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Banana Split Cupcakes and Cake Pops

It’s Cupcake Week on Willow Bird Baking! Cupcake Capers was a 5-day summer camp I conducted last week wherein 5 middle school girls learned to bake, fill, and frost cupcakes. We eschewed pedestrian cupcake flavors in favor of creative combinations that I now get to share with you! Every day this week I’ll be posting fun memories and recipes from Cupcake Camp.

Day 2 of Cupcake Capers was all about learning to measure ingredients. I set out materials to make vanilla mousse and chocolate buttercream, as well as piles of tools: measuring cups, measuring spoons, liquid measuring cups, and one mysterious table knife.

While the girls listened with rapt attention (okay, they might have been eyeing the sugar and twitching a bit), I explained how to use each tool. When we came to the knife, there were some good guesses about its use in measuring — stabbing your neighbor when she tries to steal the vanilla, measuring butter, etc. I believe it was Meticulous Mary Rood and Energetic Erica who stumbled on its role in measuring flour “and other fluffy stuff,” as I like to say: leveling.

There are debates, believe it or not, about how to measure stuff. The Home Economics classes of your youth probably taught you to spoon ingredients into a measuring cup and then use a table knife to level them. Some folks, though, have resorted to just scooping and leveling. Still others swear by the most accurate and consistent method, measuring everything by weight with a kitchen scale. So I guess I’ll open myself up to major criticism and go ahead and tell you: I cheat. I don’t do any of those. And what’s more, I taught the campers to cheat, too.

See, the point of spooning an ingredient into a measuring cup is to ensure that it’s the right density to measure (i.e., that it’s not packed). This is also why kitchen scales are most accurate — they eliminate the variation caused by how densely an ingredient settles into the measuring cup. But both of those methods are too tedious for me, and my primary goal in the kitchen is to enjoy and challenge myself — not to bore and frustrate myself. My secondary goal is to make impressive, delicious food. My little “cheat” consistently accomplishes both of my goals, so I’m happy with it, even if some foodies would scoff.

I fluff-and-scoop. If you’ve ever watched Barefoot Contessa, you might have seen Ina Garten do it (see, I’m in good company). When measuring flour, for instance, I stick my measuring cup into the canister and “fluff” the flour with it a few times to ensure that it’s not packed. I then lightly scoop a heaping amount into the cup and level it with a table knife. This way the ingredient has an appropriate density in my measuring cup, but I don’t have to fiddle with a kitchen scale or spoon.

After our measuring lesson, the campers completed the mise-en-place for the chocolate frosting and mousse and set to work making both. I have to tell you about this easy, delicious mousse. It’s kind of a cheat too, actually. Maybe this post should be subtitled, “Ways to Cheat at Cupcake Camp.” The mousse takes advantage of the gelatin in instant pudding mixes, which is activated by agitation, to thicken what would otherwise be a simple whipped cream.

All you do is pick your favorite pudding mix (that’s part of the reason I love it — you can have chocolate, pistachio, butterscotch, cheesecake, white chocolate, banana cream, coconut, etc., etc., etc. mousse in a matter of minutes) and stick it in a bowl with a cup of milk and a cup of cream. You whip the mixture to soft peaks just as you would if you were making regular whipped cream. The pudding mix will thicken it beyond that to a moussey texture perfect for filling cupcakes (or layer cakes — just pipe a border of frosting around the outer edge of your layer before you add it so it doesn’t squish out).

After measuring and moussing, we made Banana Split Cupcakes, which are moist banana cupcakes filled with vanilla mousse and topped with chocolate buttercream, chocolate sauce, peanuts, sprinkles, and a cherry.

Since we had extra cupcakes, we also made Banana Split Cake Pops by crumbling the banana cake, mixing it with a simple cream cheese frosting, rolling it into balls, chilling them overnight, and dipping them in melted chocolate candy coating. These were so simple, and I almost liked them better than the cupcakes themselves! Instructions for how to make both are included below.

