Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Banana Cupcakes with Plum Jam Frosting #OXOGoodCookies

Mmmmm. Cupcakes.

I love when I plan comes together. I had a banana that was past its eating best, and I had a new hand mixer I wanted to test. The mixer came from OXO, along with a decorating tool that's like a cookie press married to a pastry bag.

Oooooh. I love new toys!

This month is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and OXO usually sponsors Cookies for Kids Cancer events on blogs. I missed out on this year's official events, but I shoehorned my way in, got some gear, and decided that cupcakes are sort of like cookies.

Because that's how I am.

The Cookies for Kids Cancer is one of the blogger events I really like. Bloggers don't get anything except product, but OXO donates to charity. Plus, they donate for people who hold bake sales. All the details, straight from OXO, are at the end of this post.

Meanwhile, cupcakes and gadgets.

I had been curious about the kitchen electrics from OXO since they first announced them. My favorite OXO tool is probably my vegetable peeler, but I like a whole lot of other things, too, like their containers, and their mango splitter and their cherry pitter and their cookie press. What I like best about the cookie press is the extra plates you can buy for it. I think I have them all ... but I'm a little afraid to look!

Oh, and I totally LOVE the cold brew coffee maker (reviewed here; buy it on Amazon here). I use that coffee maker pretty exclusively for my everyday coffee.

But those particular gadgets aren't electric. I was curious if the OXOness of the electrics would match the thoughtful way they design their other products.

When the OXO hand mixer arrived, there were a number of things liked about it right off the bat. It stands up very steadily with no threat of tipping. It comes with both normal beaters and swirly beaters that are designed for heavy batters. And it has a headlight.

I wondered if the light was necessary. I mean, I've had plenty of hand beaters, and none of them lit up. It's not like I make cake in the dark, right?

But here's the thing.

I was really able to see what was going on in the bowl. I could see when things were fully mixed without stopping the mixer to look inside the bowl without the mixer casting a shado.

Is it essential? Well, obviously not, because we've lived without lighted mixers for a long time. But it really does make sense. I like it. A lot.

As far as the OXO decorating tool, I was a little confused by it until I put frosting into it and started using it. Then it made perfect sense. And nice cupcakes. I don't think I'd use the tool if I wanted to make one super-long unbroken line of frosting. But that's not something I see myself doing any time soon.

The tool comes with several tips, but the good news is that standard-sized tips fit, so if you've already got a collection of them, you can use them with this tool. Both the small and large tips fit, which is even better. And the whole thing can go in the dishwasher to be cleaned. After you disassemble it, obviously.

These banana cupcakes aren't similar in to a pound cake in consistency. Not as fluffy as a sponge cake, but not as dense as banana bread.

Banana Cupcakes with Plum Jam Frosting

To make the cupcakes:
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1 mashed ripe banana

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line one 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt

In another medium mixing bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar together. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs and vanilla. Beat until well combined. Beat in the mashed banana

Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternately with two additions of the milk, beating until incorporated after each addition.

Fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full (these don't rise spectacularly, so they're fine at 3/4 full, even at high altitude). Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking until the tops are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean – about 18-20 minutes.

To make the frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese*
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons plum jam** (or to taste)
Powdered sugar, as needed (about a pound, depending on the thickness you're looking for)

Beat the cream cheese and butter until it's smooth, then add the vanilla extract and salt beat until incorporated.

Beat in the plum jam until it's incorporated.

Add the powdered sugar in increments until the consistency is what you're looking for. You can leave it softer if you're spreading the frosting on, but you'll need it firmer if you want piped designs to hold their shape. If you somehow manage to get it too thick, and more milk or jam.

*The cream cheese you choose does make a difference. I've tried making frosting with fat-free cream cheese, and I thought it tasted terrible. If you like it, go for it. BUT! The brand and type of cream cheese will affect the consistency of the frosting. You might need more or less sugar to get to a nice frosting-like consistency.

**You can use any any jam you like, or leave it out and make a vanilla frosting.

From OXO about Cookies for Kids Cancer:

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and it's a very important time for us here at OXO. Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in the U.S. The reason, sadly, is simple: lack of funding for research specific to children. Even though pediatric cancer claims the lives of more children annually than any other disease, it receives less than 4 percent of the National Cancer Institute's budget.

In 2007, Liam Witt, the son of longtime OXOnians Gretchen and Larry Witt, was diagnosed cancer at the age of 2. OXOnians regard each other as family, and news of Liam's diagnosis hit all of
us hard. Motivated to help, Gretchen and Larry had the "crazy" idea to host a larger-than-life cookie
sale, gathering more than 250 volunteers (many of whom were fellow OXOnians,) to bake and sell
96,000 cookies. The larger-than-life cookie project raised more than $420,000 to fund childhood
cancer research.

Nine months later, Gretchen and Larry launched Cookies for Kids' Cancer as a national non-profit organization, inspiring grassroots bake sales and other events with the ultimate goal of funding research for new, improved, and less toxic treatments for children. Since then, the organization has granted more than $10 million, funding 80 research projects, 32 of which are therapies that children have access to today.

Everyone at OXO was profoundly impacted when Liam lost his 4-year battle. For years, Liam was a fixture in our office. He would visit frequently, riding his orange scooter, providing unsolicited (but always helpful) product feedback and sharing his vivacious energy with everyone. From a very young age he had a clear vision of what he wanted to do when he grew up: Become a chef and run OXO. We have no doubt he would have achieved both of his goals.

Through the years, OXOnians have devoted their personal time, energy and money to support Cookies, but the company wanted to play a larger role. In 2011, the year Liam lost his battle, OXO formalized its partnership with the organization, pledging to donate up to $100,000 per year through bake sale matches and other activities. Since then, we've helped inspire other "good cookies" to raise over $1 million and host more than 1,600 events in over 170 cities globally.

Awareness is one of the most important ways to create change, and we hope you'll support us in raising awareness around this very important cause. For more information and other ways to contribute - including hosting a bake sale of your own - visit Cookies For Kids' Cancer. If you register your bake sale and select "OXO" in the drop-down menu marked "How did you hear about Cookies for Kids' Cancer?", we'll match your proceeds for events held, before December 31st, 2016.

Thanks to OXO for sending the hand mixer and decorating tool for my use. The hashtag for this promotion is #OXOGoodCookies. Look for it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.