Fat Tuesday Cupcakes

Claire and I are participating in Lent this year. This is actually the first time for me participating in Lent. Not to completely blame my Evangelical heritage, but I do not believe that Lent was ever mentioned in the church. It is really unfortunate when you think about it as Lent is meant as a preparatory phase to contemplate the death of Christ.

Traditionally Lent is a 40 day fast beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding on Easter. The 40 day period corresponds to Jesus’ time in the wilderness before his public ministry in which he was tempted by Satan. Most people who celebrate Lent do not count Sundays, as every Sunday is a mini-Resurrection Feast day.

Also within the Roman Catholic tradition, it is customary to fast from meat, excluding fish, products during Lent. As more and more Evangelicals participate in Lent, it is taking on a new form, which I think has some merits. As I have hared it framed, Christians are encouraged to give up a certain vice that is particularly a struggle for them. As Claire and I thought and prayed about it, we came up with the idea to fast from sweets and television (including movies and Hulu).

Fasting from sweets has been difficult at times. For one thing, working in a kitchen where dessert is served on a regular basis, means that I am seeing and plating desserts on almost a daily basis. Two, many times after a meal it is nice to have something a little sweet. But through this, Jesus is gently showing me how my heart desires sweets, and how little, at times, my heart desires Him.

So the day before Ash Wednesday, I volunteered to bring a snack to the small group which Claire and I joined through the church we attend. I had a number of ripened bananas in the freezer and when I came upon this recipe for Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting on Epicurious, I knew that this is what I wanted to make. It helped that I had most of the ingredients on hand, save for the sour cream and cream cheese. Plus who does not love the combination of bananas with peanut butter? It’s like being a little kid all over again, except better.

Everyone loved the cupcakes. The cake part was moist and light without falling apart with a great banana flavor. The sour cream added to the moistness of the cake, while also tempering the sweetness (I am not a fan of overly sweet desserts). The frosting was even better. First, I love cream cheese frosting, probably because of the sourness the cream cheese adds. The peanut butter was not over powering but added just the right amount of flavor. The frosting was so good Claire and I had to restrain ourselves from eating all of the leftover frosting straight from the bowl. I can only imagine how good the frosting would be on a chocolate cupcake.

A couple tips on cake making: as you incorporate the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, be careful not to over-mix. Over-mixing the batter will develop gluten which will produce a chewier, tougher cake. While this is desirable in bread making, it is not desirable in cake making. The same principle applies to pancakes, muffins, cakes, and biscuits. You basically want to mix only until blended.

Also, if you have it, you can use cake flour in lieu of AP Flour, which will also produce a fluffier, lighter cake. I used ½ cup cake flour and ¾ cup AP Flour. In case you are curious, cake flour is typically 7-9% protein, AP Flour is 10-12%, and bread flour is 12.5-13.5%.

Bon appétit!

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 very ripe large bananas, peeled
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk

Frosting:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned or freshly ground)
  • Chopped lightly salted roasted peanuts (optional)

Preparation

For cupcakes:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 12 standard (1/3-cup) muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Mash bananas with fork in another medium bowl until smooth. Mix sour cream and vanilla into bananas.

Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and egg yolk and beat until well blended. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with banana-sour cream mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating just until blended after each addition. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups (generous 1/4 cup for each).

Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center of each comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to rack and let cool completely.

For frosting:
Sift powdered sugar into large bowl. Add cream cheese, butter, and peanut butter. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until smooth. Spread frosting over top of cupcakes, dividing equally. Sprinkle lightly with chopped peanuts, if desired. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

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