Every once in a while I get an overwhelming urge to bake something. Usually that something involves frosting. (What can I say? I was a child who’d eat the frosted top half of the cupcake and discard the cake-only bottom half!) When the urge hits, my brain goes in a million different directions contemplating what I should make and what to put in it.. the downside is that we usually do not have all of the ingredients needed to make whatever it is I want first. A problem, you say? Of course not! This is when I begin to haphazardly “forage” through the cupboards for undiscovered goodies. I find all kinds of random food items that I’d completely forgotten we had and use them as a basis for the recipe.
Last night was indeed one of those times, and a particularly indecisive one at that. What did I want? Well, cupcakes.. I knew that for sure. But what kind? Hmm.. [opens up the baking cupboard].. chocolate chip with vanilla frosting? [keeps digging through bags from the bulk bin] .. Chocolate with candied ginger? [pulls out mystery bag] Oh.. what’s this? Banana chips! Oh, definitely using the banana chips!
Okay, so it was decided. Chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, topped with banana chips. I had one problem: We didn’t have any cocoa powder. I turned to the good ‘ol Google search to find out if I could use melted chocolate chips instead, and the general consensus was “maybe.” I decided to just try it and go for it – nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
I’m sure you can tell by now that my experiment was a success! I made a half batch of the recipe (primarily because there’s 2 of us here, and also because I didn’t want to waste a whole batch if they turned out gross.)
I started with the basic vanilla cake recipe and modified it by adding 2 oz. of melted Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chocolate chips, and a half of a mashed banana. Overall, I would say these needed more chocolate, and maaaybe a little more banana. I can’t decide if I liked the light taste of the banana and just
needed wanted more chocolate (because really, who doesn’t?) or if the sugary sweet frosting was just a little too overpowering compared to the cake part. I’m not sure. It’s still a toss up. I suppose cocoa powder would have added a more intense chocolate flavor, but then I would decidedly need to add more banana. Either way, they still tasted delicious!
Here’s the basic vanilla cake recipe; it’s the same one that I used for the lemon curd stuffed cupcakes. I used a half batch of this recipe, and added about 1/4 C. more flour, 2 oz. melted chocolate chips plus 1/2 of a banana, mashed. I’ll add bold notes where I added both of those ingredients.
Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes
Yields- 15-16 cupcakes
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil (vegetable, canola or extra light olive oil)
1/2 cup buttermilk
(or 1/2 cup milk plus 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice- add acid to the milk then set aside for 5 minutes before using)
* Preheat oven to 350*F.
* In a medium bowl, add cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together with whisk, and set aside.
* In the bowl of an electric mixer, add eggs and beat 10-20 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed about 30 seconds. Add vanilla and oil, beat. (I added my mashed banana right after this step, and mixed it to blend.)
* Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add about half of the flour mixture. Add half of the milk, then the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk. Beat until just combined. (I added the melted chocolate right after this, and mixed it on low speed just until it looked blended.) Scrape down the side of the bowl.
* The batter will be thin. Pour batter into a muffin pan prepared with paper liners. Fill liners about 2/3 full.
* Bake cupcakes in pre-heated oven for 12-14 minutes. (I baked them for 16 minutes with consideration of the added banana mixture. They probably would have been done at 14 but I wanted the domed tops to stay raised.)
* Cool in pan 1-2 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan (carefully) and finish cooling on a wire rack.
* Frost as desired when fully cool.
I made a peanut butter frosting for these. Honestly, I have a bad habit of not measuring out my frosting ingredients at all. I know I started with 2 TB softened butter and mixed it on high speed with about 1/2 C smooth peanut butter. Then I alternated adding powdered sugar and milk until it reached the fluffy consistency that I wanted. Eyeballing it, it was around 2 C powdered sugar and 1/4 C milk. But don’t go by my guidelines if you’re not experienced with making frostings and want a perfect recipe!
While I was waiting for the cupcakes to cool, I melted a little bit of the chocolate chips and drizzled some of it with a spoon onto waxed paper (decorative shapes!) Since I don’t have one of those lovely perfect WIDE frosting tips, I just used a big piece of wrapped up parchment paper to make a piping bag to frost the cupcakes. The last step was to top each one with the chocolate shape and a banana chip. Ta-da! Tasty.
By the way, while I was making these I found more coconut in the cupboard and a lime in my fridge.. and almost abandoned the whole thing to make vanilla coconut lime cupcakes. Oh well, there’s always next time!