Thursday, 21 May 2009

Let’s go bananas!

Well for a start, I’ve got plenty of reason to want to go bananas right now… Yesterday was my final exam of first year uni! Take that organic chemistry! Take that molecular biology! ^.^

O the joys of not having to revise any longer. In truth, perhaps I should be grateful for this year. I have a feeling the workload is going to get a whole lot bigger next year when I start medicine.

And so as I said, my first year here at St Andrews is winding down. Heck, people have already started to go home! So, these cupcakes are a bit of a tribute to the year. Something sweet, chocolatey and a wee bit bananas (get it? ;) ) to share with all my friends who’ve made these past 9 months some of the best of my life.

Since I myself am going home in just under a week and a half, I was a little wary of buying a whole bunch of baking supplies. So these are made from donations of various friends looking to pawn off unused flour etc. So, a big thanks to Andrea for the plain flour, Hannah for the whole wheat flour, Andy for the brown sugar, Sam for the milk, and Craig for the mushy bananas. See, I hardly had to buy anything for these!

The recipe is adapted from the Wholewheat Banana Cake recipe I found on baking bites. As I said, baking supplies are mostly reliant on the good will of others, so I didn’t have brown sugar. Instead, I added ½ cup of caster sugar and ¼ cup of maple syrup, and then reduced the milk from ½ cup to a ¼ cup. Lastly, I bought some plain chocolate, chopped it up and threw it into the batter.

I broke a few rules with the icing. I looked at a few recipes online to get the general idea of what went into caramel icing. Then I just through everything together and went by taste and consistency. So, my directions are a bit vague when it comes to the icing, as I didn’t really measure! It still turned out great, although I didn’t quite have enough to cover the last few cupcakes.

Over all, none of the flavours dominates completely over the others. Upon first bite you get this wonderful melange of the banana mixed with the creamy, brown sugar icing and then a delightful surprise when you come across a chunk of chocolate. I’d definitely use dark or plain chocolate with these, and not milk – the cupcake and icing are plenty sweet enough, and the darker the cocoa flavour serves to cut it a bit. (Trust me this is coming from someone with the biggest sweet tooth in the world!)

These cupcakes are so good that they’re just fine without the icing. The maple syrup I added doesn’t come through too strong, but there is a hint of it. But only without the icing, otherwise all you taste is the banana, caramel, and chocolate flavours (not that that’s bad in the least!)

Mmm. Banana cupcakes with chocolate chunks and caramel icing! What a delicious way to finish the year!

Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Chunks and Caramel Icing
Adapted from Baking Bites

¾ cup of whole wheat flour
¾ cup of plain flower
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
½ cup of caster sugar
¼ cup of maple syrup
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable or olive oil
2 large ripe bananas, mashed (approx 1-1 1/4 cups)
¼ cup milk (any kind)
2 tsp vanilla extract
150 g or so of plain chocolate, chunked up into bite sized bits

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together caster sugar, maple syrup and eggs until well combined. Whisk in oil, mashed bananas, milk and vanilla extract. Add in dry ingredients and stir until no streaks of flour remain visible. Chop up your chocolate (or you could use chocolate chips) into small chunks and stir into the batter. Carefully spoon the batter into each cup until about 2/3 to ¾ full.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cupcakes cool (if you can wait that long!) and then frost with caramel icing.

Caramel Icing

All amounts are approximate. Feel free to use your own version of the recipe or play around with the proportions.

½ cup of butter
2/3 cup of brown sugar (I used Demerara sugar because that’s what Andy had)
1/8 -1/4 cup of milk
A few cups of icing sugar (Sorry I can’t be more specific. I just dumped the sugar in the bowl until I got a nice thick consistency.)

Heat the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan on low to medium heat. Continue until it begins to bubble and has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and add half of your ¼ cup of milk. Dump in a good amount of icing sugar. Mix thoroughly with a spatula and keeping adding bits of milk and icing sugar as desired.

I made a piping bag out of greaseproof paper and applied the icing by snipping off the end. Apply as much icing as desired and enjoy!

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