1. We made banana cupcakes out of the Banana Cake V recipe.
As with any cake, you want the butter and eggs to be at room temperature before you begin mixing the batter.
Measure out your ingredients, preheat the oven, and prepare your pans while you wait.
Banana Cake V
2. Before you line your muffin tin with cupcake liners, spray a light coating of cooking spray over the surface of the pan, or use a paper towel to wipe a thin film of cooking oil over the top. This will help keep the tops of your cupcakes from sticking to the pan if they rise above their liners.
3. Why use liners? For one thing, they make the cupcakes easier to transport and handle. They can also add a festive touch to an already fun dessert. Finally, any cupcakes with fruit or chocolate chips in them can stick to the pan no matter how well you grease it, so liners are recommended.
4. Combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl.
5. Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
A note on creaming:
This mixing method involves beating together butter and sugar.
Unlike cookie doughs, for which you just want the sugars and butter to be well combined, cake batters require a little more work.
The butter-sugar mixture in this photo is fine for cookies, but not airy enough for cake batter.
6. The butter should be noticeably lighter in color as air is beaten into it; the mixture will look very fluffy.
7. Scrape down the beaters and the sides of the bowl. Add the room-temperature eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
8. If you use refrigerator-cold eggs, they won't incorporate into the mixture as well and will make the batter look "curdled." You want your cake batter to be smooth and homogenous.
9. After the last egg is fully incorporated, add any flavorings called for in your recipe, like vanilla extract or lemon zest. Following our banana cake recipe, we added the sour cream and mashed banana at this point.
10. Ingredients such as cake flour, baking soda, and cocoa powder should be sifted before adding them to the mixing bowl to prevent dry lumps in your baked cake.
These lumps won't be broken up by gentle mixing--and the last thing a cake batter needs is vigorous beating.
11. Once you add the dry ingredients to your cake, you just want to stir the batter until it's smooth, taking care to scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula.
12. Our favorite tool for scooping cupcake and muffin batter is a spring-loaded ice cream scoop. It's fast, it divides the batter equally between the muffin cups, and it keeps your hands clean (if that sort of thing matters to you).
These scoops come in different sizes and are numbered according to how many scoops it takes to make a quart.
Ice Cream Scoop
13. You can also use a spoon or spatula to scoop the batter; the main goal is to try to distribute the cake batter evenly among the cups.
14. Once the pan or pans are full, they should go into the hot oven immediately. The longer the cake batter sits out, the more leavening power you lose, so you should bake all of your trays of cupcakes at the same time. (Our recipe yielded one dozen cupcakes.)
15. Cakes and cupcakes bake in relatively hot ovens so that their structure is set quickly and the cake doesn't dry out during baking. Our recipe called for an oven temperature of 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Because of their small size, of course, cupcakes bake more quickly than cakes. Start checking for doneness at twenty minutes: the cupcakes should spring back when you touch the centers lightly with the tip of your finger.
16. If the surface springs back, use the toothpick test to be sure the cupcakes are done.
Insert a toothpick in the center of a cupcake and hold it there for a second before pulling it out.
If there's any wet batter on the toothpick, continue baking for a few more minutes.
If the toothpick comes out clean, or a couple of crumbs stick to the toothpick, they're done.
Cool the pan on a rack until the cupcakes are cool enough to handle, and then gently remove the cupcakes from the pan to cool completely before frosting and decorating.