How do you measure dry ingredients?

Banana Split Cupcakes



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, adapted from Piggly-Wiggly and Wilton
Yields: 18-24 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter at room temp
1 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, preferably at room temp
~2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Mousse Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 (4 serving) package vanilla Instant Pudding Mix (not Cook & Serve)

Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
3-4 tablespoons milk
peanuts, chopped
sprinkles
chocolate sauce
maraschino cherries

Directions:
*Note: This recipe makes twice as much mousse as you need for filling the cupcakes. If you want to use half the pudding pack and save the rest for later, just measure it out and do so. Or use the extra mousse for another project (you know, like eating it with a spoon).

Make cupcakes: Line two muffin tins with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. In a separate, large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas.

Mix in half the dry ingredients (the mixture may look curdled — just keep mixing), followed by all the sour cream and finally, the rest of the flour mixture. Fill each well of your prepared pan about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full and rap the pan on the counter to remove bubbles from the batter and smooth the top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted deep into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding on the rack. Let cool completely.

Make mousse: To make the vanilla mousse, combine milk, cream, and pudding mix in a medium bowl. Beat with a mixer until you reach soft peaks, or a thick whipped cream consistency (this takes a few minutes). Refrigerate mousse until you’re ready to use it.

Make frosting: To make the frosting, cream shortening and butter together in a large bowl. Mix in cocoa and vanilla. Add in the sugar one cup at a time while beating on medium speed and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Add milk and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth until ready to use.

Assemble cupcakes: To fill the cupcakes, use the Cone Method: cut an upside-down cone out of the top of each one. Cut off the tip of the cone (and eat it, if you wish) leaving just the “lid.” Fill the cavity with mousse using a piping bag or zip-top bag with the corner cut off, and then replace the “lid” to give you a relatively smooth surface to frost. Use a piping bag or zip-top bag to pipe on the frosting. Top cupcakes with chocolate sauce, peanuts, sprinkles, and a cherry.

Banana Split Cupcakes



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, adapted from Piggly-Wiggly
Yields: probably around 40-50 cake pops

Cupcake Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter at room temp
1 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, preferably at room temp
~2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Other Cake Pop Ingredients:
pretzel sticks
chocolate candy melts or candy bark (I use CandiQuik)
sprinkles

Directions:
*NOTE: We made our cake pops with leftover cupcakes, so I’m printing instructions for making them with cupcakes here. I’m not sure how this recipe would work if you tried baking this as a cake to save liners, so I don’t want to recommend that, but let me know if you try it.

Make cupcakes: Line two muffin tins with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. In a separate, large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas.

Mix in half the dry ingredients (the mixture may look curdled — just keep mixing), followed by all the sour cream and finally, the rest of the flour mixture. Fill each well of your prepared pan about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full and rap the pan on the counter to remove bubbles from the batter and smooth the top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted deep into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding on the rack. Let cool completely before crumbling cupcakes into a large bowl.

Make frosting: Make cream cheese frosting by beating butter and cream cheese together until fluffy. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Make cake balls: Mix about 3/4 cup of frosting into your crumbled cake, adding more frosting if the mixture is still too crumbly. You want it to reach a sort of stiff play-dough texture so you can shape it into balls. Prepare a sheet pan with a sheet of wax paper on it. Shape your banana mixture into balls and line them on the wax paper. Chill these in the refrigerator overnight. I don’t freeze mine like some sites suggest, because I find chilling them in the fridge instead reduces cracking after I dip them.

Mount and dip cake balls: After cake balls have chilled overnight, melt your candy melts or chocolate bark according to the package directions. I keep my bowl of candy melts situated in a bigger bowl of hot water to keep them warm and fluid, but be careful no water gets into the melts! To mount each cake ball, take a pretzel stick and dip the end in candy melts. Gently but firmly push the end of the pretzel stick into the cake ball. Put these back on their silicone mat or wax paper to chill. Repeat until all cake balls are mounted and chill for about 30 minutes.

