This was my first foray into vegan cupcake-baking, and, according to the reviews of all of my friends who tried the finished product, they are more moist and delightfully sweet than any egg-and-milk-filled competitor. This cupcake is a throwback to every one's favorite childhood (or adult!) combination of bananas topped with chocolate and peanut butter. And while there may be several steps, there are several substitutions along the way that make it easy to adapt for the cook on the go!
This is the long form of this recipe. There are several shortcuts you can take – all of which will still yield a delicious vegan product. Throughout the steps, the shortcuts will be noted in [brackets].
1 ¼ cups raw peanuts, shelled and skinned
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3/8 cup natural, unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
1 ¾ cups powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup granulated raw sugar (and extra for sprinkling)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup rice milk
1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup granulated raw sugar
½ cup mashed banana (I used the food processor), plus half a large banana for the inside of the cupcakes 2/3 cup rice milk (or almond milk, if that is your preference)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon almond extract
Start with the ganache – it can cool in the fridge once you move on to the cupcakes themselves. Toast the peanuts on a tray lined with tinfoil and drizzled with a little vegetable oil for about 10 minutes at 400F (204C).
In the meantime, plug in your food processor. Once the peanuts are toasted, grind them in the food processor until they turn into a paste – it will take a few minutes, but the paste will take form. Make sure you let it get nice and smooth – this will affect the ultimate consistency of your ganache icing. [If you’d prefer, you can substitute this step with store-bought unsweetened peanut butter. If you do this, forget the food processor and simply mix the peanut butter and the cocoa powder, powdered sugar and salt in a bowl.]
Begin to drizzle in the oil at a Tablespoon at a time. Add the cocoa powder and mix, followed by the powdered sugar and salt. Once it’s well blended, smooth, and scrumptious-looking, stop the food processor, and bring a 3- or 4-quart pot of water (just 2 inches or so of water) to a boil. In a glass bowl that will fit atop the pot but not touch the water, put the sauce from the food processor, and add the sugar, vanilla extract, and rice milk. Once the water boils, place the bowl on top of the pot, and slowly but consistently mix the sauce until it’s evenly smooth. Remove, cover with plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge until the cupcakes are done. [Don’t feel like double-boiling anything? No problem. Put the mix from either the food processor or the bowl, wherever you decided to mix it, in the microwave for 30 seconds or so. Take it out, add the remaining ingredients, and beat until smooth.]
Now it’s time to make the cupcakes! Turn the oven down to 350F (177C), if it’s still set at 400F (204C) from toasting the peanuts.
Set out two mixing bowls on your work surface – one for the wet ingredients, and one for the dry. In one bowl, sift and mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Set aside. In the food processor or with a hand mixer – or a really strong hand and a fork – mash the banana until smooth. Place in the other bowl, and add the rice milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla and almond extracts. Mix until combined – it doesn’t have to be completely smooth or consistent.
Add the wet mixture to the dry, and combine until even. Don’t worry if there are a few small chunks. On your cutting board, grab the other banana, and slice into 12 thin rounds, about 1/8 inch thick. Slice in half again, so you have enough semi-circles equal to the number of mini cupcakes you’ll be making.
Place your cupcake liners in the mini cupcake tin. Fill each liner 1/3 of the way with your batter. Now, add one half-slice of banana to each cupcake for a surprise banana treat inside the cake. Finally, add more batter so the cupcakes are about 2/3, if not slightly more, of the way full. Slide in the oven and bake for 17-20 minutes for mini cupcakes, and 22-25 minutes for larger ones. Let the cupcakes cool completely before topping with the ganache icing, and sprinkle with raw sugar. Enjoy!