Caramel Filled Banana Bread Cupcakes

Where do bananas go when they die? They go to Heaven...in a cupcake form. After making these and taking my first bite, I said out loud to no one, "THESE ARE THE BEST THINGS I'VE EVER MADE". And I stick by that.

I had four overly-ripe bananas staring at me so I knew it was banana bread time. I love it and my son loves it so it's a given that each time we stumble upon the forgotten fruit, it gets turned into banana bread. The day before however, one of my clients told me about a local bakery that makes banana bread cupcakes. I declared right then and there to come up with a recipe to put a spin on my usual afterlife for bananas.

The results were so so good. It is the perfect balance; not too sweet, not too "bread-y". The homemade caramel oozes out from the center of the cake when you take your first bite, adding the perfect sweetness to the soft banana bread. The cream cheese frosting is like a cozy fluffy blanket, not overly sweet but just right. Goldilocks would approve. I want you to make these and then come back here and thank me for making the world a better place.

CUPCAKE INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt                                                                                                                                      1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 ripe bananas), plus 1 whole banana, for garnish (optional)
2 large eggs

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Make a well in center of flour mixture. In well, mix together butter, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to incorporate flour mixture (do not overmix). Dividing evenly, spoon batter into muffin cups.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely on a wire rack. Core out a "tunnel" through the top of the cupcake down through the inside, making a well for the caramel filling. Discard (EAT) the cored insides of the cupcake.

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HOMEMADE CARAMEL FILLING INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1-2 - 3/4 cup evaporated milk

DIRECTIONS

Add butter, brown sugar, water, and salt to medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously until the better melts.
Once the better has melted bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and 1/2 cup evaporated milk. Stir until smooth. Add more evaporated milk if you'd like a thinner consistency. After the caramel thickens to the desired consistency, use a tablespoon to spoon it into the cupcake wells. Fill each cupcake to the top.
To store, pour mixture into a mason jar and refrigerate for up to a week. Re-warm it in the microwave for a few seconds before serving.

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CREAM CHEESE FROSTING INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar, plus more as needed

DIRECTIONS

In large bowl, beat softened butter and cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed 2 to 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally, until smooth and creamy.
Stir in vanilla, then stir in powdered sugar. Add more powdered sugar as needed until frosting is a thick spreadable consistency.
Spread or pipe frosting on cooled cake or cupcakes.

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Enjoy!