On one of our recent road trips, we discovered a bakehouse and café in a town about 120 kilometres from home. Among the goodies on offer were gluten-free chocolate and banana cupcakes with a cream cheese topping. They were a bit on the 'dry' side, but reasonably tasty, if not a little expensive. That said, we stopped in at the café again on the return trip to buy a couple more, as I was keen to pull them apart and then try to recreate them in my kitchen at home.
The young man behind the counter commented that the cupcakes 'must be really good' if I was buying more. 'I'm going to try and bake some at home,' I explained. 'Oh, we buy them in,' he replied, adding that he was happy to put me in touch with the company they bought them from. My first thoughts were that it was strange that a 'bakehouse' would need to 'buy in' cupcakes, but I digress. I thanked him and explained that I was happy to try my own take on the recipe. To this he replied 'I had another lady tell me that a while back and I said to her: "It doesn't work like that, love". I mean, you can't just taste something like this and decide what's in it and then make it...', he added somewhat cockily.
I was taken aback at his remarks but remained diplomatic. 'On the contrary,' I told him with a smile. 'A good cook can recreate cakes and the like from taste, and that's exactly what I'm going to do.' The look on his face told me that my response had not pleased him one bit. Well, 'meh' to him, because I have created my own version... and, if I may say so, mine are actually better in terms of presentation, texture and taste.
The base recipe for the cupcakes is the one I used in my banana, hazelnut, cacao wholemeal loaf, but this time I upped the quantity of the Frangelico. This version is not gluten free, but you can substitute GF flour for the wholemeal. In terms of the frosting, I was inspired by my very clever friend, Celia, who shared her piping experiences (and beautifully decorated cupcakes, too!) in a recent post. Scroll down for more on Icing Cupcakes 101 with Celia and Rosie Cake Diva.
BANANA HAZELNUT CACAO CUPCAKES WITH CREAM CHEESE BUTTER FROSTING
For the cupcakes:
1 cup hazelnuts
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
4 free range eggs
1/4 cup macadamia oil
3 tablespoons cacao powder
1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar
1 tablespoon Dutch cocoa powder
1/2 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1 tablespoon Frangelico
For the cream cheese butter frosting:
500g cream cheese (I used low fat)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup icing sugar
vanilla syrup* to drizzle, optional
Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C. Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and lightly toast them in the oven for about six minutes. Remove and allow to cool, then process the toasted hazelnuts to a coarse meal. Set it aside.
Turn up the oven to 180 degrees C. Place eight cup cake liners into a muffin tin or on to a baking tray. Combine the mashed bananas, eggs and macadamia oil in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on a low setting until the mixture is just combined. Slowly add the hazelnut meal, cacao powder, coconut palm sugar, Dutch cocoa powder, self raising flour and Frangelico, and mix until combined.
Using a serving spoon, transfer the batter to cup cake liners and bake for around 20-30 minutes, or until a skewer tests clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool slightly. When you are ready to serve, pipe the prepared cream cheese icing over the cupcakes and drizzle with vanilla syrup if desired. Makes 8 cupcakes.
To make the cream cheese icing, combine the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar in a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until well combined. If you find that the icing is a little 'stiff', add a few drops of milk to the mixture before you spoon it into the piping bag, otherwise it simply won't come out through the nozzle. Drizzle some vanilla syrup over the top of the cream cheese icing if desired, or you could make some caramel sauce and finish it off with that if you wish.
*I use Heilala Vanilla syrup. I think Maple syrup would also taste good.
The store-bought... tasty but expensive, and a little on the 'dry side'...
Please excuse the quality of this photo taken for Instagram with my phone.
Icing Cupcakes 101 with Celia and Rosie...
In her post, Celia points out that she isn't a fan of cupcakes, and frankly neither am I. That might explain why I have a Pinterest page titled 'Did you ever get the feeling there are too many cupcakes on Pinterest?'. It's one of my most popular Pinterest pages, with new followers jumping on board every day. Cupcakes are popular it would seem.
I'm not so good at icing cakes either, but inspired by Celia's adventures and Rosie's video (below), I thought it was time to give piping a second chance. It was then that I brought out the 'big guns' in the form of my $5 piping set purchased from Aldi last Christmas. With freshly baked cupcakes at the ready, I fiddled and faddled, and managed to pipe on some simple frosting using a 'princess tip'. True, I'm no diva, but I think my frosting looks better than the store-bought one (pictured above). What do you reckon?
From Celia's (and my own) experience, and the many comments on Celia's blog post, I've learned that piping takes patience and practice. I'm keen to embrace new skills and think I'd sooner try and teach myself how to perfect the art of piping two-tone rose icing onto cupcakes, than learn to sew or knit. So watch this space, I may need your guidance and encouragement. ツ
I'm no icing diva, but I'm going to keep trying...
Tell me dear readers, are you good at icing cakes? Do you enjoy cupcakes? And do you ever try to recreate your own versions of store-bought products at home? Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I read them all!
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.