When I’m grocery shopping, I’m not generally someone who will buy something just because it’s on sale, or because I have a coupon. 98% of the time it’s something we’ll never eat, so what’s the point? That said, I’m pretty much completely powerless against the rack of marked-down produce, specifically the bananas. A package of 8 overripe bananas for 39 cents? How could I not? It doesn’t matter that neither Shane nor I eat bananas. I’ll bring then home, stick them on the kitchen island and at the last minute, right before they transition from perfect for baking to moldy, I’ll finally make something with them. If I get desperate I’ll throw them in the freezer until I find time and/or inspiration, but I think they yield better results when they’re not frozen.
So that’s pretty much how I found myself making these cupcakes recently. By themselves, I find bananas pretty blah, but baked into bread, muffins or cupcakes, and especially if paired with chocolate or peanut butter, yum! Unlike your typical banana baked good, this recipe has you roast the bananas, in their peels, before you incorporate them into the recipe. This extra step, which requires minimal time and effort, gives the cupcakes a deeper, more intense banana flavor, in the best way possible. I’d made a roasted banana ice cream a while ago, and found it a bit too banana-y, but I loved these cupcakes. They had a really tight crumb but were still moist and light.
I probably would have made a peanut butter frosting for these had I not had a container of mascarpone in the back of the fridge begging to be finished. A little research led me to this mascarpone cream cheese frosting, and man am I glad that I found it. It’s no more difficult to make than regular cream cheese frosting, but I thought it was more delicious, if that’s even possible given that cream cheese frosting is one of the best things ever. This mascarpone version had a lighter texture and maybe a bit sweeter flavor than cream cheese frosting, and worked perfectly on these cupcakes. I sort of wish I’d had a peanut butter sauce to drizzle on top, but in the absence of that, I just stuck a few peanut butter chips on for garnish. I thought it was hard to resist the reduced price bananas at the store before, but it just got a lot harder with this recipe in my arsenal
3 ripe bananas (unpeeled)
2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup (8 ounces) cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt
1-2 ripe bananas, sliced
peanut butter chips
To make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 400 F. Place 3 of the bananas (unpeeled) on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes (the peels will darken). Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the bananas cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Peel the bananas and add them to the bowl (there may be liquid in the peels, I didn’t add it to the batter). Beat to combine. Alternately add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the sour cream in 2, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Mix in the vanilla.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Stir one third of the whites into the batter to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
Divide the batter among the prepared liners, filling them about 3/4-full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let the cupcakes cool for about 5 minutes before removing them to the racks to cool completely.
To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the mascarpone, vanilla and salt and beat on low speed just until combined (if you beat too vigorously or too long after adding the mascarpone, the frosting might curdle). Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip. Frost the cupcakes and garnish with banana slices or peanut butter chips, if desired.
Makes 16 cupcakes