Today, I’m happy to present you with a plate of pretty little vegan banana coconut cupcakes…Unfortunately, getting the recipe together wasn’t as pretty and there was a lot of drama.
The drama was to do with getting a structurally sound vegan frosting without the use of vegan butter or margarine because
a) I’m not overly keen on them
b) I cannot get them here anyway.
In an attempt to make an ideal frosting, I made so many different incarnations of it that I felt like a crazy scientist sometimes – surrounded by dozen of tiny bowls filled with various concoctions and meticulously writing down the results in a notebook. Finally, I cracked it – or so I thought – and came up with peanut butter frosting, which went well with banana, I thought.
The texture of the frosting was perfect, it was easy to pipe, it wasn’t grainy, it wasn’t oily and it didn’t melt at room temperature – I was happy. I decided to get a second opinion though because sometimes when you are really pining for a certain result your brain may fool you into believing that you got it for the fear of having to try again. My three testers’ response to the cupcakes was unanimous – ‘the cupcakes were delicious but not a massive fan of peanut butter frosting’. My brain was having a laugh then…
Once I got over a massive bout of self-doubt, I started to think how to fix the problem. The cool thing about using peanut butter was that it stabilised the coconut cream well and gave the frosting the desired consistency. Since my testers weren’t overly keen on was the taste of the peanuts, I started wondering whether the icing would work better if I removed the peanut flavour and replaced it with coconut. Bananas and coconut, it’s not a bad flavour combo, right?
The logical next step was to whip up homemade coconut butter. I wasn’t sure if my food processor would be up for the job, but it did a great job with various nut butters so why the heck not? It took about 8 minutes (with a few breaks thrown in as I didn’t want him to die on the job) and it worked a treat.
The consistency of the frosting was just as good and the flavour did work much better too. Bingo! If you are a banana and coconut fiend, these cupcakes are definitely worth having a go. Next on my “TO MAKE” list are mango and coconut cupcakes, but it’s hard to get good mangoes here so it will have to wait until I’m able to travel to India – always good to have a purpose:).
1 and ½ cup coconut cream or 2 tins (no additives) full fat coconut milk (chilled for min 48 hrs)
2-3 tbsp maple syrup, to taste
2 bananas, sliced
dark chocolate, grated finely (optional)
If using coconut milk rather than cream, put 2 tins of full fat coconut milk into the fridge for a minimum of 48 hours. The longer it chills the better so put it into the fridge as soon as you start thinking of making these cupcakes (mine was in the fridge for 10 days). After the time has passed, remove the tins from the fridge very carefully, make sure you do not shake them. Open the tins and scoop out heavy cream that should have risen to the top (see picture below). Leave the watery part for other uses (curries, smoothies etc.). Each tin should yield about 180 ml of cream. Choose coconut milk with no additives (mine is 60% coconut and 40% water) as stabilisers will prevent the cream from separating.
Put desiccated coconut (no need to pan-roast) into a food processor. Process until coconut releases its natural oils and you get a fairly smooth coconut butter (similar to any nut butter). From time to time, stop the machine to scrape coconut of the walls with a rubber spatula. Depending on your food processor, it may take anything between 5-15 minutes to make this butter. I have a budget food processor and mine took about 8 minutes with a few breaks so that I don’t kill the motor. 100 g of coconut should give you a bit under ½ cup of butter.
In a mixing bowl, fold about 80 ml (3/8 cup or 5 tbsp) coconut butter into 1 and ½ cup coconut cream. Sweeten with maple syrup. Do not use an electric mixer or food processor to do this as coconut will continue to release its oils and the mixture will become very grainy. Fold it gently using a spoon. The frosting will have tiny bits of coconut in it, but I found the overall texture to be smooth enough. Chill the frosting for 1-2 hours before piping.
Warm up the oven to 190° C.
In one bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In another bowl combine all wet ingredients.
Pour wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir until just combined – do not overmix.
Grease standard 12 cupcake tin with a bit of coconut oil. Spoon the cupcake mixture into the tin.
Bake for about 27-30 minutes, the exact time depends on the individual oven. Remove from the oven and let them cool down completely.
While cupcakes are in the oven, make the caramel. Put sugar into a dry frying pan and let it dissolve gently on very low heat. Refrain from stirring it.
Warm up coconut milk gently – this is not essential, but it will reduce splattering once you add coconut milk into dissolved sugar.
Once the sugar melts completely and the sugar turns to an amber colour (careful not to overdo it – caramel burns very quickly), whisk 1/2 cup of coconut milk into the sugar until combined.
Warm it up again slowly until bubbles start to appear on the surface, then add the rest of coconut milk and a pinch of salt. Stir the mixture well, let it bubble for a bit and take off the heat. Let it cool before decorating the cupcakes – it will thicken slightly as it cools.
Using a bread knife, cut each cupcake horizontally into 3 pieces.
Spread caramel on the first layer, then put banana slices on top. Repeat the same for the next layer and cover with the top slice.
Pipe coconut frosting on to the top slice and sprinkle the frosting with finely grated chocolate.
*For the entire recipe, you’ll need 3 tins of full fat coconut milk (without stabilisers) OR 1 tin of coconut milk and 1 tin of coconut cream.
Like dairy cupcakes, store these in the fridge. The frosting will harden when cold so bring the cupcakes to room temperature again before serving.