Banana Chai Cupcakes

I love using these pretty cupcake cases - they make the cakes look even more appealing!

I love using these pretty cupcake cases – they make the cakes look even more appealing!

Good morning! I hope the transition from February to March (and from winter to spring by the looks of things here!) has been very pleasant and appropriately filled with baked treats for you all – apologies for the lack of communication lately! I haven’t been very well, nothing serious, but it did take it out of me for a while, plus I think I’d underestimated how hard my final term was going to be. I will be awash with deadlines very soon so I can’t promise to post frequently, but when I get a bit of time to bake I will certainly share the results here 🙂 Oh and the Foodie Facts will be making a re-appearance too, not daily for the moment, but as and when I find useful/interesting/wacky tidbits I’ll pop them up.

So, Banana Chai Cupcakes, sounds pretty exciting right?! The idea, I have to disclaim, was not mine, but the recipe sort of is. Yesterday that rare and beautiful thing happened where I experimented with patchworking different bits of recipes together and the result was actually a resounding success! It will depend on personal taste of course, but I love the subtle mix of spices along with the sweet banana flavour in these cakes. The texture is really wonderful as well; the cupcakes are so light and fluffy, despite the mixture being quite wet, with a perfectly risen and crusted sugary top.

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I also tried this as a loaf, which worked absolutely fine. I do prefer the cupcakes personally, however, just for their size and the contrast between the fluffy insides and crispy muffin top! Please don’t be put off by the amount of spices the recipe calls for. You can decide what spices you want to include anyway; I browsed lots of chai tea and spiced cake recipes to create my blend, and will probably make alterations next time I make these to find the perfect combo. My other tip is go to a wholesale oriental foods store! I found one ages ago and bought masses of spices – they’re so much cheaper in bulk, and if you store them carefully (airtight containers, dry cupboards) they do last. Plus its fascinating to look around stores like that, and I picked up a bamboo steamer for £1.50, so look out for bargains!

Grinding up spices on the mezzaluna.

Grinding up spices on the mezzaluna.

Sorry again for the long silence before now, and I hope this delicious recipe is to your taste – slightly unusual, but all the more impressive for that when it eats as well as this do!

Ingredients

For the spice mix:

  • 4 cloves (or ¼ tsp ground cloves)
  • 2 black peppercorns, ground
  • ¼ tsp ground star anise OR fennel seed
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom seeds (about 3 pods worth)
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

For the cake mixture:

  • 2 overripe bananas
  • 10 oz sugar (¼ brown rest white)
  • 4 oz butter
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp strong black tea
  • 10 oz self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

*I realise this recipe is in ounces; its an old one my mum was given and I haven’t tried it with metric measures as my scales can weigh in ounces as well as grams. If yours don’t then you can easily convert the measurements here:  Metric Conversions (They’re not all whole numbers which is why I didn’t put the grams up – will test at some point and see what gram measurements work best!)

Step 1. Grind up all the spices together. If you don’t have a pestle and mortar (I don’t) fear not; you can chop the cardamom, fennel seed/star anise, peppercorns and cloves down to a fine sand with patience and a good knife. I used a mezzaluna (see photo above) but a large sharp knife and a good chopping board will work similarly well. Or you can buy them ground, but whole spices do keep better – they don’t dry out and lose as much flavour as pre-chopped or ground spices do.

Step 2. Mash the banana in a bowl (not the mixing bowl) til soft then combine thoroughly with your spice mix. In a big mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Then, one ingredient at a time, beat in the spiced banana mush, eggs, vanilla essence, golden syrup and tea. I usually add a tablespoon or so of flour with the eggs so the mixture doesn’t curdle.

Step 3. Add the flour and bicarb of soda and mix thoroughly into the wet ingredients. Now either drop into cupcake cases (fill them about three quarters full) or turn into a loaf tin. The tin needs to be non-stick, or greased and lined with baking paper. This mixture made 6 cupcakes and 1 loaf for me.

Step 4. If making cupcakes, bake for 30-35 minutes at 170C/Gas Mark 4. For a loaf, bake at the same temperature but for 40-45 minutes. When the top is springy to touch and a skewer (or a piece of uncooked spaghetti) inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out with only a few tiny moist crumbs on – if its completely clean the cake may be too dry – the cake(s) are ready. Leave to cool on a wire rack then store in an airtight tin. Banana cake usually keeps well for a good few days as its quite moist.

**Notes**

The ingredients list says to use a quarter (i.e. 2.5 ounces) brown sugar to three quarters white – this was the ratio I happened to have in my cupboards as I was running out of brown sugar. I’ve made banana cake with all  brown and all white sugar before and its been fine; use whatever ratio you prefer, though the 1/4 brown to 3/4 white did work well for the cupcakes. I think that’s everything really; as I said before, use trial and error for your own spice mix to see what suits your tastes. Hope you enjoy these cupcakes as much as I did!

Sources: Betty Crocker ‘Chai Cake’ recipe, my mum’s banana cake recipe, various chai tea and spiced cake recipes.

