Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Banana Ginger Spelt Cupcakes for Earth Day and Some Trash Talk

Earth Day is almost here.  It's no secret we have been eating up our natural resources at a rate unprecedented in history. Time to give the earth a break people. 

I could go on and on about the great pacific garbage patch or the stupidity of plastic bags and bottled water or our over fished oceans but I think I will just talk some trash.

Here in Germany I often joke I spend two hours a week separating my garbage. Glass is separated by color. Almost all packaging on everything from foods to shampoo bottles is recycled. It's illegal to throw out batteries and printer cartridges. They have to be dropped off at appointed locations. Paper, plastic, aluminum production, scrap metal, garden waste and spare furniture are all picked up separately. 

In addition, we have a compost heap at home for food scraps. Lucy, Rosalie and "The Girls" (the sheep the goat and the chickens) take care of their fair share as well. They all consider leftover pasta, french fries and my numerous baking fails ultimate delicacies.

Dwarf Goat Rosalie and the Girls

With all of that dispersed, my trash amounts to one small bag I throw out every two weeks.

Trash never made me feel so good and so proud. And I have produced a lot of good trash TV in my life.

This month's Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge theme is Earth Day. You can find the rules HERE and the prizes are listed at the end of this post. 

In honor of Mother Earth I made banana ginger spelt cupcakes with dandelion buttercream. A tad more healthy than the average variety. Oh and I added a band-aid too as a visual reminder she needs some healing.

Banana Ginger Spelt cupcakes with Dandelion Buttercream for Earth Day 

For the cupcakes:

  • 2+1/2 cups spelt flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1+1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup ripe mashed bananas
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Line 2 cupcake pans with papers.
  • In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt. Set aside.
  • In a mixer cream butter and sugar together for about 3 minutes.
  • Add egg and mix until combined.
  • Add vanilla and bananas.
  • When everything is mixed thoroughly, add half the flour mixture, then the milk and the rest of the flour mixture waiting until each ingredient is mixed in.
  • Scrape mixture into a piping bag and pipe the batter into the cupcake liners about 3/4 of the way.
  • Bake for about 12 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out dry.
  • Remove cupcakes from pan and put on wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 22 cupcakes

For the buttercream "glue":

I used some left over dandelion buttercream I made for macarons. You will only need a low swirl layer to glue the fondant tops on. You probably dot even have to swirl it but I like a little height on my cupcakes.

For the Dandelion Buttercream:

  • 1/2 stick butter room temperature
  • 1+1/2 - 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup dandelion syrup
  • Food coloring (I used Wilton's Royal Blue and Leaf Green)

  • Cream butter and 1 cup of the powdered sugar together.
  • Add remaining sugar a little at a time until combined.
  • Turn mixer down to low and stream in syrup.
  • If buttercream is too thin add more sugar, if it is too thick add more syrup.

If you don't have any buttercream handy, do this:

Mix together  1/2 stick of butter, 2 cups of powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla until you achieve buttercream consistency. Add the confectionary sugar last a little at a time. You can also add more milk if needed. If you like, divide in half and color the buttercream.

For the fondant toppers:

You can use pre-made and pre-colored fondant. I make my own.

For Homemade Fondant

  • 1/2  bag (1/2 pound) marshmallows (minis melt faster but you can use regular sized ones as well.)
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 pound of powdered sugar
  • Crisco or shortening
  • plastic wrap or cling film
  • Gel or paste food coloring
  • Cover the inside of a heat safe bowl and a wooden spoon with Crisco or shortening.
  • Place marshmallows and water in the bowl.
  • Microwave the marshmallows for 30 seconds at a time stirring the mixture in between with the wooden spoon.
  • When the mixture is the consistency of Marshmallow Fluff, stir in 3/4 of the powdered sugar one cup at a time.
  • Cover your work surface with powdered sugar and cover your hands with Crisco or shortening.
  • Dump the fondant on the sugared surface and knead the rest of the sugar in.
  • Separate the fondant into different parts and color as desired by adding a few drops of gel colors at a time and kneading it in until the color is evenly distributed and you get the color you want. 
  • Wrap each piece in plastic wrap until you use it.
  • Wrap leftover fondant tightly in plastic cling film and store in a zip lock bag.
To make the globes and bandaids:

Color three pieces of fondant as described above, one blue, one green and one band-aid color or whatever skin tone you like.

For the globes:

  • Roll out the blue fondant and cut circles about 3+1/2 inches in diameter. Measure your cupcakes to be sure.
  • Using a picture as a guide (I googled images of globes) mold the green fondant as best you can to represent the continents. It does not have to be perfect. I am sure I left out and added some countries randomly, maybe even rearranged a continent or two. 
  • Wet the pieces slightly and affix them to the blue circle.

