a sick day, and a recipe: banana chocolate chip cupcakes with honey cream cheese frosting

Our 6-year old son sleeps on the carpeted floor in our bedroom, just beside our bed. I am not proud to admit this. In fact, I’m flat-out embarrassed about it.

I was one of those moms who abhorred the idea of co-sleeping. I was the mom who sold the baby monitor at a yard sale, even as little Oliver still slept in a crib, because those baby sounds in the middle of the night were just too distracting and disturbing to my sleep.

So, as payback for my parental selfishness, our son moved into our room when he was 5 years old. It started gradually, with an occasional night spent cuddled next to our bed, wrapped in his red blankie, most often preceded by complaints of a scary dream. Those nights grew more frequent, and he wore us down over time. Eventually, we realized that he’d moved all of his favorite toys and books in and that we were now calling that side of the room, “Oliver’s bed.”

In addition to a complete lack of privacy, what this has translated to is that I hear every whimper and sigh that my son utters in the middle of the night. Over the glorious long weekend that just past, I started hearing little coughs from his side of the room. Those coughs grew deeper and longer, and three nights ago, we were up at 3 o’clock in the morning with him. Well, my husband was up, fumbling in the darkened kitchen for the bottle of children’s cough syrup, while I lie in bed wondering if anyone would be too upset with me if I just went back to sleep.

bananas for banana cupcakes | the merry gourmet

Oliver developed the 102-degree fever just before bedtime on Monday, our last Stay-Home-Day before school and work started back up.  The scramble for a babysitter didn’t pan out, as it rarely does for us anymore on such short notice. My husband and I began the negotiations. Whose clinic was more full of patients? Who could afford to take a Tuesday off? Who sacrificed the last time this happened? All the while, Oliver slept hard, medicated with grape-flavored cough syrup and exhausted from his restless night the night before.

Sam lost.

Or I lost, depending on how you look at it.

While I worked, Sam stayed home with our son.  He ran errands when Oliver was feeling up to it, doled out children’s ibuprofen for the fever of 103 degrees, and he took him to the pediatrician who graciously worked Oliver into her schedule. Later, he helped our son with his albuterol breathing treatments from the black-and-white nebulizer machine (adorably shaped like a panda bear) and administered the first doses of antibiotics for Oliver’s newly diagnosed pneumonia. Meanwhile, between cancer patients and chemotherapy discussions, I ached to be home with Oliver.

banana cupcakes with honey cream cheese frosting | the merry gourmet

I got my wish today. Sam and I again weighed the relative potential impact of canceling our respective clinics, and my clinic schedule was sacrificed. Thanks to some fantastic people in my clinic, all of my patients were covered and I was able to spend the day home with my little guy.

When I woke this morning for a pre-dawn bathroom trip, I was thinking of banana cupcakes. This may be odd for some people, but for me, waking up thinking about a recipe is fairly commonplace. When I find myself dreaming of banana cupcakes, I know that the time has come for me to make them. And that bunch of brown-spotted bananas that you see in the first photo above? They were destined for a dish greater than a humble (though amazing) banana bread.

After an emergency run to the craft store to get cupcake liners — with a stop off at Toys-R-Us to replace a lost plastic boat — Oliver and I got to baking. While I measured and poured and mixed and baked, Oliver drove his new toy boat [Who am I kidding? Two new toy boats. Because he’s my baby and he’s sick, that’s why.] around my feet and through the legs of the Boos butcher block stand that was last year’s Christmas present from Sam. We took occasional breaks so that Oliver could “do the panda.”

Later, once the cupcakes were cool, I piped the frosting. I did this by myself, mostly because I like things to look a certain way (my way), but I let Oliver scatter rainbow sprinkles over the finished treats.

We celebrated our sick day with a cupcake. A banana chocolate chip cupcake with honey cream cheese frosting.  And with a perfectly lovely garnish of rainbow sprinkles.

banana cupcakes with honey cream cheese frosting | the merry gourmet

Yield: 12-16 cupcakes

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

Have some leftover, over-ripe bananas on hand? Tired of making banana bread? Here's a sweet alternative.

This recipe makes a full dozen cupcakes plus 3 or 4 extra, depending on how full you fill the cups. There will be leftover frosting, too.


For Cupcakes:

1-1/4 cups (156 grams) all purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 very ripe large bananas, peeled
1/2 cup sour cream
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup (170 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick; 113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 cup (150 grams) milk chocolate chips

For Frosting:

1-1/2 cups (180 grams) powdered sugar
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks; 170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup honey


For Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack placed in middle position. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners (if you have two pans, line another 4 cups, just in case you have leftover batter).

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, mash the bananas until smooth. Mix sour cream and vanilla into the bananas.

Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and beat until blended. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the banana mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour. With each addition, blend just until incorporated; do not overmix. Stir in chocolate chips. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

For Frosting:

Sift powdered sugar (using a sifter or a fine mesh strainer) into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add cream cheese and butter and beat on medium-high until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Add honey and beat until smooth.

