Banana Cupcakes, Not Chocolate

Some seven months ago, when I got a husband, I also got a new sister-in-law — the baby of E’s family, Marni. There’s more than a decade between us, so while I’m monitoring mortgage interest rates, she’s more concerned with who to invite to her next sleepover. The up-side to the age difference is that since we have our own place, she can get out of the house and stay over with us pretty frequently — not as often as we’d like, but we take what we can get.

Those of you with kids (or those of you, like me, who still remember being on the cusp of junior high) will understand — no matter how hard you try, sometimes you can’t engage a 12-year-old in anything. We’ve taken her to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, fun restaurants, and even with us to run mundane errands. All are met with the similar, unflinching, unenthusiastic, “I don’t know,” response.

Except making ice cream and eating baked goods, that is. But while we were out of nearly every ingredient needed to make ice cream, we had everything necessary for cupcakes. We could have made chocolate cupcakes — E’s preference — but the one trait I keep expecting Marni to outgrow is her dislike for anything chocolate (sacrilege). The most I’ve ever seen her eat is the coating on a Moo Jr. So what were we to do? The girl loves banana-flavored anything, so we cracked open our frozen banana stash. I dug through my bookshelf and emerged brandishing my trusty, gingham-patterned copy of the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook and found a recipe for banana cake. Plus, this gave me the chance to share my buttercream frosting-making knowledge with her — a skill I’ve decided everyone should have in their repertoire.

Were these the greatest cupcakes I’ve ever made? Absolutely not. They weren’t as moist as most banana muffins, nor as sweet as traditional cupcakes. But let me tell you how awesome I felt when she said they were good with a genuine nod and smile. Yeah — pretty damn awesome. And to top it off, I bet she could recreate the buttercream frosting. To hell with the obesity epidemic, that’s something she can use to show off to her friends later. And that will win me major big-sister points — which is really the first step to getting more than a shrug and a “hrmm” out of her in the future.

Banana Cupcakes
Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens
Makes: 20-24 cupcakes (or two 8″/9″ round cakes, or one 13×9)

Cake Ingredients:
2 eggs, room temperature
2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 C mashed ripe bananas (defrosted in the microwave if frozen)
3/4 C buttermilk (or sour milk: 3/4 C milk + 1/2 Tbsp vinegar/lemon juice, set for 5 mins.)
1/2 C butter (or shortening)
1 tsp vanilla

Frosting Ingredients:
1 stick (1/2 C or 4oz) butter at room temperature
2-3 C powdered sugar
1-2 tsp vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir dry ingredients together.
  3. Mix in bananas, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla. Beat on low speed to combine.
  4. Add eggs; beat on medium peed for 2 minutes.
  5. Pour batter into lined cupcake pans.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees about 15 minutes, or until golden-brown at edges.
  7. Let cupcakes cool on a wire rack.
  8. Make buttercream frosting by whipping butter with an electric mixer so it’s fluffy. Mix in the vanilla, then slowly add the powdered sugar, one to two tablespoons at a time until it’s a spreadable consistency.
  9. Spread a dollop of frosting on each cupcake and enjoy!

I think that’s a smile.

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