For a coworker's birthday request, I made some cupcakes last night and brought them to work today: banana cupcakes with caramel buttercream frosting. (Another one from Martha Stewart' Cupcakes.) I should say that all she requested was "something with caramel," and I thought these sounded fun. Plus I had about 6 frozen whole bananas in my freezer.
I have to say, most of Martha's recipes dirty quite a few dishes, but this one really took the cake. I think I dirtied almost every bowl, at least two pots, several spoons, whisks, and the mixing beaters - twice. But they were really good, so I guess it was worth it, and at least Dave got a cupcake in exchange for helping with the cleanup.
The cupcake batter contained two whole cups of bananas, with the dry ingredients (brown sugar, cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon) and wet ingredients (eggs, buttermilk, butter). So that was a lot of bowls right there, but it was simple enough. Then there was the frosting.
Buttercream frosting is officially a pain in my ass. I knew I was in for some trouble when the frosting instructions are longer than the cake instructions, especially when there are fewer ingredients to start with. Let me explain how this caramel buttercream frosting is made, and then you can make a tally in your head of how many dishes I sullied in the process.
First, you make the caramel. This involves boiling sugar and a small amount of water until it turns, well, caramel brown. Then you add some cream, and it goes a little crazy, but you stir until it is smooth like a caramel sauce.
While that cools, you (1) cream some room temperature butter, and (2) simmer some egg whites and sugar over a double boiler until it is smooth - but for god's sake, don't scramble the eggs. Remove the egg mixture from heat and begin to beat until stiff peaks form. Then whip in the creamed butter one large spoonful at a time.
At this point, I would have felt better if the cookbook had said "Your frosting will look like congealed crap. Don't despair." But I soldiered on, continuing to beat the mixture and adding the vanilla and caramel, until the frosting looked something like actual frosting.
I think the banana cupcakes are another one of those Martha "cupcakes" that would be good as muffins without the frosting, but the caramel buttercream frosting really sends it over the edge.
So these are semi-healthy with the egg whites and bananas, but then again, they contain copious amounts of butter, so maybe not. But as I always say, anything made from scratch with wholesome ingredients is better than almost any of the processed stuff you can get in the middle aisles of the grocery store. (But I'll have to wait a while before I make buttercream frosting again - it'll take me that long to do all the dishes.)