For the Bandaids:

  • Roll each color out into different size strips. 
  • Cut each strip into rectangles and squares in different sizes.  
  • Place a square in the middle of  a rectangle and smooth down the edges.
  • Using your fingers, round the edges of the rectangle.
  • With a toothpick, make indentations on either side of the rectangle representing air holes.
  • When you are done with your bandaids, wet the backs of them slightly and place randomly on the fondant globes.

Assemble the Cupcakes:
  • Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag with no tip or use a wide round one. You can also snip the corner off of a ziplock bag and use that. 
  • Starting on the outside edge of the cupcake, pipe around the circumference using more buttercream on the edges and a thinner layer towards the center. 
  • Place fondant circle on top of the cupcake and gently secure it all around the edges.

Tread lightly. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Give her a chance to renew herself. Not preaching. Just sayin'.

The winner of April’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from:
Thank you to all our prize sponsors!


  1. Good morning Lora!

    I should have been taking notes as I read this post. So many things to comment on. Here they are in no order...

    Do you know that all your sorted and separated trash actually gets recycled individually? The reason I ask is that we've always recycled. Louise is a bit of a Garbage Nazi (her education was in Environmental Science and she was also the original and first "Recycling Educator" for the Town of Islip here on Long Island starting back in '88). So we are careful and recycle. Anyway, we have a friend who runs a recycling center and, unfortunately, it is extremely common that much of the carefully separated recyclables all end up being lumped together and hauled off to a dump anyway. He says the market for the products just isn't that great here. Do you know if things are different where you live? Very frustrating. We continue to do our part anyway.

    We started up our compost piles again recently. We've learned that they just don't work over the winter here. So they run early spring through late fall. It is great to see them out there.

    Spelt? I just might try this recipe. Louise loves ginger and I have about 50 pounds of spelt grain right now. We usually have many varieties of wheat and other grain on hand. We grind them fresh ourselves before baking. There is nothing better!

    I use the same fondant recipe. It's great.

    Louise would LOVE to have some sheep and goats and such. She always has. Someday we will. Unfortunately it is just not practical (nor even possible where we live right now). I hear they can be quite a riot. Enjoy!

    I had to go back to find this one. It made me laugh... "Trash never made me feel so good and so proud. And I have produced a lot of good trash TV in my life."

    So nice to always hear what you are up to.

  2. Brava! Our recycling/garbage system here in the UK sounds much like yours. But I wish we had a goat to help out. ;-) I still cringe when I remember my childhood in the 70s, when we kids used to throw trash out the window on road trips. How COULD we? Unthinkable. Just like throwing anything recyclable into the trash is now unthinkable to me. One thing I don't do that I wish I could is compost. I have an extremely strong aversion to earthworms. I live in hopes that they'll start collecting compost here like they do in some places. Or I could package it up and send it over for Rosalie... :-)

  3. My parents finally got with the program and started recycling last year. Their county offers a program that allows them to earn points every time they recycle. My mom just earned herself a free subscription to Rachael Ray's magazine :) If a little incentive helps get people involved, I'm all for it.

    Fantastic cupcakes, Lora! The cake and buttercream flavors sound SO good.

  4. Hello :) I'm really envious you get to recycle your compost - we're in a (smallish) town and though we can recycle everything else, they don't give an option for that. Any ideas what else I could do with it?!! Not sure I'd be allowed a goat on the balcony.

  5. Wow thanks for you comments! I am by no means an expert on recycling. But I will try to answer your questions as best I can.

    @ Louis - first of all, my old high school musical/Rocky Horror friend I am so amazed that you read my blog. Thanks!

    1) Big kudos to your wife! There have been several reports here about the same issue but the end result is most of it gets recycled. Germany is one of the top Greenest countries in the world and can't compare to the States. Keep doing what your doing. It's what I do as well regardless of the reports I hear. I mean hello? What's the alternative?

    2) I love the compost pile which I did not have when I lived in Munich and Cologne.

    3) I love that you grind your own flour! Spelt is huge here in everything from cereals to crackers. It's called "dinkel" in German.

    4) One I learned to make my own, I never looked back.

    5) One day I have to make a video of the chickens when I scatter pasta or french fries. It's hilarious.

    6) Once a talk show producer, always a talk show producer :-)

    @Ruby: Rosalie and Lucy accept all compost gifts. Especially from exotic faraway places such as England. Send COD.

    @Ali:Love that your parents are into it now. It's never too late to start recycling. I think incentives are fab.

    @Frau Dietz:: Everyone needs a goat on their balcony! There may be a communal compost heap in your village. Maybe ask around?

  6. Very informative post. Love that you recycle and compost as much as you do and that Germany is so dedicated to being green. You'll have a bit of an adjustment coming back to America I'm afraid.
    Love your cupcakes, especially the band-aid addition. Great message!


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