After chilling, you’re ready to dip! Dip each cake ball into the candy melts, using a spoon to help coat them. After dipping, hold your cake ball over the bowl and gently bounce to drain the excess off. Turn the pop as you drain. When well-drained, sprinkle some sprinkles on top and gently place the pop in a foam block to continue drying. I placed mine in the fridge to reduce drying time. Once they’re dry, you’re ready to eat them! These keep great in an airtight container in the fridge.

Never made cake pops before? I made this video tutorial to show you some techniques involved.

All Cupcake Week Recipes:
Day One: Chocolate Pistachio Cream Cupcakes
Day Two: Banana Split Cupcakes and Cake Pops
Day Three: Creamsicle Cupcakes
Day Four: Strawberry & Cream Cupcakes and Cake Pops
Day Five: Apple Cinnamon Cream Cupcakes

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Banana Coconut Cream Easter Cupcakes

Easter and I have a checkered past.

When I was a little girl, there were Easter baskets involved, and that seemed pretty awesome. An entire basket of treats and toys surround by that annoying-but-simultaneously-endearing Easter grass? A chocolate bunny bigger than my head that I’d eat about a quarter of before giving up? Plastic Easter eggs my mom had painstakingly filled with candy? Count me in.

Other Easters, though, were fraught with peril. Well, okay, peril might be a little dramatic. Perhaps fraught with inconvenience.

One Easter, for instance, I woke up and immediately realized that I was sick. I was nauseous, feverish, and definitely not interested in holiday cheer. My big plans of jumping out of bed and searching out the nearest stash of candy were dashed.

It was awful; birds were chirping joyfully in the freshly-bloomed Bradford pear trees outside while inside, little Julie was lying, miserable and a tad melodramatic, in the floor.

My parents brought my big Easter basket in and set it in front of me. They apparently thought the effect of this action would be to motivate me towards wellness. However, the piles of candy that should’ve been appetizing to me actually made me want to puke. I languished for hours before I so much as unwrapped a creme egg.

Maybe that Easter wasn’t the easiest one for me to celebrate, and nowadays I don’t even get an Easter basket, but the holiday is actually my favorite time of the year.

Easter is when Christians celebrate the miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ. He died in our place, taking the punishment for our sins, and the fact that He then rose from the dead is an unspeakable victory that I will try my best to speak: a triumph over the power of death and the power of sin.

I walk around feeling bound a lot of the time. Bound by sadness, bound by financial worry, or bound by indecision; the truth is, what I have in Christ is the ultimate freedom. This holiday reminds me to rejoice, and to give away my worries — to recommit to living a free life for Him.

To celebrate this year, I made these moist banana cupcakes stuffed with my favorite edible substance in the universe, coconut pastry cream, and topped with my other favorite edible substance in the universe, Swiss meringue buttercream. They’re heavenly, dense little bites of Easter JOY.

I decorated the cupcakes with tiny chickie faces and some ginormous, delicious birds’ nests. The recipe below will tell you how to create the former, and keep an eye on Maranda’s blog in the coming days for instructions on how to create the cute nests!

If you want to know more about Christianity, what Jesus did, and what it means for us, please leave me a comment below and let me know that you’d like me to email you.

Banana Coconut Cream Easter Cupcakes



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, adapted from multiple sources including Piggly-Wiggly, Gina DePalma, and Zoë Bakes
Yields: about 32 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temp
2 cups sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, preferably at room temp
~4 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1.5-1.75 cups)
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients:*
1 can (14 fluid ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
pinch kosher salt
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup whipping cream

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites , at room temperature
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
yellow food coloring (I used lots. Just add it slowly until you reach desired color)
mini chocolate chips (optional, for decorating chicks)
candy corn (optional, for decorating chicks)

Directions:
Make the Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350. Generously butter a mini-bundt cake pan or cupcake pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. In a separate, large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas.

