Banana Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting
Four days spent in Baja for New Year’s celebrations is becoming a boisterous but endearing family tradition. This is the 2nd year we spent New Year’s Eve at my husband’s family’s beach house in Las Gaviotas, a cobbled-street private beach community in Rosarito, Mexico. Weather was insanely cold. Not what we had hoped for but it was kind of ethereal with the dense fog and chilly atmosphere (although driving in the thickest fog you can imagine was nerve-wracking).
Spending New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with the entire immediate Diaz clan was endearingly boisterous (I think I mentioned that), being surrounded by four little ones not lacking in energy and spirit and tears. I absolutely love spending time with my three nephews and my niece. You can get them to play any game you can think of with vigor and laughter. However, no matter how fun it starts, it usually ends pretty ugly. One fights the other and crying ensues… then screeching and then throwing of random things. Ahhh, the joys of being a kid… a carefree spirit and a free pass to do irrational outcry in a snap of a finger. Something us adults wish we could still do.
But no matter how many times they wail over the most ridiculous things, my nephews and my niece are way too adorable to easily get exasperated about.
The one dessert that caused a bit of a stir with the kiddies not too long ago was these Banana Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting I made for my father-in-law’s birthday. As soon as they saw Nilla wafers on top, each one wanted a piece even before the birthday celebrant had a chance to see them (or eat one).
Karen DeMasco’s The Craft of Baking had a recipe for Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream. It looked really yummy but I thought the peanut butter frosting would be too rich (I also made a Chocolate Espresso Cake for the birthday party). Having been in the mood for banana pudding at that time (I just had Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding the week before and it blew my mind because it was soooooo good), I decided to swap out the peanut butter with vanilla frosting to recreate the banana pudding flavors I was still craving seven days later. Ergo, the Nilla wafer topper on each cupcake. Ta da!
Everyone enjoyed these cupcakes very much – kids and adults alike. The banana flavor was prominent and the cakes were ultra moist. The vanilla-flavored frosting worked incredibly well against the banana cupcakes… it did not compete with the banana flavor, in fact, it enhanced it a thousand percent.
What’s good about this dessert is that you can make it year-round. It’s true that I am a sucker for seasonal baking but sometimes you need go-to recipes you can make in a flash with accessible ingredients and crowd-pleasing results. This is one of them.
Banana Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting
Adapted from Karen DeMasco’s The Craft of Baking. I recommend that you purchase her book (via Amazon or Barnes & Noble or other book stores), it’s totally worth it. This recipe makes 12 standard-sized cupcakes while frosting makes about 4 cups (depending on how generous you are, there might be some leftover frosting).
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
3/4 cup to 1 cup mashed bananas (from 2 medium bananas)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 Nilla wafers as topping
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line your standard 12-cup muffin tins with cute cupcake liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and grapeseed oil. Whisk in the mashed bananas, egg, egg yolk, buttermilk, and vanilla.
3. In another bowl (or over a piece of parchment paper like I do), sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gently combine the flour mixture into the banana mixture with a whisk. Do not overmix. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them three-quarters full (as most bakers, I like to use an ice cream scoop so they are even in size). Bake, rotating halfway, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely while you make the frosting.
4. Beat the room temperature butter in an electric mixer until pale and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
5. With the mixer on low, add the sifted confectioner’s sugar 1/2 cup at a time with the mixer. Beat the mixture thoroughly after each addition and scrape down bowl. In between additions, mix the butter in medium to high-speed for a few seconds to fluff the frosting and inject some air. It will look aerated and fluffy after all the sugar has been added.
6. Add in the vanilla and mix until completely smooth.
7. Place the vanilla frosting in a piping bag with a small round tip attached (I used Ateco #806). Pipe the frosting in a circular way on top of the completely cooled cupcakes (or feel free to frost however style you want). Finish each frosted cupcake with Nilla wafers on top.
*Frosting can be refrigerated for about a week in an airtight container if you want to prepare ahead of time. Just bring it down to room temperature and beat in the mixer for a few minutes until smooth and spreadable. Assembled cupcakes can keep in the refrigerator for 3 days… just leave out the Nilla wafer because it will get soggy in the fridge (just top a new one when you serve).