When I was in grammar school, we were poor. Not destitute, but poor. I knew that was the case, but I didn't know just how poor we were until I was much older. Then I learned how hard my mom worked to hold things together, the ways she scrimped, often skipping meals for herself when the food budget was tight. She knew how to sew and made most of my clothes, so I never felt embarrassed about the way I looked. But, I knew things were different for us when I visited my friend's houses. They always had fresh milk, while we drank reconstituted powdered milk, which I hated with a red hot passion. We rarely had dessert, and if we did, it was usually Jello. Forget about fancy snacks like Oreos. I ate graham crackers so often, I dislike them now. But occasionally, mom would surprise me with a cupcake. It was always a yellow cupcake with peanut butter frosting. I still have a snapshot memory of her holding out the cupcake to me when I was about seven years old. I thought it was the best thing a person could ever eat, and I knew she made it just for me. If you're a parent with a small child, never underestimate the power of a special cookie or cupcake.
Recently Garrett at Vanilla-Garlic and Cheryl at Cupcake Bakeshop decided to hold a Cupcake Roundup, asking people to come up with a cupcake. I knew that mine would have peanut butter frosting, something I haven't had since I was a child. Remembering Elvis' favorite treat, I decided to make a banana cupcake with peanut butter frosting. It would be an Elvis Presley special--a hunk of burnin' love cupcake. The hunk would come from a piece of chocolate stuck in the middle of each cupcake. The burning love would come from a pinch of cayenne pepper in the frosting. Yes, cayenne pepper.
If you'd like to see the Roundup of other cupcakes, check with Garrett and Cheryl on January 29th.
Why put cayenne into perfectly innocent peanut butter frosting? Well, chilis are often paired with chocolate. So, I used a very small pinch of Penzeys cayenne. And if you use Penzeys, you'd best make it just a pinch, since their chili powders are more potent than those sold in the grocery store. The pinch of cayenne didn't make the frosting taste hot, but it did make give the frosting a faint smokiness that cut the sweetness a bit. Of course, you can leave the cayenne out.
After I frosted all the cupcakes, I ate two, which were wonderful. What a nice experience to have peanut butter frosting again! And it paired very well with the banana cake. Then I set two cupcakes aside for Bob and took the rest of the cupcakes to my friend Nancy's house. She has two active teenagers who would make short work of them.
Banana-Nut Cake (Meta Givens Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking)
1-3/4 cups cake flour or 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup mashed, well ripened bananas, about 2 medium, mashed into a fine paste
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanillla
1/3 cup fine chopped nutes
Combine flour with soda and salt, set aside. Add lemon juice to the bananas, and stir in the buttermilk. Set aside.
Cream the butter well and add the sugar gradually and cream well. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Add the vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with banana mixture in 3 or 4 portions with the dry ingredients last. Fold in nuts. Spoon the batter into cupcake liners set in a muffin pan so that they are a little more than half full. Bake in a preheated oven set at 375 degrees F. Bake for about 15 minutes or until they test done. Cool in the pans on a cake rack for about 5 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely.
Peanut Butter Frosting (Adapted from Meta Givens)
(Note: I doubled this recipe and had a little left over. I froze it. For another day!)
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup peanut butter
3 cups powdered sugar
2-4 Tbsp. milk
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 small pinch cayenne pepper (Optional) Be careful!
In large bowl, combine butter, peanut butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and 2 Tbsp. milk. Mix well, adding more milk as needed to make a fluffy spreadable frosting. Frosts 8" layer cake or sides of 9" layer cake