When I was planning Clara’s birthday party, I was absolutely certain that I wanted to make some type of pie cupcake. Since I already had chocolaty mini pies and Nutella pie pops, I wanted the cupcakes to incorporate fruit. Clara loves bananas, so including these on the menu was pretty much a no-brainer. Plus I totally miss being around cupcakes every single day (I worked at a great cupcake shop before Clara was born) and will use any reason to make them, and obviously a birthday party for our sweet girl is one of the best reasons there is!
These cupcakes are some of the best I’ve ever made. I mean, they are filled with pastry cream, so their awesomeness should come as no surprise. I probably shouldn’t tell you that I ate it by the spoonful (and with graham crackers) the day after Clara’s party. Put it in a moist, flavorful vanilla bean cupcake and top the whole thing with freshly made whipped cream, and you are talking about one swoon-worthy cupcake. I debated between this version and another that uses roasted bananas, and I’m so glad I went this route. Banana cream pie has simple flavors and uncooked bananas. I just don’t think these would have had the same vibe if I had used roasted bananas. The pie crust toppers are so cute and also add that special touch to finish off the pie theme and flavor. I may have dipped a few of them into the pastry cream too.
*The baking cups I used are from Cake with Love on Etsy.
This recipe may seem time consuming, but you can break it into components and make them in advance. The pastry cream can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. The pie crust toppers will be fine in an airtight container for several days. The cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container overnight and filled and frosted the next day.
Start by making the pastry cream. Heat the half and half, 6 tablespoons of sugar and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar for about 15 seconds, until the mixture is creamy and the sugar has started to dissolve. Add the cornstarch and continue whisking another 30 seconds, until the mixture is pale yellow and thick. Slowly pour in the simmering half and half, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly for about 30 seconds until a few bubbles have burst on the surface and the mixture is thick and glossy. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. Place a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl and strain the pastry cream. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.
To make the cupcakes, heat oven to 350º. Line cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and seeds from the vanilla bean on medium-high for 3 minutes, until the mixture is light and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue beating an additional minute.
Add the sugar, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract. Reduce mixer speed to low and alternately add the dry ingredients and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry. Mix until just incorporated, then scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for another 15 seconds.
Divide the batter between the prepared liners, filling each about ⅔ full. I like to use a large cookie scoop. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining liners and batter.
To fill the cupcakes, remove the center using the cone method. Discard (snack on) the cones. Place a slice of banana inside of each cupcake. Add a spoonful of pastry cream and another slice of banana.
To make the frosting, combine the cream and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, taking care not to over-beat. (If you're worried, you can always use the mixer until soft peaks form and then finish it off by hand.) Blend in the vanilla. Transfer the whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe a swirl of whipped cream onto each cupcake.
To finish, heat the oven to 400º. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat or parchment paper. Roll out the pie dough on a lightly floured surface and cut small decorative rounds with a cookie cutter. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and lightly brush with egg wash. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until light golden brown. Allow to cool completely. Just before serving, top cupcakes with a round of pie crust and another slice of banana.