For the cupcakes:
4 cups mini Nilla wafers, finely crumbed
4 tbsp melted unsalted butter
3 cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
16 tbsp. (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
For the filling:
One 3.4oz box Jell-O Banana Cream instant pudding
Two ripe bananas
For the frosting:
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. For your Nilla wafer crust, you'll take the finely crumbed Nilla wafers (I pulsed mine in my food processor for a few moments) and mix them with the melted butter in a small bowl until completely combined. Take a spoonful of your mixture (just enough to cover the bottom of each cupcake liner) add to each cupcake liner, and press down (I used the bottom of a small, clean cup) to compact a little.
On to the cupcakes! In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside. Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer with the butter and discard the pod. Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.
Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.
Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
While cupcakes are baking or cooling (completely up to you, this is so quick to make!) prepare your pudding filling according to directions on box. Peel and chop the bananas and fold into prepared pudding and place in fridge until needed.
To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a bowl set over a pan of a few inches of simmering water. Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it reaches 160° F. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form. Mix in the vanilla until combined.
To Fill/Complete Cupcakes:
To fill my cupcakes, I simply used an apple corer - love those! Discard cupcake removed by corer. Fill space with a small spoonful of banana pudding mixture. To achieve the look of my cupcakes, I simply filled a disposable decorating bag with the meringue, snipped the tip off with scissors and piped a messy spiral of meringue on each cupcake. I then used a small spatula to "fluff" into peaks until I was satisfied with the look and placed in my preheated oven under the broiler to brown the meringue - caution - if you use the broiler as I did, keep an eye on your cupcakes! You could even keep your oven door open and watch them, they'll brown so quickly in a preheated oven! Enjoy!
Yield: 24 Cupcakes