Mix in half the dry ingredients (the mixture may look curdled — just keep mixing), followed by all the sour cream and finally, the rest of the flour mixture. Fill each well of your prepared pan about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full and rap the pan on the counter to remove bubbles from the batter and smooth the top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted deep into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding on the rack. Let cool to room temperature before adding cream filling and glaze.

Make the Coconut Pastry Cream: While cakes are baking and cooling, make coconut pastry cream. Heat the coconut milk, sugar, salt and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and corn starch. Once the cream is hot, remove the vanilla bean, scraping out any remaining seeds and returning them to the cream. Add 1/2 cup of the hot cream slowly to the yolks, whisking as you add. Then pour the yolk mixture into the pot of hot cream and whisk. Continue to whisk with heat on medium-high for 3 more minutes. The mixture will turn thick and bubble. You need to continue to whisk for the full 3 minutes or the pastry cream will separate once it is cool. After the 3 minutes, whisk in the butter. Add the coconut flakes. Pour into a shallow dish to cool.

Cover with plastic wrap pressed right against the pastry cream. This will prevent a thick skin from forming on the surface. Refrigerate for at least an hour or freeze for 30 minutes. Once it is cold, stir the pastry cream to loosen. Whip the 1/2 cup cream to medium peaks. Stir in 1/3 to the pastry cream to lighten. Fold in the remaining cream until the pastry cream is nice and light.

To make Swiss buttercream icing: Combine sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil without stirring until syrup reaches 240° on a digital thermometer, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer on medium speed, gradually pour in hot syrup in a thin stream; avoid pouring syrup on whisk. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form and mixture is cool, about 8 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition. (If at any time buttercream appears curdled, beat on high until smooth, then reduce speed to medium and continue beating in butter.) Once all butter is added, beat on high speed until buttercream is smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla and food coloring.

To assemble the cakes: When cakes are cool, hollow out the center of each mini-bundt cake (use the cone method). Pipe in as much of the coconut pastry cream as will fit and replace the top of the “cone.”

Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth a layer of frosting over the top of the cupcake. Use a star tip to pipe a small circle of frosting in the middle of the cupcake (covering any imperfections). Give it two mini chocolate chip eyes and a candy corn beak (note: the color of these will start to run after a few days in the fridge, so if you aren’t serving these right away, you may want to wait to add them. You’ll have to remove the cupcakes from the fridge for a bit to let the frosting soften and then stick them on). Voila!

*NOTE: This recipe actually makes twice as much coconut pastry cream as you need to fill the cakes. I split my pastry cream and made these with half, and filled donuts with the other half. You can also just double the number of banana cakes you make to fill, or find some other creative use for the excess cream. I suppose you could also try halving the coconut pastry cream recipe, but I didn’t want to fiddle with halving three yolks and a can o’ coconut milk.

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Gulab Jamun with Caramelized Bananas — and an Indian Buffet Love Story

I have heavy scent memories of an Indian restaurant Mike and I used to frequent called Jaipur. They must have burned incense every night for years. Maybe the scent is something the owner remembered but couldn’t place — something from when his synapses weren’t yet refined enough for memory. His mother burning it in the kitchen in a now-faraway home on the subcontinent, and he, just a baby then, lying swaddled in a room down the hall, his blankets collecting particles of sandalwood in each fold.

It’s sweet to imagine what the little restaurant means to him. It means something sweet to me, too. The orange and pink and gold, the weight of the incense, the guttural cry of otherworldly Indian music accompanied by sitar tones — all of it connected to a pseudo-memory for me. A memory of dust, colors, street food, and lights — an India I’ve never visited except in East Asian art classes, narrow Indian restaurants, the marigold-filled scenes of Monsoon Wedding, and the memories and photographs of friends.

Jaipur was also special to me and Mike because it was “our restaurant.” I remember weekend after weekend of trekking across town in my now-long-gone Altima, arriving at the buffet after dark. I remember rationing each plate so that I could have seconds of some of my favorites — palak paneer and red lentils — and sopping up every drop with warm naan.

