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chocolate cupcakes with banana cream cheese frosting

i’m right in the lion’s den of cupcakes. i’m not sure why the nation’s capital has adopted cupcakes as its “thing,” but it’s not exactly as awesome as you might think. for one thing, the city has not become a magical candyland where queen frostine [1] decrees from her gumdrop throne which flavor we should all be wearing each day. in fact, it’s more like waiting 45 minutes in the cold for a tiny cake with too-sweet icing. also, it’s become acceptable to charge between 3 and 4 dollars per cupcake. let that sink in.

i’m not going to keep hating on cupcakes, because, well, it’s been done more cogently elsewhere [2], but when i can make an entire batch in the time it takes to wait in line for one, i’m sticking with homemade. and now to get back to the point of the post, when i’m looking for quality homemade chocolate baked goods, i go straight to ina garten. you just know you’re getting something good when there’s butter, buttermilk and sour cream involved.

this recipe marked the first official use of my new kitchenaid mixer (courtesy of a pioneerwoman [3] contest – ridiculous, i know), and i hate to admit it, but it actually made a difference. pretty much everything i’ve made so far was mixed with my favorite wooden spoon [4] and sheer willpower, but the convenience of a standing mixer is, duh, a pretty sweet convenience. that said, i definitely don’t think mixers are a necessity, and anyone that tells you that you must use one for a particular recipe is straight up lying.

the frosting looks pretty…interesting, no? it turns out that when you mash up bananas and add them to cream cheese and butter, you get something that looks uncannily like oatmeal. i had to add copious amounts of food coloring to really get the yellow to come out, but i think it looks pretty cool, especially against the chocolaty cake. why banana? i love bananas, and bananas and chocolate are a perfect combo (the bluths got it right [5]). seriously, these taste awesome.

chocolate cupcakes with banana cream cheese frosting
cupcake recipe from FoodNetwork.com [6]. makes about 12-15 cupcakes.

12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 Tbsp brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt

banana icing
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 Tbsp butter, room temperature
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 small ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
yellow food coloring (amount may vary, add drops until you’re satisfied)

1. make the cupcakes: in an electric mixer (or in a large bowl with a spoon), cream the butter and 2 sugars until light and fluffy. add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. in a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. in another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. mix only until blended. fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.

2. preheat the oven to 350F. line cupcake pans with paper liners.

3. divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

4. make the icing: in an electric mixer (or in large bowl with a spoon), mix all of the icing ingredients until well blended and smooth. if the icing is too runny, add a bit more cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar until it thickens. spread on the cupcakes while at room temperature.