Chunky Monkey Cupcakes

We love the ice cream companies.  They’re masters at flavor combinations.  They survive with flavors.  (Have you ever heard of an ice cream company that sells only vanilla?)

We’re not that good.  But we can copy them.  We found bacon ice cream before bacon was a trend.  Then we made maple bacon cupcakes and donuts.  One of our best cookie mixes is pear and toasted pecan cookies, a Haagen-Dazs flavor.

And now it’s Chunky Monkey.  Ben and Jerry are giggling all the way to the bank on that one.

So we decided to make Chunky Monkey Cupcakes.  That’s not exactly an original project.  So our challenge was to make them the best.

How to Make Chunky Monkey Cupcakes

Ben and Jerry made a Chunky Monkey ice cream with bananas and chocolate and walnuts.  We could make banana nut cupcakes and frost them with chocolate.  That’s too easy, too common.  We can do better than that.

The first batch that we made was with banana cupcakes with mini chocolate chips and walnuts.  We topped them with a browned butter frosting.  That made really good cupcakes but they weren’t right.  The frosting didn’t fit and we weren’t sure that we had the balance between chocolate and banana quite right.  We went back to the drawing board.

The Strategy

Did we want to make banana cupcakes with an accent of chocolate or chocolate cupcakes with a hint of banana?  Chocolate is a much stronger flavor than banana.  We concluded that we wanted banana cupcakes with an accent of chocolate.  That’s what Ben and Jerry would have wanted.

To make them more banana than chocolate, we were going to have to have a lot of banana flavor.

So here was the strategy: Make banana nut cupcakes with chocolate pieces and walnut pieces.  That would give it chunks.  We would max out the banana flavor by putting both bananas and banana flavor in the cupcakes and adding a banana frosting.

We still needed a competitive edge, something others wouldn’t try.  We finally decided to make the centers taste like banana cream pie.  That would do it.

We were convinced.  Could we make it work?

The Recipe for Chunky Monkey Cupcakes (from a mix)

We used our Vanilla Bean Baby Cakes Mix.  It’s a cream cake, much denser and moister than box mixes.  If we tried to stack this many goodies into and on airy, box mix cupcakes, we would overload them; you would only taste the goodies with no cake to cushion the richness.

If you don’t want to use a cream cake mix, we have used a banana muffin recipe to make these cupcakes.  It has substance and makes great cupcakes.  That recipe follows.

The meringue powder in the frosting makes it stiffer and less likely to melt.  Meringue powder can give frosting a hard shell; it’s used in royal icing for wedding cakes.  In this case, we just want the frosting a little firmer.  It is also used as a stabilizer in whipped cream to retard melting.

1 Vanilla Bean Baby Cake Mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 cup mashed banana
1 1/2 teaspoons banana flavor
2/3 cup walnut pieces
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

  1. Mix the cake mix, baking powder, eggs, oil, bananas, and banana flavor together in your stand-type mixer with the paddle attachment until mixed.  Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for three minutes.
  2. Fold in the chocolate pieces and walnuts.
  3. Scrape the batter into paper liners in a muffin pan.  You should get 18 to 20 regular-sized cupcakes.
  4. Bake for 17 minutes or until done.

For the filling:

1 cup Bavarian cream pastry filling
1/3 cup mashed bananas

For the frosting:

1 teaspoon banana flavor
1 cup butter
2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
4 tablespoons milk or cream, more or less to reach the right consistency

Make a vanilla buttercream frosting from our mix or with a recipe.  Add two teaspoons banana flavor.

The Recipe for Chunky Monkey Cupcakes (from scratch)

Once upon a time, we spent a week in the test kitchen making banana muffins.  We tested and tried muffins until we knew what made them work, how to make the best banana muffins.  We adapted this cupcake recipe from our concluding muffin recipe.

From that week in the test kitchen, we learned that all bananas are not created equal.  Some are sweeter than others; some have more flavor.  Even with the best of bananas, it’s a stretch to get enough flavor.  Banana bread, cakes, and muffins need to be reinforced with banana flavor.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups ripe mashed banana
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream (not low fat)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
1 1/ 2 teaspoons banana flavor
2/3 cup walnut pieces
2/3 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.
  2. In another bowl, mix the mashed banana, sugar, sour cream, vegetable oil, water, egg yolks, and flavor together.
  3. Add wet ingredients to the dry and stir just until the ingredients are mixed well.  Fold in the nuts and chocolate chunks.
  4. Line 22 to 24 cavities with paper cupcake liners.  Divide the batter between them.
  5. Bake for 14 minutes. (Because different ovens heat and cool differently, times may vary.) Remove the cupcakes from the pan to a rack to cool.

For the filling:

1 cup Bavarian cream pastry filling
1/3 cup mashed bananas

Mix the Bavarian cream and mashed bananas together.  Place in a pastry bag equipped with a star tip.  Poke the tip into the tops of the cupcakes squeezing the filling into the centers of the cupcakes.  Frost after filling.

For the frosting:

1 teaspoon banana flavor
1 cup butter
2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
4 tablespoons milk or cream, more or less to reach the right consistency

Make a vanilla buttercream frosting from our mix or with a recipe.  Add two teaspoons banana flavor.

Yes, it worked.  It really worked.  We’ll stack these cupcakes up against any other Chunky Monkeys.

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