I remember the shy waiter who knew our order before we sat down, and the chef who stopped us before we could serve ourselves from the buffet if he had a fresher, newer batch of bread. I remember smooth, sweet mango lassis, holding hands across the table . . . and spooning up warm, fragrant Gulab Jamun into tiny bowls alongside fruit-studded rice pudding.

It’s literally been years since I’ve been back to Jaipur now, and these neon and curry memories are even more poignant with Mike living across the state from me. When I saw that Project Food Blog Challenge #2 was to make a classic dish from another culture that’s out of your comfort zone, I knew I had to do some justice to Jaipur and our times there.

Gulab jamun, named for their rose flavoring and a fruit they resemble, are cake-like, juicy dumplings loaded with a sweet rose, cardamom, and saffron syrup. They’re common at Indian weddings and were often the highlight of our dinner at Jaipur. I savored mine in two bites, while Mike devoured each dumpling in one gulp.

While these rosy, sticky dumplings are a joyful memory for me, making them wasn’t something I considered before reading Project Food Blog’s Challenge #2. They’re fried — and frying things is not something I love. My fry-phobia not about the health considerations (have you seen my blog lately?), but rather, the difficulty of maintaining an appropriate oil temperature, the mess, and the inevitable burnt/undercooked disasters. Remember the Tumbleweed Burger post, where my attempt to fry onions produced a sum total of one halfway acceptable onion (okay, even that one was pretty pitiful) that I used in pictures and then threw away?

I’m fighting for something I love, though, and I hope my steps away from my comfort zone are steps towards becoming the next food blog star.

It wasn’t enough to recreate my favorite, sultry Indian dessert — I wanted to bring something of my taste to the table. I paired the gulab jamun with caramelized bananas and pistachios, hoping to create a rich, floral, indulgent product that would be incredible served warm over vanilla bean ice cream.

My first version was a little too sweet, though (sugar syrup AND caramelized bananas). I reduced the sugar in the bananas and the gulab jamun syrup in the recipe below in hopes that it balances out. I’ll try it this way next time — no loss if it doesn’t work, because the bananas and dumplings are both delicious on their own as well!

What about you? What food stirs up important memories for you? Is it a type of cuisine, a certain dish?

Gulab Jamun with Caramelized Bananas



Recipe by: Gulab jamun by Show Me the Curry, and caramelized bananas adapted by Willow Bird Baking
Yield: 10-15 gulab jamun, depending on the size

Syrup Ingredients:
1.5 cups sugar
2 cups water
a few drops rose essence (or about 4x the amount of rosewater)
1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) ground cardamom
a few strands saffron (optional)

Ball Ingredients:
1/2 cup instant dry milk powder
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons yogurt
1 tablespoon ghee, clarified butter, or vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
oil for frying (at least 1.5 inches deep)
pistachios for garnish

Caramelized Banana Ingredients:
1 banana, slightly green, not quite ripe, sliced crosswise into 1/4″ slices
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1.5 tablespoons unsalted butter
dash of cinnamon

Directions:
First, make the syrup. Combine all syrup ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat and allow it to simmer while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

Begin heating the oil for deep-frying on low-medium heat. You want it to reach 230 degrees according to some websites, but I had more luck frying from 250-270. You want a slow, patient fry on these.

While oil heats, mix dry ingredients: milk powder, all-purpose flour, and baking soda. Add clarified butter (or ghee or vegetable oil) and then, slowly, the yogurt, mixing well to make a dough. Allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes (don’t worry if it looks wet at first — after resting it will be right). With oiled hands, form into 10-15 small balls (they will nearly double in size throughout the cooking and soaking process, so do make them smaller than you think you should).

Test the oil: drop in a small piece of dough. If it sits at the bottom of the pan for a moment before coming to the surface, the oil is ready. Drop in 3-4 balls at a time and, after they float up, rotate them continuously for an even color. Be patient — when the balls are a dark golden brown, remove them with a slotted spoon and let them drain on paper towels.

