Most of us here in the States will be enjoying a holiday this weekend, and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s Presidents Day (or, more officially, George Washington’s birthday that overachievers decided to turn into an all-encompassing holiday), which, let’s be honest, doesn’t mean anything in particular in the way of celebration. Maybe there are a few parades, but it’s too cold to barbecue or do any kind of outdoor activity at all, and everyone already took their big vacations in December or January, so unless you’re going skiing, there’s not much to do. Maybe that’s why they have it so close to Valentine’s Day, or vice-versa? We just crave holidays, especially in the winter. I need something to break up the monotony of cold, gray days. Valentine’s is great for that, even if you’re not in a relationship. You can spend time with your close friends or loved one, drink champagne, and eat a delicious meal – there’s nothing wrong with that! Since I was still feeling a bit under the weather, and any holiday in NYC means incredibly packed restaurants, Kramer and I opted for a meal in this year. I bought a bottle of my favorite bourbon (Basil Hayden’s) and ordered way too much sushi, but we still managed to eat it all and have a few drinks while catching up on our favorite shows. How romantic, right? I found a place that will deliver us a 20-piece platter of really good sashimi for $20. This is going to be a problem in the near future, as it’s too good a deal to pass up! Anyway, for those of you that watch Elementary…what a good episode it was this week! I could hardly sit still, I loved it so much. This morning, Kramer and I woke up, got ready for work, then got to see his dad a bit before heading into our respective offices. His dad, Jay, is in town for a couple of days, so I’m excited to catch up with him, Kramer, and Rachel tonight over dinner. I’m still unsure what we’re doing tomorrow. It depends on the weather, I suppose! What your favorite cold-weather tourist activities, fellow New Yorkers?
So, sure, I may be a day late with these, but let me explain. First of all, Valentine’s Day was on a Thursday this year, so some of you may be celebrating this weekend. In that case, you’re welcome. Secondly, hearts aren’t just for Valentine’s! My friend Megan from Take a Mega Bite can tell you all about that, isn’t that right, Megan? There are your options, guys. You don’t have to only bake cutesy, lovey dovey stuff on that one day. Break out of your usual baking molds and make something pretty and fun! That’s what I did. I usually hate making cupcakes, let’s be real. Cupcakes mean that I have to wash out my mixing bowl two times! Two! Ugh. But, Kramer suggested cupcakes, and I figured I’d do something out of the ordinary and go for it. Strawberry and banana is obviously a classic combination, but I’d never had it in cupcake form and that’s the direction I went in. We each ate more than our fair share of these frosted beauties, but I didn’t even bother frosting some miniature ones so that Kramer would be able to transport them to his office without worrying about dropping them or making a total mess. The cupcake itself is moist and full of banana flavor, with just a touch of almond, and the strawberry frosting is bursting with real, juicy strawberries, making for a lovely, uplifting cupcake experience.
My sister-in-law, Rachel, at her photography exhibition at Pratt.
Valentine’s Day means some nice bourbon in our house.
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter, cubed and room temperature
- 2 large bananas, mashed
- 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup buttermilk, well shaken (or whole milk)
- 1 cup cold butter, cubed
- ½ cup chopped strawberries, pureed
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Beat together your sugars and butter, until fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add in the mashed bananas, then the eggs, one at a time, then the extract, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all of the ingredients are well combined.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add ⅓ of the dry mixture to the banana mixture, followed by ¼ cup of buttermilk, another ⅓ of the dry mixture, the remaining ¼ cup of buttermilk, and finally the remaining ⅓ cup of dry mixture (this helps the batter to combine easier without over-beating).
- Drop the batter into your prepared muffin cups (about 2 teaspoons for mini-cupcakes, or 2-3 tablespoons for regular sized cupcakes). Bake for 10-12 minutes for miniature cupcakes, for 15-18 minutes for regular sized cupcakes. Allow to cool before frosting (recipe follows). These will keep well in an airtight container, unfrosted, for up to a week at room temperature, or frosted and refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 3 days.
- With a hand mixer or your stand mixer, beat the butter well until completely smooth. Puree the strawberries with a blender or food processor, then add half of the pureed berries to the butter, along with the almond extract. Add in the powdered sugar and beat until creamed and well combined. Taste, and add more strawberries, if you like. Frost your cupcakes immediately.