i wish i could say i had a fun story for this banana cupcakes with mocha frosting recipe. something that started with, “when i was little…” or, perhaps, “when my husband and i were in (::insert faraway location here::)…”. buuut, these cupcakes came from exactly what you would expect: bananas sitting on the kitchen counter for too long and turning black. once they get past a certain point, their fate is determined and it’s just a question of waiting for them to get a little bit darker and sweeter so that they will be “optimized” for banana bread (aka, more rotten).
i decided to make banana muffins instead of bread (because let’s be honest: muffins cook way faster than loaves of bread) and one night, as i was enjoying a muffin for dessert, i popped some coffee frozen yogurt in the bowl with the muffin because… that’s what we had in the freezer at the time. BAM! it was like a flavor light bulb went off in my head. (is a “flavor light bulb” a thing?? is now.)
banana cupcakes + coffee frosting. that was my next recipe project. knowing that the line between muffin and cupcake is often blurry but that a hefty slathering of butter and sugar was in store for the tops of the cupcakes, i opted for less sugar in the cupcake portion so that our teeth wouldn’t ache when we took the first bite. i did want to have a lighter texture though, rather than a dense, heavy banana bread crammed into a little muffin tin well. i looked at a bunch of recipes and, because i <3 excel and baking is all about ratios, i plugged a couple of leading contender recipes into a little grid so that i could compare the relative amounts of sugar, bananas, and pain-in-the-bum-to-go-out-and-buy ingredients (looking at you, buttermilk and especially crème fraiche).
happily, the recipe that i settled on to try first doesn’t have any annoying ingredients, unless you count 3 tablespoons of leftover coffee as annoying. i don’t drink coffee and, thus, don’t have leftover coffee at my disposal but since we need instant espresso for our frosting, i figured a few tablespoons of coffee wouldn’t be too much of a hardship to procure. the recipe i selected also called for just 2 bananas, which i thought promising in my quest to avoid heavy, dense cupcakes.
for my first trial, i trimmed the sugar just a little bit, based on the ratios i had seen in some of the other recipes and left out the spices (cinnamon and ginger) that didn’t jive with my coffee theme. it turned out pretty well and was almost there. ironically, one of the changes i made for round two was to add one more banana, as i thought the banana flavor could use a bit of a boost. i also swapped half of the white sugar for light brown, as some of the other recipes had called for brown sugar and i like the molasses flavor it contributes.
this whole time that i was tinkering with the banana cupcake portion, i was basically using the same general buttercream recipe, just trying to get the right amount of coffee flavor. i figured out how much instant espresso to use and decided to call it done, but there was a nagging sense in the back of my mind that the frosting was too sweet. i kept ignoring that voice though, because, hey, it’s frosting, it’s supposed to be sweet.
finally “done”, i frosted the cupcakes with the coffee buttercream, took pictures, and then enjoyed eating several of the frosted cupcakes. all the while though… that voice… too sweet.
fast forward a week or two and my next flavor light bulb goes off! i used to love chocolate buttercream for my birthday cakes but over the past few years, i’ve switched to using a chocolate sour cream frosting from my friend meredith because… it’s not too sweet! i pulled that recipe out and set to tinkering to create a less chocolate-y, more coffee-y version of the frosting and, voila! not too sweet, super delicious frosting. yay, finally! so now i can finally stop thinking about banana cupcakes with mocha frosting. by which i mean, eat the rest of the tester i assembled last night and get to work on the next recipe trial…