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