Banana, walnut & caramel cupcakes

If you have ever thrown away a banana because it is too old and mushy then I hope, after reading this, you never will again.

Bananas rarely last long enough in my house to get to that stage, but when they do, the time is ripe to make a banana cake. If the time genuinely isn’t ripe due to prior commitments then I put the bananas in the freezer to use at a more suitable date. But I never – ever – throw them away.

cake5

When you have brown-spotted bananas, it is very difficult for your cake to go wrong, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you don’t have to worry about flavour; everyone knows the pungent whiff of an overly-matured banana (another reason not to put it in your bin). When mixed with the sponge however, it translates into an intense, but not overpowering, flavour. No bland cakes here.

Secondly, there is zero chance of these cakes being dry, even after several days – in fact, I would even argue that they get better with time, as the flavour ripens and the sponge becomes increasingly moist. The bigger challenge is stopping them from disappearing too quickly.

cake4

Given that the banana is already doing most of the work in these cakes, it wasn’t strictly necessary for me to cut them open and dollop caramel inside. However, I was feeling decadent. Banoffee pie has long proven the success of the banana-caramel combination and it adds a rich, syrupy surprise when you cut into the cake.

I’ve added walnuts to the mix as well; their savoury flavour adds some bite to offset the sweet, gooey sponge for a more sophisticated taste.

cake2

Waste not, want not: give your old and past-their-best bananas a new lease of life. Although I can’t promise you won’t be wanting these a little too much.

 

 

Ingredients

Makes 12 cupcakes

For the sponge:

175g butter

175g caster sugar

175g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp vanilla extract

2 large, or 3 small, very ripe bananas, mashed

3 large eggs

100g walnuts

1 tin dulche de leche

 

For the icing:

140g icing sugar

70g butter

2 tbsp milk

 

For the decorations (optional)

55g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 tbsp hot water

1 banana

2 tbsp dulche de leche

Handful finely chopped walnuts

 

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C / Gas Mark 4. Line a 12-hole cupcake tin with paper cases.
  2. To make the sponge, cream together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until pale and fluffy. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold until combined. Add the vanilla essence, mashed bananas and eggs. Using a handheld electric whisk, mix all the ingredients together on a medium setting until you have a smooth batter. Chop the walnuts and gently fold into the mixture.
  3. Divide the batter evenly between the paper cases and bake for 20 mins until lightly golden on top and a knife comes out clean. Set aside on a cooling rack and allow the cakes to cool completely before the next step.
  4. While the cakes are cooling, make the icing. Ensure your butter is at room temperature and add to a medium sized mixing bowl, with the icing sugar. Gently beat the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until combined into a thick paste. Add the milk and use an electric whisk on a low setting to mix into a smooth icing.
  5. To make the caramelised banana decorations, add the sugar, vanilla essence and hot water to a non stick pan and heat until you have caramel. Thickly slice the banana and add the the pan, shaking to ensure it is fully covered. Cook for around 5 minutes until the bananas have turned slightly golden. Set aside to cool.
  6. When your cupcakes are completely cooled, use a sharp knife to cut a portion of sponge out from the top of each cake. Sponge one teaspoon of dulche de leche into the hole and spread around the inside of the cake. Replace the sponge topping and press down gently.
  7. Top each cupcake with your buttercream. Gently heat 2 tbsp of remaining dulche de leche in a pan until runny. Use a spoon to dot the caramel on top of your icing. With a fork, drag the caramel to create lines within the buttercream. Finally, place one caramelised banana on the top of each cake and scatter the chopped walnuts on top.

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