Banoffee Cupcakes

I recently returned from a trip to London, so when trying to come up with my latest flavor I immediately knew that I wanted my next batch of cupcakes to be quintessentially English.  Fish and chips cupcakes it is!!  Ok, not so much…

A few years ago Gemma, an English friend of mine, introduced me to the orgasm on a plate known as “Banoffee Pie”.  Banoffee (banana + toffee) pie is basically a cookie crust (you can use either digestives, graham crackers, or in this case chocolate wafer cookies), layered with dulce de leche (the toffee), sliced bananas and then topped with whipped cream and either shaved chocolate or toffee chips.  It is so damn awesome, I swear it will change your life.  When you take a bite it’s this delicious explosion of flavors, layers, and textures.  You get the crunch of the cookie crust, then the dense caramely richness of the dulce de leche, the sweetness of the bananas, and then the light airiness of the whipped cream.  I typically don’t like overly sweet things, and when making the pie I think the key to balancing the flavors is to only lightly sweeten the whipped cream.

So how do I translate this to cupcake form?  I think my two biggest challenges were 1. to find a way to mimic the juxtaposition (SAT word!!) of crunchy vs. creamy textures, and 2. to stuff all of those flavors into one cupcake in a balanced and composed manner.  I went back and forth for a few days (banana cake or vanilla, crust or no crust) and finally decided on a chocolate cupcake sitting on a chocolate cookie crust base, stuffed with dulce de leche and banana, with a marscapone buttercream and then topped with  milk chocolate shavings.


A quick note about the buttercream… I’ve made a few cupcakes, for example my key lime cupcakes, that needed a whipped cream topping.  The problem with whipped cream is that it is a massive bitch; super fickle and an absolutely horrible traveller.  I needed to find a more stable frosting that still tasted like freshly whipped cream.  My solution was to use marscapone, which is an Italian soft cheese that is more famously used in tiramisu.  It might be categorized as a cheese, but there is nothing cheesy about it.  To me, it tastes like English clotted cream more than it does, say, cream cheese.  So the next time you want to make a frosting that tastes like whipped cream but will last a lot longer, try this marscapone buttercream recipe.

Banoffee Cupcakes

Yields approx. 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:

For the Cookie Crust:
24 Oreo cookies, filling removed
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter

For the Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
4 large eggs – room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup freshly brewed coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Filling:
13 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
2 bananas

For the Buttercream:
2 sticks unsalted butter – room temperature
16 ounces of marscapone cheese – room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

For the Cookie Crust:
1. Pre-heat your oven to 350°F (330°F if you have a convection oven) and line your cupcake pan with paper liners.

2. In a food processor, add the Oreo cookies (filling removed) and blitz until it turns into a fine crumb.

3. Melt the butter either in the microwave (nuke it for 20 seconds at a time until melted completely) or in a small saucepan. Take the melted butter and pour into the cookie crumbs and pulse a few times until combined.  The texture should be on the dry side but easily clumps together.

4.  Place one tablespoon of the cookie/butter combination into the bottom of each paper liner.  With a flat surface (a small cup usually works well) press and flatten the crumbs into the bottom of each liner.

5. Bake for 5 minutes.  Remove them from the oven to let them cool, but keep the oven on.

For the Filling:
I recommend making the dulce de leche the day before because it is quite time consuming.  In addition to the long cook time, you also need to give it a decent amount of time to cool.  It stores nicely in the fridge in some tupperware or a glass jar so feel free to make extra.  It’s great on toast, ice cream, a spoon…  I’d also like to add a disclaimer about cooking something in a closed can.  Apparently it can be dangerous…something about the can exploding.  I’ve never encountered any issues, but I wanted to throw that out there.  If you’re worried about it, you can find other methods of making dulce de leche with a quick Google search.

1. Place a 14 ounce can (paper label removed) in a medium sized saucepan.  Fill the pan with water until the can is completely covered.  Place the pan on the stove over a medium high heat until it comes to a simmer.  Lower the heat and cook for 3 – 4 hours.  With a pair of tongs, make sure to flip the can over every half hour or so it cooks more evenly.

2. After it’s done cooking, use your tongs to remove it from the water. DO NOT open the can right away!  You basically have a steaming hot can of compressed molten sugar, so you can imagine what happens if you try and open it right away.  Once the can has cooled, use a can opener to open it and pour it into a bowl.  If there are thicker parts and runnier parts, just give it a quick stir to smooth out.

3.  Dice 2 bananas that are ripe but not too soft; you want them to be able to retain some of their texture.  Add to the dulce de leche and mix gently to combine.  Set aside for later.

For the Cake:
1. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  With your paddle attachment, mix on low for a few seconds to combine.

2. Place a small saucepan on medium low heat and combine the butter, coffee and cocoa powder.  Stir until the butter is melted and everything is homogenous; make sure there are no clumps of cocoa powder and be sure not to overheat or the butter will separate.  You can also do this in the microwave but I prefer doing it in a saucepan and keeping my eye on it.  Once everything is melted and combined let it cool for 5 minutes.

3.  In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla extract.  Make sure all are at room temperature.

4.  With your mixer on low, slowly add in the cocoa/butter/coffee mixture to the dry ingredients.  Once combined, slowly add the sour cream and egg mixture and mix until combined.  Remember not to overmix!  Also, don’t forget to scrape the sides and bottom of your bowl as you go to make sure everything is incorporated evenly.

5. Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop the batter into the lined and chocolate crusted cupcake pan until it is about 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 18 – 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean and the top springs back when you gently poke it with your finger.  Again, when using a convection oven at a lower temperature you will have to make for a few more minutes.  In my case I baked them for exactly 22 minutes – 15 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 7 minutes.

6. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack.  If the cupcakes are too hot too handle right out of the oven, you can let them cool for no longer than 5 minutes in the pan before removing them and placing them on a rack.  Remember, the pan will hold residual heat, so your cakes will continue to cook a bit if you keep them in there too long.

7. Once cooled you want to create a hole in the center for the filling by taking a sharp pairing knife and cutting a cone shape into the cake.  Be sure to only cut about halfway down, and not all the way to the bottom of the cake.  Then with a teaspoon, spoon in a dollop of dulce de leche and bananas mixture so that it sits flush with the height of the cake.  If you over-fill, piping on the buttercream could get messy.

For the Buttercream:
1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 3 minutes on medium to high speed until fluffy and much lighter in color.

2. Next add the room temperature marscapone cheese and cream for another 3 minutes.  If the cheese is not at room temperature, your buttercream will look curdled.  Don’t worry!  It only looks curdled because the cold cheese caused the softened butter to seize up and harden into little clumps.  If this happens just keep beating the mixture until you get to your desired texture.

3. Turn the mixer speed down to medium low and begin adding the confectioners sugar (sift if it looks lumpy), half a cup at a time.  As I stated previously, you should taste every so often and use more or less sugar to your liking.

4. Pipe the buttercream on to the cooled and filled cupcakes (I used a large French tip).  Lastly, run a vegetable peeler along the edge of a bar of milk chocolate to create little chocolate curls on top of the buttercream.

Final Step:
1. Unhinge your jaw, shove in your mouth, and enjoy.

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