For Daren’s birthday this year, we were in the middle of a week down in the Outer Banks. Our vacation was wonderful, but unfortunately between prepping for the trip, wrapping up the school year and taking care of Aria, I screwed up and never even thought about baking him some birthday treats. Poor Daren I know he didn’t mind at all, but I still felt pretty bad! Then, once we got back, Father’s Day was right around the corner. Between these 2 major events, I knew I had to make him something special.
Daren’s #1 favorite ice cream is Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, and I’ve known for a while that I wanted to recreate those flavors in, what else, a cupcake! For anyone not familiar, Chunky Monkey is banana flavored ice cream with fudge chunks and walnuts. Not too hard to combine in a cupcake – just a lot of ingredients and, let’s be honest, a bunch of steps. But as long as we’re being honest here – we all know that the more steps in a recipe, the more fun I have with it. And when we’re talking a combined birthday/Father’s Day treat, I had to make something extra special! For the cupcakes, I took a roasted banana-based batter and stirred in some mini chocolate chips and some chopped toasted walnuts. I then topped them with my favorite vanilla buttercream, added a chocolate ganache drizzle, and spooned on some brown sugar walnuts. In the end, it all came together for one gorgeous cupcake – Daren approved. Happy (much belated) birthday, honey!
For the cupcakes:
- 3 ripe bananas
- 2 cups (8 ounces) cake flour, plus 1 teaspoon
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
- ¾ cup (5 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup mini chocolate chips
- ¼ cup toasted chopped walnuts
For the frosting:
- 3 sticks plus 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 cups (12 oz.) confectioner’s sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the gananche:
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
For the candied walnuts:
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/4 tablespoon butter
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the whole, unpeeled bananas on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. The peels will turn black – that’s fine! Once finished, turn the oven down to 350°F. Allow the bananas to cool, then peel and set aside. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
Meanwhile, in a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the 2 cups cake flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Mix in the peeled, roasted bananas, followed by the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated (so flour, sour cream, flour, sour cream, flour).
Transfer the batter to another large bowl and thoroughly clean the mixer bowl. Add the 3 egg whites to the clean mixing bowl. Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter in two additions. In a small bowl, combine the mini chocolate chips, chopped walnuts and the additional teaspoon cake flour. Add these to the batter and gently fold in.
Scoop the batter into the prepared cupcake pans, filling each well 3/4 of the way full. You should end up with approximately 16 cupcakes. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium-high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add in the confectioner’s sugar and beat on low until combined. Add in the salt, heavy cream and vanilla extract. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until very hot (just under simmering). Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate and allow to sit for 1 minute. Stir until the chocolate is fully melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly to thicken.
Meanwhile, take the chopped walnuts and add to a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to toast up. Add in the brown sugar and butter and stir until the sugar is melted and covers the walnuts. Remove from the pan and spread out on piece of parchment to cool.
To assemble, transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe a round of frosting onto each cupcake. Using a small spoon or an offset spatula, scoop out some of the center of each frosting round to create a well. Drizzle the cupcakes with ganache and then fill the wells with candied walnuts.
Yield: about 16 cupcakes
Source: heavily adapted from Two Sisters Two Cities