Ninjago birthday party with Strawberry Banana Cupcakes!

In years past, I’ve repeatedly let my husband convince me that it would just be easier and better to order my son’s birthday cakes from the local bakery than to make them myself, as I’ve wanted.  I should probably mention that, being huge into DIY, party planning, crafting, and baking, this has been extremely difficult for me to give in to.  But that’s an entirely different story for another time.  Aside from our differences of opinion regarding the issues of time and effort, I prefer the flavor and wholesome goodness of homemade versus store-bought cakes and the monetary savings that come from making my own, as well!  Besides being ridiculously overpriced, in my opinion, the grocery store bakery cakes are full of nasty preservatives and additives (did you know that a lot of the store bakeries don’t even bake the cakes there – they are mass-produced off-site, frozen, and shipped in to be decorated in the store?), and I absolutely can’t stand the chemical flavor of some of the colored frostings!  Last year, we indulged in a cake from a local family-owned Danish bakery, where everything is baked and decorated on-site with real ingredients – the BEST birthday cake we’d ever tasted, but it cost about twice as much as a grocery store bakery cake – ouch!

Anyway, even though we’d settled on store-bought cakes for his parties, I’ve insisted on doing homemade cupcakes for his class birthday treat since he was in preschool.  He was turning 4 the first time I did this, and when I asked what kind of cupcakes he wanted, his answer was strawberry-banana.  I’d never heard of strawberry-banana cupcakes before, but I was determined to find a way to make what he wanted.  I got to work and came up with this recipe, and it’s been his requested birthday treat every year since.  This year, however, we’re not allowed to bring homemade treats to school, so I decided this would be his birthday party treat and we skipped the store bakery nightmare altogether!  Plus, as popular as Ninjago is right now, I’m sure I still would have had to search for something so I could decorate an overpriced plain bakery cake myself, as I have for other themes in years past.

Putting this Ninjago themed party together for him was surprisingly easy and inexpensive.  For the first time ever in his life, we were able to celebrate my son’s birthday with an OUTSIDE party in February!  It was an amazing time, a gorgeous day, and we got to spend it with some great new friends.  Having the party at a park near the beach eliminated the need for any party games or fancy decorations (which really made things easy for me, plus the kids had fun just running around & playing, no toys, games, or props required!).  I found a great blog, which supplied me with free printable water bottle labels and Ninjago action figure printouts which I used to make the cupcake toppers.  One of the moms at our party even commented on how surprised she was that her son chose water over a juice box, and that it must have been because of the Ninjago label… something to think about!

So here’s the link to the blog if you’re interested in using Ninjago printables for your child’s next birthday party (there are also print-outs for games and banners).    http://www.ourhomemadehappiness.com/2012/08/ninjago-birthday-party-ideas.html

This blogger also has some great homemade natural cleaners and beauty/self-care products that I’m excited to try!

And here’s the cupcake recipe.  I hope you try it and ENJOY! 🙂

Strawberry Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

YIELD|  18 cupcakes

BAKE|  18-23 minutes

STORAGE|  Refrigerate up to 3 days

 

Ingredients

1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened

1/2 c. honey

2 eggs

1/2 c. plain nonfat Greek yogurt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. mashed bananas* (about 2 bananas)

1 c. mashed strawberries (fresh or frozen/thawed)

1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

1 c. whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prep pans with paper cupcake liners.

2.  In small mixing bowl, combine flours and baking soda; mix well and set aside.

3.  In medium mixing bowl, cream butter and honey together until smooth.

4.  Mix in eggs, yogurt, vanilla, bananas, and strawberries.

5.  Add flour mixture and stir just until combined.

6.  Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.

7.  Bake 18-23 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean.

8.  Cool completely on wire rack prior to frosting.

 

*TIME-SAVING TIP:  Mash bananas ahead of time and freeze until needed; thaw in microwave just before making cupcakes.

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Cream Cheese Frosting
12 oz. low-fat cream cheese, softened
1/3 c. honey
1/4 tsp. vanilla

Using hand or stand mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed until creamy.  Add honey and vanilla.  Beat until smooth and creamy, about 4-5 minutes.

Refrigerate at least 30 minutes prior to frosting cupcakes.

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