A couple of weeks ago, we had our annual Field Day at work. For Field Day, our entire department takes the afternoon off to go to a park, have lunch with each other, and play cornhole and board games. In prior years, we’ve just done pizza for lunch but this year we opted for a potluck with barbecue as the main entree. I was told that banana pudding is the traditional accompaniment to barbecue, but I couldn’t show up with such a basic dessert, so I showed up with these caramelized banana pudding cupcakes instead.
There is admittedly a lot of banana in these cupcakes, but I promise that it’s not overpowering. It’s a mellow flavor, and there’s also a lot of caramel to help balance it out. However, if you’re at all worried about too much banana flavor, just make sure to use the less ripe yellow bananas instead of ripened, browned bananas.
These cupcakes do also take a decent amount of work. I split up the work between three evenings: Night 1, roast the bananas and make the pudding; Night 2, make the cupcakes; Night 3, make the caramel and the frosting and assemble the cupcakes for the following day. If you’re short on time, or just not interested in spending about 5 hours in the kitchen, you could use a box vanilla pudding mix and stir some roasted bananas into that, or you could skip the caramel sauce decoration. I do not recommend using premade frosting – this caramel Swiss Meringue buttercream is amazing and you will definitely miss it. However, you will definitely feel accomplished if you make these entirely from scratch, and people will be super impressed that you made homemade pudding.
Caramelized Banana Pudding and Caramelized Bananas (based on this Bon Appetit recipe)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 6 bananas
- 3 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 cups half and half
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Vanilla Banana Cupcakes
- 3 cups AP flour
- 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 4 caramelized banana halves
Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 7 egg whites
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 sticks butter, softened
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp caramel extract
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 1/2 Tbsp water
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup half and half
- Remaining 4 caramelized banana halves, diced
- Nilla wafers
- Banana chips
First things first, make the caramelized bananas. Preheat the oven to 450 F and line a baking sheet with parchment or silpats. Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon over the parchment, mixing it together with your fingers.
With a knife, poke holes in the bananas and then slice in half lengthwise, leaving the skin on. Arrange the bananas cut side down on the parchment, rubbing into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until the skins are a dark brown. Let cool.
Make the pudding. Whisk the cornstarch, salt, and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan. Slowly whisk in the half and half and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Let cool slightly before scraping four banana halves into the pudding. Puree with a stick blender until smooth. Set aside the remaining banana halves.
For the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350 F and line two twelve-count cupcake tins with liners.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Dice four caramelized banana halves and stir into the creamed butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in vanilla.
Alternately add the flour in three additions with the milk in two additions. Pour batter into liners, about 2/3 full. Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until done. Cool completely before assembling.
Make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Place the bowl on top of a saucepan of simmering water and continue to whisk until sugar is fully dissolved, about 10 minutes.
Attach the bowl to the stand mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until stiff and glossy, about 15 to 20 minutes. (Be patient with this step or else your frosting will get too soupy when you add the butter. If that happens, just stick the frosting in the fridge for about 10 minutes before continuing to beat in more butter.) Switch to the paddle attachment and beat the butter in 1 Tbsp at a time. Stir in the vanilla and caramel extract.
For the caramel sauce, cook the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until amber – do not stir, but swirl the pan. Take off the heat and add the butter and half and half. Stir and let cool before assembling. (Note: do not use a nonstick saucepan, the coating makes it harder to caramelize sugar. Also, a light colored pan will make it easier to monitor the color.)
To assemble, start by scooping out the center of each cupcake using a paring knife or a teaspoon. Dollop the pudding into the center of each cupcake, and then top with a spoonful of diced caramelized bananas. Pipe the frosting on top of each cupcake, covering the diced bananas. Drizzle caramel over top of the frosting and garnish each cupcake with one Nilla wafer and one banana chip. Enjoy!