PB&B Vegan Cupcakes

I am currently typing this at the airport terminal as a last-minute attempt to share something with you before I take off for two weeks. Three of us in the department are being sent to a week long statistics summer course at Penn State and the prep has been a scramble. It’s amazing just how many things you can get done before a trip that are not actually on your to-do list. I’ve been very productive and still haven’t managed to write a single word of the report that’s due  upon my return; funny how that happens.

I’m really looking forward to the trip though, and – as a bonus – I’m taking a detour home to Vermont for a week on the way back. It’ll be great to see family and friends again, not to mention my old food haunts and (of course) the climbing gym! 🙂 The hardest part of traveling will definitely be keeping to a strict work schedule the whole time, but once I get into the swing of things writing-wise I can usually churn things out pretty quickly. I just have to start the darn thing. So, enough chatting! Let’s get down to business…

These cupcakes are another miraculous creation by the Post Punk Kitchen and are little servings of peanut-butter-banana heaven…okay, maybe not so little: I love to make my cupcakes in jumbo pans so you’re getting less of a “cupcake” and more of a “personal-sized cake” complete with a small mountain of frosting. However you choose to make this – mini to jumbo to full sized cake – you won’t be disappointed. We all know I’m a bit biased (see Jimmy Carter Smoothy and Buckeye Ice Cream), but even if you’re not a huge peanut butter fan I’m confident that you’ll love these and no one will ever be able to tell their vegan unless you let it slip!

PB&B Vegan Cupcakes

(very slightly adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World!)

Ingredients:

For the Cupcakes…

½   C   overripe mashed banana

1¼   C   AP flour

¼   t   baking soda

1   t   baking powder

½   t   salt

¾   C   sugar

1/3   C   vegetable or canola oil

2/3   C   soy, almond, or rice milk*

1½   t   vanilla extract

½   t   almond extract

* Note: I’d recommend them in that order. The soy and almond milks have a creaminess the rice milk lacks and the soy milk will provide a more neutral base.

For the Frosting…

½   C   margarine (Earth Balance is awesome), softened

4   T   shortening

2/3   C   creamy peanut butter**

2   T   molasses

3   t   vanilla extract

1½ – 2   C   confectioner’s sugar, sifted

2 – 4   T   soy milk, more as needed

banana chips, vegan chocolate chips, chopped peanuts for garnish as desired

** Note: Use organic if possible (better flavor) and I love the brands that give you the “just peanuts” option (i.e. no salt , sugar, or added oil). If you’re using peanut butter with added salt, sugar, and/or oil, just omit the salt in the recipe entirely and reduce the amount of oil and sugar to taste.

Procedure:

1) Preheat oven to 350°F (325 if making jumbo) and prep pans with cupcake liners. Blend banana in a food processor or mash with a fork until completely smooth.

2) In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar together and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, soy milk, vanilla extract, almond extract, and mashed banana. Make a hollow in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet banana blend. Fold the wet mixture into the dry until just incorporated (don’t overmix! Small lumps are fine) and fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way. Bake 20 – 25 minutes (35 – 40 for jumbo) or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Completely cool before frosting.

3) In the last 10 minutes of the cupcakes cooling time, whip up the frosting: with an electric mixer, cream together the margarine and shortening until smooth. Add peanut butter, molasses, and vanilla and beat again until very smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat until incorporated – frosting will be very thick! – and taste, add more sugar if desired. Finally, dribble in soy milk while beating until frosting is pale, fluffy, and spreadable.

4) Frost the (completely cooled) cupcakes generously with PB frosting and top with banana chips, chopped peanuts, and/or banana chips as desired. Will maintain their shape without refrigeration (in reasonable temperatures) so these babies also travel well and will keep for 3 days.

Beezer’s Notes:

I’m really stuck now. I can’t decide which I love more: the Cookies ‘n Cream Vegan Cupcakes or these. Both are so good I could easily eat a whole batch alone, but both are two very different flavors… so I guess it’s a tie. These PB&B Cupcakes have a delicious banana-bread like base with a fluffy peanut butter frosting that manages to be packed with flavor without being cloying sweet. I also love the toppings which make the cupcakes fun to eat and add texture. These are definitely going on my favorites list and will be made as often as my workout schedule allows, haha.

Overall Enjoyment:  ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

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Hummingbird Cupcakes

I’m going to apologize right off the bat for the short post. After a few days of feeling blissfully healthy in the middle of last week, my cold returned with a vengeance and brought with it tinnitus, pressure, extreme sensitivity, and a heat sensation in my right ear. I’ve never had an ear infection before, but something tells me I should go to the University clinic tomorrow…

BUT you don’t want to hear about it and I don’t want to write about it. In fact, I want to take another ibuprofen, crawl back under my comforter, and watch the Oscars online. However, these cupcakes I made at Brad’s request were just so good I feel obligated to share the recipe on time – you just have to know about these! (those of you who’ve known about them for years, feel free to gloat).

I adjusted this recipe only slightly to better suit our tastes. I halved the sugar in the batter and subbed a bit of honey in for confectioner’s sugar in the frosting. The result was an almost savory cake (think banana nut bread with highlights of pineapple) and a just-sweet-enough cream cheese frosting. In fact, I reduce the sugar in the frosting twice: some of my “guinea pigs” reported back that the initial frosting, while yummy, was still a tad too sweet. Keeping in mind that honey is one of the sweetest sugars there is, I reduced the powdered sugar a bit further for the final round of cupcakes given to the birthday boy. He agrees that these are one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever made (rivaling even my Cookies ‘n Cream Vegan Cupcakes) and has already put in an order for next year, haha. 