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Til next time x

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Peppermint Tea Cupcakes

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I don’t like to drink normal tea – by ‘normal’ I mean PG Tips, Tetleys, good ol’ Yorkshire, you get the picture – which is a fact my Yorkshire friends have never been able to comprehend. One of my flatmates got me into peppermint tea in my first year at uni though,  so I now have an alternative hot drink (aside from hot chocolate which gets pretty calorific if you try and keep up with the tea drinkers) for those awkward moments when someone goes “WHAT?? You don’t like TEA??” 

One particular afternoon earlier this week, I was relaxing on the sofa in our living room, eating a bowl of hot, fragrant casserole and reading my book. Ahhh. I am, however, currently wincing my way through Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho for my course, so it wasn’t all quite as cosy as it sounds. I had an sudden urge to bake – in reality probably just an excuse to put my book down, which is saying something for me – so I flicked through my ‘Cake Days’ book and came across a recipe for Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes, with a variation listed at the bottom… the Hummingbird Bakery had triumphed once again! Peppermint Tea Cupcakes were on the menu; the perfect combination of my taste in hot drinks and the available contents of my cupboard.

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Not exactly light bedtime reading…

This is a really easy recipe, but also something a bit different. The peppermint flavour is subtle; steep the teabags for as long as you want (30 minutes minimum) but obviously the longer the time the stronger the flavour. You could also experiment with frostings and drizzles. I’ve used a (completely improvised) mint chocolate sauce that sets to a fudgey consistency, but a peppermint or chocolate buttercream  would be really nice as well. Similarly, I’m all for tea diversity – go with the original recipe using Earl Grey, or try out fruit and other herbal teas. Make up a frosting to match; for example vanilla would be lovely with the earl grey cakes and decorate with corresponding petals/chocolates/sprigs..it’s all about the flavour-decoration coordination, guys.

Ingredients:

  • 3 peppermint teabags
  • 3tbsp just-boiled water
  • 80g butter (unsalted, softened)
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder (yes, 1 tablespoon – I know its a lot!)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 200ml milk
  • 2 large eggs

 

Method:

Step 1. Put the teabags in a bowl and cover with the boiled water. Leave to brew for 30 minutes or longer.

Step 2. Mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt (all the dry ingredients) together until the mixture looks like fine sand, or breadcrumbs. This is easier with an electric whisk but persevere by hand; it looks like it won’t ever come together, but it will. Trust your ingredients.

Step 3. Measure out the milk into a jug, then whisk in the eggs. Squeeze all the liquid out of the teabags into the eggs and milk, including any liquid left in the bowl from the steeping. If the tea is strong the mixture goes a nice milky-coffee-beige colour. KEEP THE TEABAGS if you want to make the Hummingbird frosting, which I will write out the recipe for below.

Step 4. Add about two thirds of the milk-egg-tea liquid to the dry ingredients and combine carefully. Add a little more til the batter is smooth, then beat in the last bit to get a lump-free mixture. Hummingbird cake mixture is runnier than normal; don’t panic! They rise beautifully and stay very moist that way.

Step 5. Ladle even amounts of batter into cupcake cases lining a 12 hole muffin or cupcake tin. The mixture will make more than 12 cakes, so if you have two trays, use two, if not, bake them in batches.The cases should be about 2 thirds full before baking to allow the mixture to rise.

Step 6. Bake the cupcakes in the oven at 190C/Gas Mark 5 for 18-20 minutes. Don’t open the door before the first 18 minutes are up! It will more than likely deflate the cakes. They are ready when the tops are golden and springy to the touch. Take them out, leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so, then cool completely on a wire rack before decorating.

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Getting artistic (i.e. messy) with the chocolate sauce

 

So my ‘icing’ was something of an experiment – I didn’t have any icing sugar or butter left. Basically, I steeped the peppermint teabags used for the cake mixture in some milk (use fresh one if they split when you squeezed them out; I went through a complicated process of filtering through kitchen towel when this happened to me) for around half an hour again, then melted some dark chocolate, heated the minty milk and mixed the two together to make a glossy chocolate sauce. I’m afraid I have no idea of quantities; measure by eye based on what you think you’ll need. I always make too much icing, I find it goes further than you think. Don’t make the chocolate sauce too runny by adding lots and lots of milk – it won’t set as well. Drizzle over your cupcakes when the sauce is still warm and leave to go gooey. Pretty yummy for an experiment!

Alternatively, here is the recipe for the Hummingbird frosting for these cakes:

Ingredients:

  • 50ml milk
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 160g butter (unsalted)

 

Method:

Step 1. Put the peppermint teabags in a bowl with the milk and leave for half an hour to infuse. 

Step 2. Whisk the butter and icing sugar together – on a low speed if using an electric mixer – until no lumps of butter are left. Add the milk, again squeezing out all the liquid from the teabags, whilst mixing slowly, then whisk vigorously until the frosting is soft and fluffy. 

Step 3. Swirl onto the cupcakes with a palette knife or the back of a teaspoon. Enjoy!

Source: Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days Cookbook, ‘Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes’ (Variations). Thanks for reading 🙂