These darlings are special. They are a birthday gift. A tribute. A throw-back.
With a twist 😉 I call these “The Marilyn.”
See, the flavor combination is one I love, and one I’ve made before. The last time I made them my mom told me that banana cake with peanut butter frosting was her mother’s (my grandmother Marilyn) favorite.
I never met my mother’s parents, but from what I’ve heard they were very elegant, sophisticated, fun people. My grandfather was an automotive engineer and so they always drove a brand new car. They lived in a modest house on a circular court. It seems like all of their neighbors had kids the same ages as my mom and her siblings who were all in this gang of pranksters (whether or not they were accountable to scary Catholic school nuns). They had parties where all the ladies dressed like Jackie O and wore their hair in smooth waves and all the men, including my grandfather, looked like Walt Cleaver.
I’m pretty sure there are pictures from these parties of the guests smoking. In someone’s house.
Jeez, remember those days??? When everyone smoked and it was no big deal. Sexy, even. Chic.
My grandmother was definitely chic. She had the most beautiful hour-glass figure, black hair and milky complexion. Like a china doll. Back then the skirts were the perfect slim A-line silhouette and everyone wore pumps. Even to a casual house party.
I should have been born back then. I don’t smoke, but the hors d’vours (how the heck do you spell that word?) were so much more elegant. And it was fashionable to drink martinis. Plural.
If I was invited to one of my grandmother’s house parties I’d bring these:
I made them this week for my aunt Pam’s birthday. I wrote her a card telling her that I made them especially for her, inspired by her mother. Banana cake with peanut butter frosting. When my mom told me this was my grandmother’s favorite, I was surprised, actually! I would have thought, if my grandmother was a cupcake she’d be vanilla-on-vanilla.
These are kind of tomboy-ish, don’t you think? And really not much to look at.
The dark chocolate ganache filling & swirl on top was my attempt to make it more sophisticated.
More Country Club worthy.
Because these are for my Aunt Pam, my mom’s closest sister. Chic. Sophisticated. “Country clubby.” Like, house-on-the 9th-green & winner of the Women’s Club Cup in golf. The woman who (herself and her home) is the absolute picture of a Ralph Lauren ad. She can wear Topsiders with great success. Big hair, always perfectly coiffed.
(My hair has only seen a coif twice in the last year and that was on my wedding weekend.)
My lovely aunt wears big rings. She’s been to China, and so the vase (vahz) on her mantel is authentic. She collects Madame Alexander dolls. She prepares and serves gourmet five-course meals on a perfectly-dressed table with antique linens, chargers, and coordinating salt and pepper shakers.
Anyway, these cupcakes don’t seem to fit that persona. They’re not pretty. They’re rustic, very brown, and homey. I thought the leopard print paper wrappers would jazz them up a bit, though. If my aunt Pam was a cupcake, she certainly wouldn’t be something this dowdy-looking.
But they are wickedly delicious. Brown sugar banana cake with chocolate chips. I made a very simple peanut butter frosting & chocolate ganache for the filling & swirl. All together they are SUPER moist & tender, not too sweet… Perfect. Very banana-y. The flavors combine so nicely. No one element dominates the others.
Actually, I like that they’re unexpected in this situation. When coming up with the perfect cupcake flavors to celebrate Pam’s birthday I started to go gourmet – peach with basil & balsamic, dark chocolate with a red wine reduction glaze, caramel fleur-de-sel, cappuccino tiramisu… Something Parisian, something that would pair well with a petit filet mingnon and an expensive cabernet.
Then I noticed the ripe bananas on my kitchen counter and remembered that Marilyn (my grandmother) loved this combo.
I’m doubting my choice today, though, as their family gathers right now for Aunt Pam’s birthday dinner. But I know when she reads my card describing “The Marilyn” she’ll love them, regardless.
If you were a cupcake, what flavor would you be?