Hummingbird Cupcakes (adapted slightly from Bake or Break)

*makes 35 normal or 18 jumbo cupcakes *

Ingredients:

For the Cupcakes…

3   C   AP flour

1   t   baking soda

1   t   salt

1   C   granulated sugar

1   t   cinnamon

3   large eggs, beaten

1   C   vegetable or canola oil

1½   t   vanilla extract

8   oz.  crushed pineapple w/ juice*

1   C   chopped pecans

2   C   chopped very ripe bananas

finely chopped pecans for garnish

* Note: If you can find an 8 oz. can of crushed pineapple, just dump the whole thing in. If you’re like me and can only find larger sizes, just make sure to include some juice with the pineapple (I did roughly 2 parts pineapple chunks to 1 part juice).

For the Frosting…

8   oz.   cream cheese, softened

½   C   butter, softened

1   t   vanilla extract

1   T   honey

8   oz.   sifted confectioner’s sugar, plus more to taste

Procedure:

1) Preheat oven to 350°F and prep cupcake pans with paper liners (or grease and flour pans if not using liners).

2) In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. Add the eggs and oil, stirring until the dry ingredients are moistened (it will be tough, the batter is very dry here, but just keep stirring until it’s as homogeneously moist as you can make it). Stir in vanilla, pineapple, pecans, and bananas – mushing the bananas as you go to thicken the batter. I left quite a lot of larger chunks in mine because I love lots of texture, but my batter also turned out baking somewhat unevenly. Either mash your fruit up well or be careful how you divvy up the batter.

3) Pour batter into prepared pans, filling cups nearly to the rim (these don’t rise much). Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cupcakes to cool in pans for at least 5 minutes before removing them to cool completely.

4) As cupcakes are cooling (you want them completely cool before frosting), prepare the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter until creamy before adding the honey and vanilla. Add sugar gradually until frosting is light and fluffy. Give the frosting a taste-test (you know you want to) and add more sugar if desired.

5) Once cupcakes have fully cooled, frost them (I’m still using a ziplock freezer-bag, myself) and top with finely chopped nuts. Serve immediately or store in fridge if they have to sit a while or else the cream cheese frosting will turn gooey.

Beezer’s Notes:

When I first bit into one of these hummingbird cupcakes I immediately thought, “Oh man, my mother would LOVE these!” followed quickly by “…and my grandmother…” then “…and my Dad…” and I continued to list off nearly everyone I knew. That’s the magic in these cupcakes: their unique flavor combination of fruity/nutty/sweet-yet-savory can please almost any pallet. While all of the ingredients are key, I’m starting to believe the pineapple provides that secret something that takes the flavor over the top. I kept hearing, “Wow, it’s just like banana bread…but better!” and that’s also given me the idea to make this recipe into mini-loaves next time. Brad ate a cupcake without the frosting and declared it just as good, so there you are. As far as cupcakes go, these cuties are on the healthier side already (what with the fruit base, nuts, and reduced sugar) but bake them up as loaves and serve without frosting if you’re looking to cut back just a bit more.

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

Jimmy Carter Smoothy

Unless you have an allergy, there are very few pairings as magical as peanut butter and banana. One of my favorite sandwiches growing up had slices of bananas on crunchy peanut butter (it had to be Jif-brand back then, I wasn’t a hippie yet haha) with a liberal dusting of cinnamon on top. I’d eat the sandwich by tearing pieces off in chunks, so the super-soft white sandwich bread was always the best kind to use. Occasionally I’d toast the bread or add chocolate chips just to mix it up a bit. To this day you’ll still find the occasional PB&B sandwich in my lunchbag – or crammed into my little bento box – because I just don’t feel like anything else. Yup, I definitely think the PB&B sandwich has taken the backseat to the classic PB&J for far too long.

(use creamy PB in your smoothy unless you'd prefer the chunks - I just only had crunchy in my cupboard at the time of this photo)

So when I stumbled across something called a “Jimmy Carter Shake” at a food joint back in VT I had to try it. It was called a shake, but was made with non-fat froyo and skim milk so it wasn’t exactly a dessert. Still, with all the calories of the peanut butter it isn’t exactly a health-food either. It had a deliciously thick consistency and you could easily taste both the bananas and peanut butter without either being too sweet. It was the perfect snack for a hot summer day and I vowed to one day learn to recreate it at home.

Jimmy Carter Smoothy (inspired by Boloco’s Jimmy Carter Shake)

Ingredients:

1   Cup   non-fat vanilla frozen yogurt (learn how to make your own here)

2   T   creamy peanut butter, preferably organic

1½   fresh ripe bananas, sliced

¾   Cup   low-fat milk

handful of ice cubs, if needed

Procedure:

  1. Put all ingredients in a blender, except for the ice cubes. Pulse until chunks have broken up and then blend on medium speed until smooth. If needed adjust for consistency and taste – because so many brands of PB differ and the sweetness will change depending on how ripe your bananas are, you really just have to play as you go here. I’ve never had to add sugar, but I’ve frequently added more banana slices or milk depending.
  2. Finally, if you don’t find your smoothy thick or cold enough, add the ice cubes and pulse until just incorporated. Serve immediately.


Beezer’s Notes:

I love how this smoothy is like a PB&B sandwich plus milk all in one! I, for one, am calling it a smoothy because it is a froyo base with fruit (I’m not counting calories haha). I’m sorry the recipe is so open-ended, but your flavor and texture really will vary quite a bit depending on brands, ripeness of fruit, and what kind of froyo you’re using. It can even be adapted to be gluten-free (just make sure you buy a gluten-free peanut butter) or vegan (use vegan ice cream and soy or almond milk). You could also spice things up a bit with a teaspoon of cinnamon or a pinch of nutmeg. Or here’s a thought: what if you tried chocolate froyo as the base instead? Oooo…

Overall Enjoyment:  ♥   ♥   ♥

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