When all balls are draining, bring the syrup up to a boil again. Drop in the balls, turn off the heat, and cover the syrup. Allow balls to soak at least 45 minutes to overnight.

When about ready to serve, caramelize bananas. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add half of the butter and let it sizzle for a few seconds before adding bananas. These should brown for about 30 seconds without being disturbed. Then turn them over and add brown sugar, cinnamon, and last half of butter. Shake the pan to keep the bananas moving and cook about a minute more, until sugar is melted and bananas are caramelized, but still solid. Remove from heat. Serve gulab jamun with caramelized bananas and pistachios to garnish. You can also serve warm gulab jamun and caramelized bananas over vanilla ice cream.

Willow Bird Baking is a contestant in Project Food Blog, a contest comprised of a series of challenges to find the next food blog star. To see my contestant profile, please click here. Voting for Challenge #2 begins on September 27 — will you consider voting for me? I’ll post a reminder and instructions on how to do so on that date. I am so grateful for your support!


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Banana Coconut Cream Cakes

We went off on a brief romantic tangent to celebrate my anniversary with Mike (thanks for all your congratulations!), but now we need to get back to some serious business. SERIOUS business. I told you after making my Coconut Cream Tart that I had some of that heavenly coconut pastry cream leftover. The dessert I came up with to use that leftover pastry cream is now (drumroll, please . . . are you drumrolling?) MY FAVORITE DESSERT OF ALL TIME.

Wow. I eat a lot of desserts, so you know this must be big.

Well, actually it’s small and cute. But BIG in taste!

These sweet little cakes are Banana Mini-Bundt Cakes filled with Coconut Cream and topped with a sweet pineapple glaze. My sister describes the coconut pastry cream as “tylenol PM that tastes good” because it’s so soporifically sweet and creamy. Imagine that deliciousness stuffed into the center of a bright, dense, moist banana cake. Now add the slight tang of pineapple. NOW MAKE THAT AMAZING DESSERT SO SMALL AS TO ALMOST BE BITE-SIZED. That, my friends, is a winner.

Some of you are getting all whiny right about now. Hey, there’s no shame in that; I get whiny sometimes, too. You’re thinking, “Oh well, I don’t like bananas,” or “Ew, coconut,” and it’s even POSSIBLE that there’s someone out there thinking, “Gross, pineapple.” Weirdo.

Kidding, kidding — I don’t think any less of you pineapple haters! BUT before you write off this dessert for any of the reasons above, let me give you a run-down of why you should try it anyway.

1. I dislike bananas. They’re odd. Nevertheless, I still love these cakes more than I can really explain.

2. My roommate hates coconut with a passion. She would barely consent to try one of these. Nevertheless, she loves these cakes more than almost anything I’ve ever made.

3. Mike loves both banana and coconut, and also adored every bite of these cakes. (Just so you know there’s not some strange phenomenon goin’ on with the flavors!)

4. You will love these cakes. YOU WILL.

Some of you, instead of whining, are mourning right now: “I don’t have a mini-bundt cake pan!” I didn’t either until my roommate bought me one (thanks, Barb!), so one option is to be really sweet to the folks you live with and keep your fingers crossed. The other (more realistic) option is to simply make these as cupcakes. I think they’d work out just fine — maybe not quite as adorable, but still just as tasty.

To reiterate how amazing these cakes are, let me tell you about my little mixup while making them. I was hoping to get 12 mini-bundt cakes out of this recipe but, because I failed to check the size of the pan in the original recipe, I ended up with 32. At first I was annoyed — who on earth was going to eat the extra 20 CAKES?!

Yeah, that did not turn out to be a problem. They were DEVOURED. In fact, as Mike and I polished off the last few cakes, we wept a little. Okay, maybe we didn’t actually cry, but we were crying on the inside. I can’t wait to make these again. Please, if you make one thing from this willowy, birdbrain blog of mine, make these! I’m anxious to hear what you think.

