Monday, March 26, 2007

Banana chocolate chip cupcakes with chocolate cream cheese frosting

I like bananas, but am not a fan of banana baked goods. Banana bread/pudding/cream pie – ick! Earlier this month, though, I had a taste of Sprinkles Bakery’s banana cupcake with dark chocolate frosting and was hooked. (The irony is I had bought that particular treat for CabbageLover, who could also be called BananaBakedGoodsLover. I cut off a piece before giving him the bulk of it and, when I finally got around to tasting it, wished I had kept the rest.)

So since I do not live near a Sprinkles, I decided to make my own version. The occasion? Bollywood night at BollywoodLover’s pad. What better to go with spicy samosas and Rang De Basanti?

As with almost any of my cooking/baking endeavors, I stopped by Central Market to pick up some key, good-quality-within-my-price-range ingredients, including Callebaut chocolate chips. I based my cupcakes on a recipe for Banana Chip Snack Cake from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

Because my bananas weren’t as ripe as I needed, I roasted them in the oven to bring out the sugars. The reliable folks at Cook’s Illustrated are always good for tips like that.

For the frosting, I tweaked a cream cheese frosting recipe for carrot cake. I simply melted a chunk of chocolate, chopped, in my Kitchen Aid mixing bowl over simmering water, briefly cooled the bowl in ice water, then whipped in cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, salt, milk and vanilla extract. There’s nothing that makes my body and palate more miserable than excessive sugar, so I halved the amount of sugar the ATK recipe called for, beating in only ¾ cup. Next time, I’ll add unsweetened cocoa powder to deepen the chocolate flavor.

The batch made 16 cupcakes. To transport them 1 ½ miles, I placed 11 cupcakes in a 12-cupcake pan. When I arrived at BollywoodLover’s place, the missing 12th cupcake came up.

You ate it, didn’t you? she and her guests interrogated me.

Yup, I had to make sure I was offering up a decent dessert, I replied.

I didn’t let on that 4 other cupcakes hadn’t made the journey over, either.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Adapted from the Banana Chip Snack Cake recipe in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Makes 16 cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cup sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 very ripe large bananas, peeled and mashed (1 cup)*
½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans.

Beat the sugar and butter together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Scrape the bowl and beaters as needed.

Beat in the bananas, milk and vanilla.

Whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture until no streaks of flour remain. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the liners, filling each about 2/3 full. Smooth the tops. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a knife inserted into a cupcake center comes out with a few crumbs attached.

Cool the cupcakes on a wire rack before frosting.

*Note: If your bananas are yellow but not ripe enough, roast them unpeeled in the oven for 15 minutes. Cool before using.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

palm-size chunk of semisweet chocolate, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
¾ cup powdered sugar (more if needed and/or to taste)

Stir the chocolate until melted in a steel or glass mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water. Cool the bowl in ice water.

Once the melted chocolate has cooled, add the cream cheese and butter and beat until combined. Beat in the milk, vanilla, salt and sugar until the frosting is fluffy.

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