)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. and line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
In a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk, and set aside.
In the bowl of your stand-mixer, using the paddle attachment (a hand-held will work too), beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy.
Add the buttermilk and almond extract. Beat to combine.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the entire bowl of dry ingredients and beat on low speed until just combined.
Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the mashed bananas until they're evenly distributed throughout the batter.
Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 way full.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted in the center cupcake comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let the cupcakes rest in the pan for about 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.
Caramel Toffee Filling & *Frosting* Ingredients
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 Tablespoons of water
1 14-ounce can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/2 cup (that's 1 stick) of unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
4-5 cups of confectioners' sugar
1-2 Tablespoons of milk or cream
*Note: My frosting was too thick to spread with a spatula (it tore through one of the cupcakes), so I highly recommend using a pastry bag for this recipe.
In a medium size, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the brown sugar, salt and water.
Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring. Increase the heat and cook until mixture turns deep amber. Every now and then, use the handle of the pan to give it a gentle swirl (this will keep the toffee from burning).
Lower the heat to medium and add the can of sweet milk and cut-up butter. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken slightly.
Remove from the heat and set aside a about 2 Tablespoons of the thickened caramel (place it in a bowl, cover and leave it at room temperature). Pour the rest into the bowl of your stand-mixer (or any large heat-proof bowl). Let it cool for about 25 minutes. Every 5 minutes or so, give it a good stir to prevent it from becoming too thick.
Meanwhile, fill the cupcakes: Using a sharp knife, carefully cut a slim hole into each cupcake (leave the surface piece in tact so you recap the cupcakes). Using a scant teaspoon, fill each cake with the reserved caramel sauce. Once filled, replace the tops that were just cut off. [Note: Don't worry if they are not perfect, they're going to be covered with frosting anyway.]
Prepare the frosting: Add about 1/2 cup of confectioners' sugar to the cooled caramel sauce. Beat on low speed until combined.
Continue adding the confectioners' sugar in 1/2 cup increments until the caramel takes on the consistency of a frosting (this may, or may not take up to 5 cups).
If it clumps up on you, add about 1 Tablespoon of milk or cream, but add it slowly as a little bit of liquid will go a long way.
Spoon the frosting into a large pastry bag fitted with a large tip (I used a star). Frost the cupcakes as desired!
Makes 12 Cupcakes