Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Caramelized Banana Crème Brulee Cupcakes with SMBC (Cupcake Hero)

UPDATE: This cupcake won Cupcake Hero for September's banana theme!

These cupcakes are my entry to Cupcake Hero::September. Upon discovering that banana was the theme, my imagination overflowed with possibilities. The idea to combine gooey caramelized bananas with a creamy yet crunchy crème brulee frosting stuck, and I simply had to pursue it.

I entered the kitchen eager to bring this concept to life...and emerged humbled and exhausted a short *cough* 4 hours later. There were hiccups aplenty (who knew bananas could turn such an ugly gray color?) and moments of panic (when the frosting started melting). But so what if this was no speedy, picture-perfect confection? I learned from each mistake, conquered swiss meringue buttercream (finally!), and had fun in between. My coworkers gobbled these up, one even dubbing them “a party in my mouth"! Please find the recipe after the jump with my notes so no one will repeat my mistakes.

SMBC Avalanche: so yummy but not so pretty

Are you still with me? Cause I’d love to get to know you better if you are. One of the reasons I started this blog was to connect with others who share a passion for food. To start off, I'm curious if you find posts about kitchen "flops" interesting/informative or off-putting? Have your own failed attempts shaped you into a better cook or baker over time? For other bloggers out there, do you ever find the pressure to make not only tasty but attractive dishes getting in the way of simply enjoying the food? Penny for your thoughts =).

Caramelized Banana Crème Brulee Cupcakes [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from How to Eat a Cupcake via Beantown Baker
Make 12 cupcakes

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch for the egg whites
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon molasses (not blackstrap)
(You can simply use 1/2 cup of brown sugar instead of the sugar and molasses)
1 egg, separated
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramelized Banana Filling (Recipe below)
Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Recipe below)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (for torching...mwahaha)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and mix in well. Add molasses and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Alternately beat in dry ingredients and milks.

In a separate (completely grease-free) bowl, beat the egg white with a pinch of salt until stiff but not dry. Gently fold whites into batter.

Spoon batter into cupcake papers (I like to use my large cookie scoop for this), filling cups about 2/3 full. Rap the pan against the counter once to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Cut a cone out of each cupcake. (You won't be needing the tops anymore so feel free to nom on them. You deserve it, cupcaking is hard work!) Spoon in 1-2 pieces of the caramelized banana filling into each cupcake, then spread or pipe buttercream on top.

Sprinkle sugar over the frosting and caramelize with a creme brulee torch. (Be careful to hold the torch no closer or longer than necessary, to avoid melting the buttercream.) Top cupcakes with a piece of caramelized banana each if you want folks to know what's inside (BUT you gotta chill the cupcakes at least 30 minutes after torching OR all that precious buttercream will avalanche, as pictured above). Or just let it be a delicious surprise =D.

Caramelized Banana Filling
Adapted from Recipezaar

XIAOLU'S NOTE: My bananas turned gray overnight. I found this method to prevent discoloration next time.

2-3 firm, ripe bananas
4-6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons dark rum, optional
juice of any citrus fruit

Slice bananas into 1/2"-thick coins. Sprinkle slices with citrus fruit juice to prevent discoloration.

Melt butter in medium size nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle sugar evenly over the melted butter, then add the bananas in a single layer on top of the sugar. Cook bananas until light to golden brown underneath, about 4-5 minutes (you can lift with a spatula to peak). Be careful not to overcook or burn them (if you smell them browning, or see color in the pan, flip them right away). Sprinkle rum, if using, over the bananas. When cooking with alcohol, there is always the chance of it catching on fire, so be very careful when adding the rum. Gently flip bananas over to brown the other side, turning heat down to medium. The second side will brown in about one minute.

Transfer to a plate that has been coated with oil or cooking spray (otherwise they may stick) and set aside. Soak pan in hot water to make cleaning easier later on. Or you can fill it with water and reheat it over medium heat to dissolve any stubborn bits.

Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream

XIAOLU'S NOTE: My buttercream remained soupy even after 8+ minutes of beating. I guessed that my beater blade, the temperature, or the amount of butter was the problem. So I chilled the mixer bowl for 10 minutes, switched to the paddle attachment, and added 3 more tablespoons of cold butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. The buttercream came together in under 3 minutes of mixing this time, at which point I may have let out a celebratory yelp.

1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cooler side of room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

My first successful swiss meringue buttercream coming together
It looks chunky here but it smoothed out after more beating

Combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in the mixing bowl of your stand mixer over a pan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160 degrees). Turn off the stove and move the bowl to your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled (this is important), about 7 minutes total.

Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low, add butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition (about 10 seconds between each addition). Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, at least 3 minutes. (You'll hear a distinct slapping sound and visibly see the buttercream go from soupy to cohesive when it becomes SMBC.) Reduce speed to low, add the vanilla, and continue beating 1 minute to incorporate the extract and reduce air bubbles.


