Banana-pecan cupcakes with caramel buttercream. A brand new experience for me! Never made banana cupcakes or caramel buttercream before. These smelled so warm and homey while baking. I used fresh bananas of course, and toasted pecans both in the batter and on top as a garnish. This recipe made 33, instead of the indicated 28, and cooked in under 15 minutes!
Here they are right out of the oven, smelling so fantastic. I don't actually like to eat bananas, but the smell is great.
These were so moist and delicious, almost like a muffin. They would be great eaten as-is, with no frosting, but Martha recommends frosting, so that's what I did!
This frosting recipe was complicated, a variation on Swiss Merengue Buttercream, which always gives me problems. Since there were multiple steps, I really could have used an extra mixer bowl so I didn't have to clean it out before each step. First I had to cream the butter, and then make the caramel, which I had never done before. I may have let it cook a bit too long, but it still tasted great. Caramel is made by boiling a sugar syrup until golden brown, then adding heavy cream. once cooled, it's a gooey sticky mess, but oh so good.
Here's the finished caramel in the pan.
It actually wasn't as hard as I thought, and easy enough to clean up. Although I did use a trick I'd seen somewhere before. The recipe says to wash down the sides of the bowl with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystallization. I had seen a trick, where you simply put the lid of the pot on top whil it's boiling, and the condensation will trickle down to prevent the sugar crystals from forming. It worked like a charm!
While the caramel was cooling, I made the Swiss Merengue. I have made this a few times before and screwed it up a few times too, so I knew what to look for. Although I was a bit disappointed that Martha did not include any descriptions or pictures of what it's supposed to look like during the process. Once you beat the egg whites and sugar, then you add the butter, and the mixture usually looks curdled and all wrong. I've learned from experience to chill the mix before beating the ever loving shit out of it. Then it turns out great!
Here is the finished frosting, with caramel added:
Swiss Merenge Buttercream is a lot lighter and less sweet than an American buttercream. Although it uses sometimes twice as much butter, there's also a lot less sugar. It relies on beaten egg whites for volume and stiffness, while the other relies on a pound of powdered sugar. My mom prefers the Swiss Merengue Buttercream for its taste, but I prefer the American buttercream for its ease to make and its durability.
Here's a finished frosted cupcake, sans pecan topper.
All in all, this was a very challenging recipe, and I feel more confident about making Swiss Merengue Buttercream now. This would be a great trest for the fall, and these cupcakes could even be eaten without frosting for breakfast.
Next up: Blueberry cupcakes with whipped cream. So summery!