Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cupcake Hero::September [Banana]

Where was I all of last year, and why am I only now discovering salted caramel, one of 2008's biggest flavor trends? Where was I hiding whilst what seemed like the entire world was fawning over its salty-sweet-creamy sumptuousness? At least I've managed to get myself out from under my rock to come up with ideas for my Cupcake Hero:: [Banana] entry. I really really wanted to make simple banana cupcakes, capped with salted caramel. I even had a name: Salty Caramel 'Nanacakes. It seemed so perfect, so clever...but luck would not be on my side.

Maybe it was the crazy Louisiana humidity. Or forgetting to throw salt over my shoulder (which I never do anyway...should I start?). Whatever the case, my salted caramel never came together. There it was in the pan, fully cooled but still a grainy, sloppy mess that refused to whip up into the silky caramel frosting promised by my recipe. I was so very sad. Cupcakes already 'at the ready,' I turned to an old stand-by: cream cheese frosting. Not just any cream cheese frosting, mind you. My banana cupcakes needed a perfect counterpoint: Key Lime Cream cheese frosting, made from the teensiest, cutest little limes ever.

Banana Cupcakes Makes 24-30, depending on desired size

1 box yellow cake mix
1 ½ cups mashed ripe bananas
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup water
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place paper liners into muffin tins.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the mixer, scrape down bowl, then turn speed up to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Batter will be thin. Portion batter into muffin tins. I filled up 30, partly because I wanted to make smaller cupcakes but mostly because I am terrified of overflow. My cupcakes ended up being shorties, but that's okay. Frosting covers and fixes all! Bake cupcakes for 20-24 minutes, or until they test done. Cool completely before frosting.

Key Lime Cream Cheese Frosting (generously frosts 30 cupcakes)

½ cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
2 Tbl. key lime juice (I needed 5 to get this much)
zest from 5 key limes
16 oz. (2 boxes) cream cheese - cold

Beat butter, powdered sugar, lime juice, and zest together until smooth and combined. Cut cream cheese into chunks and add to butter mixture. Beat until just incorporated; overbeating will break down the cream cheese and make the frosting runny. Frost cupcakes, top with a lyophilized* banana, and enjoy!

*Geek Alert!!! Lyophilization, or freeze-drying, is a method of preservation that typically causes less damage to the food item than conventional dehydration. For example: A freeze-dried apple or banana is crisp and interesting, while a dehydrated (dried) apple or banana is chewy and spongy. You can freeze-dry items that you wouldn't normally put through a dehydrator, like ice cream (yay, space food!). I lyophilized a Twinkie® once during my grad school days. It was great fun! And yes, we ate it afterwards.

Here's a quick explanation of lyophilization: foods are frozen in a special chamber. The pressure in the chamber is then lowered to allow the frozen water in the food to pass directly from the solid state to the gaseous state in a process known as sublimation. Science is cool!


  1. That looks spectacular! And thanks for the cool info about freeze-drying. Nothing wrong with geeking out 8D.

  2. Your cupcake looks wonderful! I love key limes and I'm definitely bookmarking your frosting recipe. YUM!

    Science is cool - especially food science!

  3. I voted for your cupcake! I went to the cupcake hero website to vote for a blogfriend... but your cupcake won me over. :) I love the idea of pairing banana and key lime.

  4. It looks delicious! Sounds healthy too!