Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bananas Foster Cupcakes with Salted Vanilla Caramel Buttercream and the March Give-Away

In 1951, Paul Blange' at Brennan's Restaurant in New Orleans, prepared a dessert he named after Richard Foster, a friend of Owen Brennan, who was then Crime Commission Chairman of New Orleans.  The dessert consisted of sliced bananas heated in a buttery brown sugar and banana liquer mixture.  The bananas were served with cold vanilla ice cream and rum was added to sauce left in the pan, lit, then poured over the bananas. 

In 1988, while I was away taking our oldest daughter, Erin to college, Kelly invited her best friend Kandyce to stay at the apartment we were living in at the time while our home was being built.  Kelly and Kandyce had the bright idea to make fried bananas (a take on Bananas Foster) one evening--why, I'm not sure.  All I remember is talking to my husband that evening, assuring me everything was okay, even though the smoke alarm had gone off during their endeavor!  It was an experience Kelly chose not to talk about.

However, since Bananas Foster is such an icon of New Orleans and today being Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), I thought this would make a wonderful flavor for a cupcake and bring back happy memories.  When we went to New Orleans during the summer of 1989, we had Bananas Foster at one of the restaurants we went to and enjoyed every bite.  If you go by the tradition that Mardi Gras is the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, then this is a dessert you'll love.  My Mother, on the other hand, stuck by the tradition of making pancakes on this night, just as delicious with warm maple syrup dripping over them.

Bananas Foster Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Bananas Foster:
2 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1 T. Grand Marnier (or orange juice)
1/2 tsp. Banana flavoring
2 ripened bananas, sliced lenthwise in half

1/4 cup dark rum

In a medium sauce pan, over medium heat, melt the butter, then, add the brown sugar and stir.  Add the spices, Grand Marnier (if using) and Banana flavoring and stir to combine.  Add the bananas slices to the mixture and lower heat.

Cook about 5 minutes.  Add the dark rum and light the mixture with a match or if you have a gas stove top, tip the pan to ignite.  Stand back and let the mixture burn until the flame goes out.  The alcohol will have burned off.

Mash the bananas with a fork and set aside while you make up the batter.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees and line muffin pan(s) with cupcake papers.

14 T unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Bananas Foster mixture
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sour cream

In the KitchenAid mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until thoroughly combined.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition to combine.  Add the vanilla and the Bananas Foster mixture.  Set mixture on low to combine.  (It may look a little curdled).  Sift the dry ingredients and add to the bananas mixture alternatively with the sour cream.  Beat just until everything is combined.

Use a 1/4-cup scoop to place batter into the paper cups, filling almost to the top of the paper.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes until golden brown.  Set aside in the pan(s) to cool.

Salted Vanilla Caramel Buttercream: (from King Arthur Flour recipes)
24 pieces (about 3/4 cup) caramel candies
3 T heavy cream
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 lbs. confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup meringue powder (optional)
1 T vanilla extract
1/3 to 1/2 cup heavy cream

In a small saucepan, place caramel candies, sea salt and 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream and heat on low, stirring frequently until melted.  Set aside.

In the KitchenAid mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, meringue powder and half of the sugar.  Add the vanilla and 1/3 cup heavy cream and mix to combine.  Beat in the salted caramel mixture and add the rest of the confectioners' sugar.  Beat on low to combine, then on high for 5 minutes to whip, adding additional cream if needed.

(KAF recommends drizzling additional melted caramel over the buttercream, but I held back.)

Whipped Cream Filling:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 T whipped cream stabilizer
1 to 2 T confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix stabilizer with the sugar and pour slowly into the heavy cream as you beat it, using a whisk attachment.  Beat until the mixture is fluffy.  (I thought, adding the whipped cream in the center replaced the vanilla ice cream!)

Use an apple corer to remove a "plug" of cake from the center.

Fill a pastry bag with a #12 tip and the stabilized whipped cream then, pipe into the center cavity.

Fill a second pastry bag and #808 tip with the buttercream and using a swirl technique, pipe the buttercream on top.  If you like, heat addition caramels and drizzle over the top of the buttercream.
Lastly, I have finally finished the March Give-Away apron.  I chose a fun fabric, bright and colorful like the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras to set the mood of the season. 
If you're noticing the ladybugs in the fabric...that's a symbolism we have associated with Kelly.  A story for another day!
As they say in New Orleans..."Laissez les bons temps rouler"--Let the Good Times Roll!  Wishing everyone a beautiful start of the Lenten season and hoping Spring is around the corner. Enjoy!


  1. Wow - beautiful apron and yummy cupcake... can't wait to try this recipe!

  2. What lovely memories in all the wonderful treats you make! You are such a talented lady. The apron is simply gorgeous it just looks so bright and happy and would make a great festive addition to anyone wearing it in their kitchen busily baking away! Love it! Love Ya

  3. Those cupcakes are calling my name. I can only imagine how divine they taste with that flavor combination. I so want one now.

  4. Yummy! I can't wait to try them...Also looking forward to the story about Kelly..LOVE your stories!

  5. Hi dear Susan,

    I am wondering about your house, move, etc.

    Love this recipe and how simply you present it. STYLE!

    I often make a baked banana recipe that my friend Susan Branch once brought to a dinner party. She stuck the whole banana in my oven (skin on) baked it for 20 minutes at 250. Took them out, slit them open, sprinkled freshly ground coffee on them and topped them with whipped cream. DIVINE.

    Love and a fat hug to you,


  6. It's so funny because I can barely remember the banana incident. I do remember corn flakes, bananas and smoke. It seems I've blocked the rest :) These cupcakes remind me of the banana pudding we had at that little restaurant last year in Kentucky. They look incredible. We are celebrating the anniversaries of Luke's, Joshua's and Elijah's baptisms this weekend. These seem the perfect treat!