Banana Coconut Cream Cakes


Recipe by: Compiled by Willow Bird Baking from Piggly-Wiggly (banana cake), Zoë Bakes (coconut pastry cream), and The Neely’s (pineapple glaze)
Yields: About 32 mini-bundt cakes using the pan size pictured below

Mini-Bundt Cake Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temp
2 cups sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, preferably at room temp
~4 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1.5-1.75 cups)
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients: *
1 can (14 fluid ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
pinch kosher salt
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup whipping cream

Pineapple Glaze Ingredients:
2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons pineapple juice

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350. Generously butter a mini-bundt cake pan or cupcake pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. In a separate, large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas.

Mix in half the dry ingredients (the mixture may look curdled — just keep mixing), followed by all the sour cream and finally, the rest of the flour mixture. Fill each well of your prepared pan about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full and rap the pan on the counter to remove bubbles from the batter and smooth the top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted deep into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding on the rack. Let cool to room temperature before adding cream filling and glaze.

While cakes are baking and cooling, make coconut pastry cream. Heat the coconut milk, sugar, salt and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and corn starch. Once the cream is hot, remove the vanilla bean, scraping out any remaining seeds and returning them to the cream. Add 1/2 cup of the hot cream slowly to the yolks, whisking as you add. Then pour the yolk mixture into the pot of hot cream and whisk. Continue to whisk with heat on medium-high for 3 more minutes. The mixture will turn thick and bubble. You need to continue to whisk for the full 3 minutes or the pastry cream will separate once it is cool. After the 3 minutes, whisk in the butter. Add the coconut flakes. Pour into a shallow dish to cool.

Cover with plastic wrap pressed right against the pastry cream. This will prevent a thick skin from forming on the surface. Refrigerate for at least an hour or freeze for 30 minutes. Once it is cold, stir the pastry cream to loosen. Whip the 1/2 cup cream to medium peaks. Stir in 1/3 to the pastry cream to lighten. Fold in the remaining cream until the pastry cream is nice and light.

When cakes are cool, hollow out the center of each mini-bundt cake (or, for cupcakes, you can use the cone method). Pipe in as much of the coconut pastry cream as will fit.

Whisk confectioners’ sugar and pineapple juice together to form glaze. Drizzle over filled mini-bundt or cupcakes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.

NOTE: These things are aaaaamazing served cold straight from the refrigerator! They’re dense, creamy, cool hunks o’ bright flavor.

*NOTE 2: This recipe actually makes twice as much coconut pastry cream as you need to fill the cakes. I split my pastry cream and made these with half, and a Coconut Cream Tart with the other half. If you’re not keen on a tart, you can also just double the number of banana cakes you make to fill, or find some other creative use for the excess cream. I suppose you could also try halving the coconut pastry cream recipe, but I didn’t want to fiddle with halving three yolks and a can o’ coconut milk.


Enjoy!


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Banana Nut Bread Waffles

I have a ton of different nicknames for my little poodle, Byrd, and I can’t really explain any of them. Who knows why we call her Byrdle-bee (or Byrdle-bee Tuna, Willow Byrd, Sweetie Wheatie, Little One, Wittle Byrd, Willa Byrd, Bog, or Mike’s favorite, Dyrb)? One day we’ll just be staring at her sweet little face and our tongues will get all twisty and coo-y and she’ll end up with another moniker. And I know I’m not alone in this: my parents’ toy poodle, Abbey, was at one point called Abbey-Jo Louisiana Lewinsky Lorax. Unfortunately, I’m not kidding.

At any rate, regardless of what you call her, Byrd has gotten into the spring spirit with a fresh new haircut. Isn’t she sweet?


Look at her big puppy grin after getting a new toy for being such a good girl at the groomer! Note to Charlotteans: her pretty ‘do is from The Dog Salon, which I love.