  1. I was thinking the same thing for Cupcake Hero this month. Hubby and I were brainstorming last night and decided on a banana creme brulee cupcake... Back to the drawing board... Yours look great!

  2. Those carmelized bananas look to die for!!! I'm afraid if I make them, I'll end up eating the whole batch by myself!

  3. Jen - Oh no! Please feel free to make them still. Especially since I was inspired by your blog in the first place. Surely yours would look even better!

    Jessica - I must confess...about 1/3 of these didn't make it to the cupcakes. Fortunately I used 3 bananas and had extra. Almost too delicious for something so simple (and cheap)!

  4. These are sooooooooo pretty to me!! :) and sound amazing!

  5. mmm the banana topper looks so good! Great cupcake hero entry!

  6. Your cupcakes look amazing! It's hard to pick my favorite component, since I love condensed milk, caramelized bananas, and brown sugar Swiss meringue buttercream equally.
    Regarding posts about failed attempts--I find them very informative. They can put your mind at ease too, especially if you've experienced the same type of troubles. Nice to know that there are others out there who aren't Martha Stewart perfect! We're human, after all :) I admit that there are plenty of times when I make something that doesn't turn out as tasty or pretty as I wanted, and I hesitate to blog about it or take pictures because I am too embarrassed. But...I am getting over my insecurities and plan to post everything, the good AND the bad!

  7. Your cupcakes look and sound delicious!

    I'm curious if you find posts about kitchen "flops" interesting/informative or off-putting? Definately informative!

    Have your own failed attempts shaped you into a better cook or baker over time? Absolutely. I can't stand for a dish to get the better of me so I'll keep playing until I get it right! :)

    For other bloggers out there, do you ever find the pressure to make not only tasty but attractive dishes getting in the way of simply enjoying the food? Sometimes. I have days that I will make a fantastic dish but just can't get good photos so get bummed out.

  8. Thanks, you all!

    Dorothy - I've definitely felt reassured when I google a problem I have and find that others have been in the same boat. Your blog looks great so far and I look forward to seeing/reading about all your food adventures, perfect or not.

    Kimberly - I'm glad to know other people feel this way as well. It's often said that we eat with our eyes, but since I've started blogging I've had to remind myself a few times that taste is still king.

  9. Yummy! I can't wait to try this! Congratulations on your win Cupcake Hero!!! =)

  10. Congratulations on winning Cupcake Hero!!!

  11. Thanks to you both! I must have beginner's luck.

    Crystal - I'd love to hear how it goes if you try it. Let me know if you have any Qs!

  12. Great job and many congrats on winning Cupcake Hero Banana!

  13. Congrats on winning this month's Cupcake Hero!

  14. My word these look good. They deserve to be winners. What pray tell is the black implement in the picture?

  15. I really appreciate the kind words.

    @WizzyTheStick - the black tool is a creme brulee torch that is used to caramelize the sugar on top of these cupcakes (or many other things). Hope that helps!

  16. I'm upset. I love SMBC, and made some Halloween cupcakes to share at work today. Half were topped with "regular" frosting (butter + powdered sugar), and the other half had SMBC. Imagine my horror to see blobs of SMBC in the trash, from co-workers scraping it off and throwing it away! Boo. They don't know what they're missing out on. :(

  17. Do you mean 1/2 brown sugar for EACH 1/2c sugar and 1/2c molasses (total 1 cup brown sugar), or do you mean 1/2 cup brown sugar as a total substitute for obth?

  18. Thanks for your question. You can use 1/2 cup brown sugar instead of the 1/2 cup white sugar plus 1/2 teaspoon (not cup) molasses I use.

  19. Ooooo so pretty! I love to torch things! I think flops are important, but I don't blog them. Instead I retest and put important points in my notes. I really try to follow one format as much as possible.

    On the other hand, when people write a flop blog I tend to read it so I can learn something. So who knows? Maybe I'm just a hypocrite!


  20. Your cupcakes look sooooo good I'm dying to make them!
    I was just wondering if you dint have a blow torch what can you do to caramelize the sugar on top?
    Thanks, and I love every recipe you've put up:)

  21. Hi Lauren! Thanks for your nice comments about my blog :). Normally, I would suggest you use a broiler, but with very temperature-sensitive buttercream, that wouldn't work here. The only other alternative I can think of is that I've read about a method to heat a metal spoon on a burner (wearing heatproof mitts of course), then to use the back of a large silver spoon to caramelize the sugar. I've never tried this and can't vouch for its success. I've also read that this will turn your spoon dark so please don't use your nice silver 8). Hope this helps. I honestly would recommend buying a torch, as it's the most effective, fun to use, and versatile for lots of recipes.


I love hearing from you all! Please leave me a message if you have questions, advice, or just to let me know you stopped by. Your feedback is always very much appreciated. Thanks! <3 Xiaolu