Banana Split Cupcakes and Cake Pops

by Julie Ruble on August 2, 2011 · 33 comments

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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