My turtle (who has not made any appearance changes for the spring weather besides shedding a few scutes) also has some fun nicknames. He’s Squirt, Squirtle-bee, Mommy’s Little Sandwich, Little Bear, and Squirtle the Myrtle Turtle. Mike tried for awhile to make Bowser stick, but it just never caught on. I don’t see him as the demon turtle type.

I could go on (and on) about how adorable my creatures have been lately, but I know y’all are here for some WAFFLES, and neither animal was allowed to partake. I promise they had their own entertaining breakfast (kibble and meat pellets sound good too, right?) Byrd did look on adoringly as we took every waffly bite, trying her best to make me feel like a bad mother for not indulging her. Somehow I managed to enjoy my breakfast regardless.

Okay, so with golden waffles staring you in the face, you could probably enjoy breakfast while someone repeatedly threw darts at your noggin.

I know you guys are just as excited about fun waffles as I am, since my post on Carrot Cake Waffles was my most popular yet! I promised in that post that another waffle creation was coming up, so here you go (drumroll): Banana Nut Bread Waffles. And if you can believe it, we liked these even better than their carrot cake cousins! They were amazing!

The basic premise was the same. I took two dishes I loved, banana nut bread and waffles, and smushed the recipes together (well, sort of). To a rich buttermilk waffle base, I added the goodies typically found in hearty banana nut bread: mashed ripe bananas, cinnamon, and chopped walnuts. These waffles were the perfect warm, comforting breakfast when served with . . . you guessed it . . .

MAPLE NUT CREAM CHEESE SPREAD! I can’t repeat it enough — this spread is so tasty! It was a perfect complement to the flavors of the Banana Nut Bread Waffles what with the slight tang of the cream cheese and the sweetness of the maple.

Banana Nut Bread flavor with a clean loaf pan should excite you. Hearing that this is a quick and simple waffle recipe should excite you even more! Sometimes you want a fancy breakfast for company — sometimes you just want to hurry up and EAT. These Banana Nut Bread Waffles are perfect for both situations. Frilly enough for a guest, fuss-free enough for a relaxing morning.

Oh, and of course I have to ask: what are your pet nicknames? Don’t just share the kosher ones, either! We want the embarrassingly ridiculous ones! We’ll only laugh a little bit.

Banana Bread Waffles



Recipe by: Adapted using the following recipes:

-Rich Buttermilk Waffles: Smitten Kitchen’s adaptation of Mark Bittman.
-Maple Cream Cheese Spread by Carolyn R. Shaw.
Yields: 4 to 6 servings

Waffle Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 3/4 cups buttermilk* or 1 1/2 cups sour cream or plain yogurt thinned with 1/4 cup milk
2 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick butter, melted and cooled)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
Cooking spray for waffle iron

Maple Nut Cream Cheese Spread Ingredients:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3-4 tablespoons maple syrup
1/8 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:
Combine the flour, salt, sugar, baking soda, and cinnamon. Mix together the buttermilk (or buttermilk substitute) and the egg yolks. Stir in the butter, mashed banana, and vanilla.

Spray the waffle iron lightly with oil and preheat it. Stir the wet into the dry ingredients. Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl with a whisk or electric mixer (make sure bowl and mixer are spotlessly clean) until they hold soft peaks. Stir them gently into the batter. Stir gently to combine.

Spread a ladleful or so of batter onto the waffle iron and bake until the waffle is done, usually 3 to 5 minutes, depending on your iron. Mix ingredients for Maple Nut Cream Cheese Spread together. Serve waffles immediately with a schmear of Maple Nut Cream Cheese, or keep warm for a few minutes in a low oven.

* The buttermilk can be substituted with 1 1/4 cups of milk at room temperature, mixed with two tablespoons white vinegar, left to clabber for 10 minutes.




Happy breakfasting!

P.S. Say happy happy birthday to Mike! Yesterday was a big birthday for him. More on that and his fancy schmancy birthday dinner soon!


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