Yes, just as Sean Connery became Sir Sean Connery and Judy Dench became Dame Judy Dench, I shall henceforth be known as Aunt Grace Gigglebottom. (No, that's not my real last name, but wouldn't it be fun?)
My brother and his wife recently added a little, itty-bitty girl to their family, naming her Lydia (wait for it) Grace. Lydia Grace! Isn't it a lovely name? Apparently, my sister-in-law had been fond of the name long before she even knew my brother or me, but I'm still flattered and thrilled.
Some of you may be unfamiliar with the story of Lydia from the Bible. She was, among other things, a seller of purple. So, in honor of Lydia Grace, I made some cupcakes and topped them with glorious purple frosting (and sprinkles!). Yes, more cupcakes. Specifically, more banana cupcakes. This is a different recipe, though, and in my opinion, a better one. The crunch and flavor of the toasted pecans is marvelous, and the cake is much more tender than that of the one making use of roasted bananas. The rich, smooth, outstanding caramel buttercream certainly didn't hurt, either. Another win, Martha!
Banana Pecan Cupcakes with (Purple!) Caramel Buttercream
(twists and tweaks to this recipe)
(makes 28 cupcakes)
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
4 very ripe large bananas, mashed (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the cupcakes, first preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla.
Cream the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the banana mixture and ending with dry, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. Stir in the pecans by hand. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks.
To make the buttercream, first bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar and the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Cook, undisturbed, until caramel is dark amber. Remove from heat, and slowly add cream, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let cool.
Beat the butter with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Place the whites and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Remove from heat, and attach bowl to a mixer. (Isn't the stand mixer a marvelous invention!?!) Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add beaten butter, cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in the vanilla.
Switch to paddle attachment. With mixer on low speed, add caramel, and beat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Use immediately, or cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (Bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth before using.)