October 21, 2009

MarthaStewartCupcake Club Bonus: banana pecan with caramel buttercream

september's MSC club bonus was to make banana pecan cupcakes. i never got around to it. but, recently, i just happened to have some rotten bananas that were begging to redeem themselves in the form of delicious baked goods. how could i not oblige them? and what perfect timing -- book club tonight and grey's anatomy night with the girls tomorrow.

i don't really have much to say about the cupcake part -- pretty standard, though i see no need to splurge with 3 cups of cake flour. i'm sure regular flour would make the cupcakes taste pretty similarly. i did use cake flour -- i don't like to stray from the recipe first time around.

on to the frosting... caramel swiss meringue buttercream frosting. first, a confession: i have never made my own caramel before. i thought i had. i claimed that melting butter, sweetened condensed milk, and those caramel cubes was making my own caramel. i really did think that was homemade. but now i know the difference. making your own caramel entails boiling sugar and water FOREVER until it turns a dark amber. i watched it and watched it and i thought it was never going to turn dark amber like martha promised.

it finally did though, and then i added the heavy cream. it sizzled and sizzled and bubbled as i stirred until it really did become a very delicious (and HOT) caramel. then i let that cool. (i decided i would try to speed up the cooling process by removing it from the hot sauce pan, but it turns out that it cooled down too much, and i needed to reheat it anyway to turn it liquidy again).

the next step: mix the butter just enough to soften it, then set aside. this is the step where i realize that a great thing for someone to get me for christmas is a second kitchen aid mixing bowl. i had to set the butter aside and wash my one bowl (sad, single, lonely bowl) for step 3.

step 3: prepare simmering hot water bath in large pot. whisk egg whites and sugar in mixing bowl in hot water bath until sugar dissolves. then, using the whisk attachment, whisk warm sugary eggwhites until they are fluffy, white, and meringue-y. amazing! i watched the eggs transform before my very eyes.

step 4: add the softened butter.

step 5: add the caramel and beat with paddle attachment for 5 minutes. another complete transformation occurs: curdly looking eggwhite/butter mixture turns into light whipped ribbons of frosting.

martha describes it as a frosting that is "at once rich and ethereal," and it is sooo true. incredible.

i piped the frosting on with a 1M tip and sprinkled mini chocolate chips on top.

final step: take a bite!

i'm so intrigued with this swiss meringue buttercream and with making my own caramel. there is something so satisfying about the simple act of melting sugar and tranforming into something sweet and frostable. this frosting would be great on apple cupcakes -- caramel apple cupcakes -- perfect for fall and halloween parties. switching maple syrup for the caramel might be an interesting adaptation as well.

book club approved. hope the grey's girls like them...

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