I did not bake cupcakes during maternity leave (though I did manage some brownies), but my husband did. His office was holding a bake-off, and he was all in. He wanted to bake banana bread rum cupcakes with cream cheese icing and a rum sauce on top. I did not help him bake or frost the cupcakes–I promise!–but I did develop the recipe (below!) for him.

The banana rum cake turned out great. It hit the mark between the taste of both banana bread and rum cake but was lighter than those baked goods typically are.

I’m not providing a recipe for the butter rum sauce, as it requires more testing. We started with too much cornstarch, ended up heavily “watering” it down with rum. It worked, but I’m not sure I could replicate it. It was made from Mount Gay Rum, cornstarch, brown sugar, and butter.

The cupcakes lost third place by one vote! They garnered many sweet comments from happy tasters, though.

My husband was disappointed the final product did not taste more boozy. If that is your goal, I would recommend more rum poured over the top of the cupcakes pre-frosting. You could do a rum glaze instead of the cream cheese frosting, more like a typical rum Bundt cake, but that would be a different dessert.

Recipe: Banana Rum Cupcakes

Makes 2 dozen

1 cup dark rum
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup (8 oz.) sour cream
1 1/3 cup pureed banana (2-3 bananas)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.

Bring rum and butter to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Turn heat off and let cool. Add sugar to mixture and whisk to combine.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.

Combine the eggs and sour cream on medium speed in a mixer with the whisk attachment.

Slowly add cooled rum mixture to the egg mixture.

Add the sifted flour mixture (1/3 at a time) to the rum-egg mixture.

Mix in the banana purée.

Scoop into pans and bake for 20-24 minutes (turning halfway through) or until the tops are firm to the touch. Let cool in pans on wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove from pans.

Dribble a teaspoon of rum over each baked cupcake when you take them out of the pans.

Let cool completely before frosting.

Frosting Recipe

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These Seckel Pears from Red Jacket Orchards, NY, showed up as part of my Local Roots NYC fruit share.

Seckel Pears for cupcakes

Pears with spices seemed like a good match for a fall cookout, so I got to baking. Recipe below! You can use 2 or 3 regular-sized pears or several small pears as I did.

Baking Pear Cupcakes

They are somewhat hefty because of the chunks of pears, but moist and not too dense.

Pear Cupcake

We had Blue Pig Apple Cider Sorbet on the side, which was a nice pairing.

Recipe: Pear Cupcakes

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups pears (peeled and diced)

Preheat the oven to 350° F, and line your pans with cupcake liners.

Beat the butter and sugar on medium until creamed. Add the egg, then the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.

Slowly add the flour mixture on low-medium until just combined, then mix in the diced pears.

Scoop into pan with a ice cream scoop or your preferred method, filling cups about 2/3.

Bake for 20 minutes, turning pans halfway through.

Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a rack before frosting with vanilla buttercream or your choice!

Frosting Recipe

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I baked chocolate cupcakes for a chocolate lover’s birthday. I wanted a silky ganache frosting, but it didn’t exactly turn out that way.

I used some milk chocolate and some semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted with heavy cream. After chilling, I whipped this chocolate-y concoction with some vanilla extract and a touch of powdered sugar.

Note that the window is small for the perfect whipped ganache. Mine went from liquid to overwhipped (that interesting “texture” you see pictured above wasn’t intended) in the blink of an eye. I didn’t have time–or supplies–to start over, so I rolled with it. Still tasted good!

Chocolate Cupcake

I’ll let you know next time I give this frosting a shot!

Some whipped ganache recipes, if you want to try:

Your Cup of Cake
Martha Stewart

Chocolate Cupcake with milk
Nothing like a fresh, cold glass of milk with a chocolate cupcake!

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I’ve baked cupcakes for my friends’ son each year of his life (all 8 of them). This year he requested cherries and chocolate!

I pitted and chopped a cup of fresh cherries, which I added with mini chocolate chips to vanilla cake batter. For the tops, I grabbed a jar of maraschino cherries, the ones every Shirley-Temple-loving kiddo knows best.

Inside the Cherry Chocolate Chip Cupcake

I used cocoa candy melts to make the chocolate sauce, so my dribbles would harden à la Magic Shell. I liked the look, and it was less messy than chocolate syrup.

Kids and adults alike seemed to be fans! There was one boy who pulled the cherries off five otherwise untouched cupcakes, so I guess at least the cherries were a hit. Ah, to be 8 years old…

Recipe: Cherry Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Makes 36 cupcakes

2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
16 oz. sour cream
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 cup chopped fresh cherries
1 cup mini chocolate chips
maraschino cherries (for tops)
Optional: Wilton Cocoa Candy Melts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).

Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium-high.

Lower speed and add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla. Mix on medium until light and fluffy.

Sift together the baking powder, salt and flour.

Add half of the flour mixture, followed by sour cream, and then add the rest of the flour mixture. Mix until combined.

Add the chopped cherries and mini chocolate chips, mixing on low or by hand.

Scoop cupcakes into liners and and bake for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.

Frost with vanilla buttercream, and top with maraschino cherry.

Optional: Heat Wilton Cocoa Candy Melts (or similar) to drizzle over frosted cupcakes.

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For my husband’s birthday treat, I baked cupcakes using hazelnuts and Rigoni di Asiago‘s Nocciolata, an Italian hazelnut-cocoa spread. I could eat this stuff by the spoonful, but I restrained myself and saved it for baking!

Nocciolata Hazelnut Spread and Ground Hazelnuts

I ground hazelnuts in our small food processor and combined them with the other dry ingredients. I ground them rather fine with some slightly larger bits, but you could vary depending on how “nutty” you wanted your cake.

Hazelnut Cupcakes

The frosting involved more Nocciolata mixed together with butter, powdered sugar, and milk. (Again…just give me a spoon!)

Recipe below!

Nocciolata Cupcakes

Thank you to Rigoni di Asiago for providng me a sample of Nocciolata! The Italian company offers products exclusively from sustainable, organic farming. In addition to the hazelnut spread, they produce honey, fruit spreads, and a sweetener derived from apples. Learn more at www.rigonidiasiago.com.

Recipe: Hazelnut-Cocoa Cupcakes

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup ground hazelnuts
1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
3 ounces Nocciolata Hazelnut Spread with Cocoa
FROSTING:
1 stick butter
6 ounces Nocciolata Hazelnut Spread with Cocoa
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 pound powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.

Cream the butter and sugar at medium speed, then reduce to low. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla extract.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix together with ground hazelnuts.

While mixing on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the bowl, then the milk, then another 1/3. Add the Nocciolata before the rest of the dry ingredients.

Scoop batter into lined muffin tins with an ice cream scoop. Bake about 18 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.

Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan, then move to racks to cool completely.

For frosting: Beat the butter and Nocciolata until smooth and add the vanilla extract. Slowly add the powdered sugar, then the milk. Add a little more milk if frosting is too thick or not smooth. Add more powdered sugar if the frosting is too runny.

Frost the cupcakes once they reach room temperature. Top with a whole hazelnut, if you so desire!

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