1st World Problems.
That’s what we have here in the good ol’ US of A with all this craziness over….food.
Food, food, food. Everywhere and beyond these days. Back in my “yout” (that one is for all you My Cousin Vinny fans out there), there was one big magazine devoted to the preparation of food and all that went with it. Gourmet Magazine. My mom had a subscription and she still has her navy blue, gold-lettered, leather-esque binders that hold years worth of issues. It was the granddaddy of them all…that late-comer called Bon Appetit played second fiddle. And that was the extent of it, besides regular ol’ cookbooks. But NOW…whoa! There are mags upon mags, a whole food network, food celebrity chefs (which used to mean “chefs who cook for celebrities”. Now it’s “chefs who ARE celebrities”. Hmm.), competitions, cake-offs, cupcake wars (my personal favorite. So much for Afghanistan), shows called My Favorite Thing to Eat (really?), good cooks, bad cooks, bakers and bakers and more bakers all screaming at each other over fondant and piping that is mechanized and shooting flames…it’s culinary kookiness, I tell you.
And yes, I admit, I watch the Food Network (and buy cookbooks and scour recipes) all the time.
My husband will come home, walk through the room where the tv is and say “you’re watching….food? again?…I’m outta here.” It drives him completely up the wall. But this from the man who will watch Swamp People happily. Go figure. You never can tell what’s going to strike a person when they sit down to relax in front of the boob-tube.
Cupcake Wars and Sweet Genius, not to mention any of those out-of-hand gingerbread competitions, have my kids and me riveted. It’s sick. Cooking and baking have become spectator sports. I won’t even get into Iron Chef or Chopped, our new favorite. They have to make a dessert with squid ink and Cheetos? Whose 7-foot gingerbread castle with sugar windows and a fully lit spun-sugar chandelier is going to topple when they transfer it to the judging table? Who is going to come up with the most luscious cupcake that epitomizes the ExtremeGames? This is exactly what my husband calls 1st World Problems. And he’s right. In other parts of the world, there are people whose war is who-is-going-to-get-that-bag-of-rice and how-far-do-you-have-to-walk-to-get-some-fresh-water? When you think about it that way, the notion of a Cupcake War sounds absurd. And frankly, it is. It’s the height of sugary, fluff entertainment. Yes, cooking is undeniably an art form…it’s creative and innovative and brings people joy when they sit down to a wonderful meal, but must it really be elevated to these Everest-like heights? I bet you dimes to dollars that most people on the street could name 5 chefs on the Food Network but not the recent batch of Presidential hopefuls. Just taking a guess. So where I am going with this fondant-covered soapbox of mine today? Maybe we need a cupful of balance and a very generous dusting of gratitude, me thinks. If you can feed your family, enjoy cooking and shopping for food without a care in the world, then you are miles ahead of many of the folks out there. Be happy that you can, that’s all…that you can see something made on one of these shows and just decide to try making it yourself or order that cookbook on Amazon just because it looks so beautiful…that’s something to be grateful for. Some will never taste sweet fondant, experience a velvety sip of fine wine or a buttery, tender piece of filet. Not to mention taking a bite of an amazing coconut cupcake.
So… quietly now…without fanfare or headlines, I give you a cupcake recipe that a friend of mine just went crazy over…make it, enjoy it, savor it and be thankful for it. Yes, a cupcake. Be thankful for that cupcake with that cute litte wrapper and that loopy swirl of creamy frosting…because you can.
Bananas Foster Cupcake with Salted Caramel Frosting-origin: totally can’t remember. Whoops.
For the banana mixture:
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 ripe but still firm bananas, quartered (halved crosswise, then lengthwise)
2 Tb. dark rum
1/2 tsp. vanilla
For the cupcakes:
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1.5 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. dark rum
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tb. water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) salted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
Course sea salt for sprinkling
(I totally don’t usually do this, but if you need to make it taste more caramel-y, you can add some jarred caramel sauce to the frosting mixture in a pinch)
To begin…In a saute pan over medium heat, combine the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook until butter melts and sugar is dissolved. Add the banana slices and cook until tender, turning once for 1-2 minutes per side. Stir together rum and vanilla. Turn off burner and add rum mixture to pan. You can choose to ignite the rum now or just skip altogether. Tastes fine either way. Spoon bananas into bowl and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add eggs, vanilla, rum and banana mixture. Mix well. Add flour mixture alternately with sour cream, blend thoroughly but do not overmix. Pour into cupcake tins (with liners). Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on rack (and completely) before frosting.
For Frosting: Briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat. Continue to cook with stirring until mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla (just start with a tablespoon or two), stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. Be careful, as the mixture might bubble up or spatter a bit as you add the cream. Set aside until cool to touch, about 25 minutes. Ta-Dah! You just made your own caramel! Easy! Next, beat butter in bowl until light and fluffy. Slowly add powdered sugar and mix until completely incorporated. Slowly add cooled caramel mixture. Mix completely and gently. Refrigerate if not using immediately. Frost cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with the sea salt…
Oh man, you are going to love these. They’d be great for Easter….just a suggestion….