Thirteen-year-old Trevin Alford learned how to bake by watching chefs on TV, so when he competed on Kids Baking Championship last year, he felt right at home. Although he had some ups and downs on the show, he wowed judges Valerie Bertinelli and Duff Goldman with a peanut butter poke cake he made in episode five. “It was a tricky challenge, but peanut butter and banana are an unbeatable combination,” says the Indiana native, who flavored his cake with peanut butter chips, then filled it with banana pudding. These easy cupcakes are a fun twist on the same flavor combo. Try them at home!
Make the pudding: Whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the milk until combined. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the mashed bananas and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Strain the pudding through a medium-mesh sieve into a medium bowl, pressing the pudding through with a rubber spatula. Whisk in a few drops of the yellow food coloring, if desired (the pudding may be grayish without it). Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350˚. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a large bowl.
Beat the butter and sugar in a separate large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and beat in half the flour mixture, then the buttermilk, then the remaining flour mixture until combined. Beat in the peanut butter chips.
Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups, filling them about three-quarters of the way. Bake until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes in the pans, then transfer the cupcakes to racks to cool completely.
Whisk the pudding vigorously to loosen. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip. Insert the tip into the center of each cupcake and fill with pudding, then pipe more of the pudding on top. Top with banana chips.