Making Sense of Leftovers: Pumpkin Banana Cupcakes with Caramel Ginger Frosting


There are so many things to love about living in San Francisco:

Sunny days, chilly nights, a walk uphill to the grocery store counts as a workout, burritos…

But, I have to say, the one requisite item for living in California that brings me pure joy is my compost bucket.

I love reducing, reusing and recycling and living in California is my green light to get gross. But, if I may get on my soap box for just a second, Americans waste way too much food. It goes well beyond what we compost and what’s not going in the mouths of hungry Americans; according to the Natural Resources Defense Council,  10% of the total U.S. energy budget goes toward getting food from farms to our tables, that same food uses 50% of U.S. land and 80% of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40% (40%!!!!!) of food in the United States today goes uneaten. If there’s a justifiable reason for throwing away food, I would love to know what it is because these stats make me sad. compost-bucket

In the kitchen, I do a lot of experimenting and have a lot of leftover.. stuff. Stuff I re-purpose or it has to go in the compost bucket along with my kale stalks, egg shells, coffee grounds, and clementine peels. I do my best to fill it with the things that are inedible. And I know I can’t teach the world to waste less with a little blog post, but at least I can set an example. 

So this week, I went through my leftover inventory and what I have to save from the compost bucket by re-purposing it is as follows:

My logic said the magical combination should be: Banana Pumpkin Cupcakes with Caramel Ginger Frosting.

That might not be what a pastry chef would come up with, but this is my kitchen and I’ll do whatever freaky formula my logic comes up with.

There are so many flavors in there with a lot of potential for weird… but it’s also potential for practice. Practice fusing flavors. Practice messing with textures. Practice using different ways to make frosting. The frosting was my favorite (you have to make it first because it needs time to cool).

Ginger Caramel FrostingCaramel-Ginger-Frosting

  • 1 cup syrup (you can use lots of different syrups, but it has to be something that goes well with caramel — ginger syrup is spicy)
  • 6 TB unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 8 oz cream cheese, cut into 2-inch cubes

In a small sauce pan, bring the syrup to a boil over medium heat. Stir and reduce the heat to low. Let it bubble for about ten minutes and the the syrup is a golden color (think: caramel). Remove from heat. Stir in cream followed by the butter.

Dump all of that in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whip attachment, let it stir on low for a few minutes to cool a little. Bump up the speed to medium and add the cream cheese one cube at a time. When it’s all well-combined, cover it and refrigerate it for at least three hours.Caramel-Ginger-Frosting

When you’re ready to frost your cupcakes, check to make sure the frosting is not too sticky. To make it a bit stiffer, you can beat in confectioners sugar. And if it’s not spicy enough for you, this is your chance to add some ground ginger.

Banana Pumpkin CupcakesBanana-Pumpkin-Cupcakes

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • ¼ cup pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup banana, mashed
  • 1 large eggs
  • 1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • ¼  teaspoon salt
  • ¼  teaspoon baking powder
  • ½  teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup warm milk

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-low.

Add the pumpkin and banana. When it’s well combined, add the egg and keep mixing until you have a batter.

Whisk together the flour, spice, baking powder and soda. With the mixer still running, add about ⅓ of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mix. When that’s combined, add ⅓ of your milk. When that’s combined, alternate between the flour and milk until it’s all in.Banana-Pumpkin-Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Scoop that out into medium muffin pans (FYI: one-egg cupcake recipes typically make 10 cupcakes — I always do one-egg recipes when I’m tinkering).

Bake for about 20 minutes. To check for doneness, insert a toothpick; if it comes out clean, they’re done.Banana-Pumpkin-Cupcake

The cupcakes were more banana-y than I would like, but still pretty good. And the frosting? Addictive. Not bad for leftovers and none of it had to go in the compost bucket. 



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