Decorate each cupcake by spreading a bit of frosting over each cupcake with an offset spatula. Or, use a pastry bag fitted with a large piping tip to pipe the frosting into swirls on top of each cupcake.

Recipe adapted from this recipe from Bon Appétit.

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16 Responses to “chasing ice cubes, and a recipe for swiss steak”

  1. Olga — October 2, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

    Mj that sounds so comforting. Maggie is so funny. Forrest just loves when we’re in the kitchen hoping for something tasty. Not sure what my ice is … I have so many. But one of them is my grandmother’s plov, an Uzbek rice and lamb dish.

  2. jenn s — October 2, 2012 @ 9:05 pm

    I’m so excited about trying this recipe!! Takes me back to dinners and suppers around my Mimi and Aunt Jewel’s table on Sunday afternoons when we visited them for church.

  3. Gail — October 2, 2012 @ 9:51 pm

    When you tweeted that you were writing a post on Swiss Steak, my heart skipped a little beat. But, I stopped myself from being too excited, just in case, it wasn’t Swiss Steak as I know it.

    My hands-down favorite meal growing up was Swiss Steak (we had it without green pepper and DEFINITELY no wine). I can picture the recipe, torn from the box of either Minute Rice or Uncle Ben’s, taped to a page in my mother’s recipe notebook. I could eat mountains of it, and so could my dad. He and I would be so excited when that familiar aroma of onions simmering in tomato sauce filled our small house. My brother, not so much, but I didn’t care. I was Daddy’s girl and our mutual love for this dinner brought us even closer together.

    But then I grew up, left home and was experimenting in my own kitchen. Swiss Steak was abandoned.

    It wasn’t until my father was sick, very sick, that I ate Swiss Steak with him again. I didn’t have the recipe book any more. It didn’t matter because I knew the recipe inside and out, having watched my mother make it for many years.
    My father, as weak as he was, still managed to eat a good plateful of Swiss Steak served over a mound of rice. I was happy to cook for him and desperate to nourish him. I watched his face as he closed his eyes while he slowly chewed each mouthful. I knew he was remembering all the nights we ate that meal made by my mother all those years ago.

    Swiss Steak was the last home cooked meal that he ate, and I’m so grateful that I was there to share it with him.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — October 3rd, 2012 @ 6:51 am

      Oh, Gail. What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing those memories with me, with us. xo

  4. Belinda Markham Wood — October 2, 2012 @ 10:45 pm

    This is THE recipe that most reminds me of Grandma! Gotta have the green peppers though! :-).

  5. Kathryn — October 3, 2012 @ 4:14 am

    I have to admit to never having heard of Swiss Steak but I love the way that you describe it and your urge to make it for your husband. A lovely post, as ever.

  6. DessertForTwo — October 3, 2012 @ 7:57 am

    This looks so comfy and delicious. Hot buttered rice is the key to my happy place 🙂

  7. Jennifer Hess — October 3, 2012 @ 10:02 am

    Ice cube! I love it 🙂

    I never had swiss steak until my former mother-in-law served it. Her sauce had sauteed mushrooms in it as well, and she served it over mashed potatoes instead of rice, but I’m loving your version, and will have to make it soon. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

  8. Chris — October 3, 2012 @ 11:53 am

    Our cat loves chasing balls of aluminum foil around the wood floor.

    Haven’t had swiss steak in over 12 years, it was my older kids’ favorite. Yours sounds about the same as ours, except I always put in more green pepper just because that’s my ice cube:)

  9. Kiran @ KiranTarun.com — October 3, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

    The story about your cat and ice is soooo cute 😉

  10. Isabelle @ Crumb — October 3, 2012 @ 8:37 pm

    Funny how all cats develop at least one weird obsession, isn’t it? One of ours comes running whenever she hears the can opener… not because of cat food, but because she has an unnatural love of canned chickpeas and canned corn.
    My ice cube is fresh bread, right out of the oven, with a pat of melting butter. I know all is well with the world when there’s fresh, warm, crusty bread in my life.

  11. Paula — October 4, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

    Girl, when you write a post you write a post! What a charming story about your cat and your husband’s memories of this dish that you so lovingly created for him.

  12. Laura — October 5, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

    I am fairly certain my only experience with Swiss Steak has come from a TV dinner…. or perhaps that was Salisbury Steak. I’m excited to try your recipe 🙂

    And my parents’ dog has the same ice obsession… Only she chews it, leaving little shards of ice to melt into puddles. Inevitably someone, wearing socks, gets quite the surprise (and wet socks) when then walk into one of the puddles 🙂

  13. Di — October 5, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

    Once again The Merry Gourmet” stirs” all of our senses. Your words create picture- perfect images accompanied by movement, sounds and smells that make it so easy to imagine your story for ourselves.

  14. Kelly Senyei (Just a Taste) — October 15, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

    This reminds me of the Hungarian beef goulash my mom always made when we were growing up. It looks so rich and satisfying – perfect for the cold weather ahead!

  15. Macaroni Mama — February 20, 2013 @ 6:21 pm


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