Monday, January 7, 2013

Cupcakes Make Me a Sweet Success

In the past month I've made two kinds of cupcakes -- both to rave reviews.

I made chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting for the concession stand at a theater production. My daughter had a small role in "The King & I." I packed them in adorable cupcake boxes made from scrapbook paper. To see that technique, visit my scrapbooking blog. They sold for $2.25! I made them again for a scrapbooking crop and I had four requests for the frosting recipe.


Recently, I needed a snack for a Girl Scout meeting. I had a lot of quickly ripening bananas and a yellow cake mix. I remembered a recipe for banana cupcakes with a caramel frosting. I made them and most of the Girl Scouts liked them. I took leftovers to the scrapbooking crop the next day and they went fast. The frosting reminds me of a candy I've blogged about before: January Thaw. They are similar in ingredients and cooking method. This is a perfect cupcake to make this time of year.

"The Cake Mix Doctor" Anne Byrn is the reason for my sweet success. The recipes below are found in her first cookbook, "The Cake Mix Doctor", (Workman Publishing 1999).

PEANUT BUTTER FROSTING

1 cup creamy peanut butter
8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3-4 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Place the peanut butter and butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add the confectioners' sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, and the vanilla. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is well combined, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the frosting lightens and is fluffy, 1 minute more. Blend in up 1 tablespoon milk if the frosting seems too stiff.

BANANA CAKE

Cupcake liners OR Solid vegetable shortening and flour for preparing cake pans if you're making a layer cake
1 18.25-ounce plain yellow cake mix
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 medium bananas, peeled and mashed (about 1 cup)
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons creme de banane liqueur (optional -- I didn't because I was cooking for children)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional for garnish)
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans with solid vegetable shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out excess flour. Set aside. OR line muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Place the cake mix, brown sugar and cinnamon in a large mixed bowl. Add the mashed bananas, water, oil, eggs and creme de banane liqueur. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. The batter should look well blended and the bananas should be well pureed. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Place the pans in the oven side by side.

Bake until the cakes are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of each layer cake comes out clean. I tested the cupcakes by pressing them with a finger and watching them spring back. I baked cupcakes for 18 minutes. Bake layer cakes for 30-32 minutes.

Allow them to cool completely. Frost with Quick Caramel Frosting.

QUICK CARAMEL FROSTING

8 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 whole milk
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted -- very important or it will be lumpy, not smooth
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

Place the butter and brown sugars in a medium-size heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir and cook until the mixture comes to a boil, about 2 minutes. Add the milk, stir, and bring the mixture back to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat. Add the confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat with a wooden spoon until the frosting is smooth.

Use immediately (while still warm) to frost the cake of your choice or frosting will harden. If it does harden while you're frosting the cake -- this happened to me, place the pan back over low heat and stir until the frosting softens up.










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