19 January 2007

Banana Cupcakes with Mascarpone

"I bought too many bananas, will you make cakes?" my friend Sara asked. Of course, I said, delighted at the invitation to bake and loving that I have great friends who ask me to do so. Sara has a wonderfully enthusiastic way of doing things, including buying groceries, giddily sweeping up kilos of "fruit and vege" in the markets. A peak into her fridge would reveal a huge bunch of mint popped in a vase and leaning wiltedly, pounds of fat green beans, some beginning to brown on the edges. She also has an attitude to cooking like I have to doing laundry- she'll do it when she has to.

But back to the cakes. Since that first request I've made any combination of banana cupcakes, muffins, even cookies. I never used a recipe, there was nary a measuring cup in sight, and using the antiquated oven with no temperature markings was always an adventure. Best of all was the smell of the cakes as they baked- we often huddled near the oven, in part to keep an eye on its temperamental behavior and in part because of the warmth which was much lacking in the cold and drafty Damascus apartment (yes, it gets cold in Syria, and no, the houses are not insulated).

On chilly afternoons we break open the little cakes with our tray of hibiscus tea, look out on the view of the city, and just relax.

Banana Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting
These are easy cupcakes, the kind you could imagine whipping up for an afternoon treat. Cream cheese frosting would be just as good or forgo the frosting altogether and call them muffins.

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 cup (1/4 lb) butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 large bananas, mashed very well
3/4 cup buttermilk

- Preheat the oven to 350. In a bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until pale and light. Add the mashed banana, stirring to smooth, then beat in the two eggs. Add half the flour mixture to the bowl, then add the milk and the remaining flour mixture. Stir just to combine.
- Pour the batter into greased muffin tins. Bake until risen and golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool, then frost with mascarpone frosting (recipe below).

This also makes great banana bread, bake in a loaf pan for one hour.
If you don't have buttermilk, stir a teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar into regular milk.

Mascarpone Frosting

8 oz mascarpone
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbl vanilla extract
1/2 cup whipping cream

- Combine all the ingredients and beat on high speed until the mixture is thick and smooth.