Gluten free banana cupcakes, stuffed with Nutella and topped with peanut butter buttercream, salted caramel and popcorn (phew)

I was asked recently to make some cupcakes to raise awareness for RPSCA's annual cupcake day, the proceeds of which go directly to assisting animals under the care of the organisation. I love doing these sorts of things for a number of reasons: 1) I absolutely get a thrill that I can do something I love and help someone else in the process. 2) I found both of my furr children at the RSPCA almost 15 years ago now, and although my soul sister Tabby has passed away, they have given me immeasurable joy and companionship over the years, and I am indebted to the RSPCA for that. And 3) it gives me a good excuse to go all out with the butter, sugar, and general wild cupcake dreams. The last one is not so deep, I won't deny. 

Before we go any further, please donate to this worthy causehere < if you feel so inclined. Your help will not go unnoticed in assisting animals all across the state, and the country. Think of your furr children and how lucky they are to be cared for by you - some other animals are not so lucky.

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I absolutely play favourites when it comes to flavour combinations, and that of banana and peanut butter probably takes precedence over most things in my life. The addition of my other favourites, salted caramel and Nutella, makes these my dream cupcakes. 

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What else can I say about them? Don't eat too many. 

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INGREDIENTS - makes 8 cupcakes

CUPCAKES

2 extra ripe bananas, mashed 
1/2 cup brown sugar
120g butter at room temperature
1 cup almond meal
2 eggs
1/2 cup potato flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

ICING

150g butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar

POPCORN

1/4 cup popcorn kernels
a decent splash of olive oil
table salt

SALTED CARAMEL

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cream
generous sea salt flakes

+8 teaspoons Nutella

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METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar until they are pale, and then add the eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is combined.
3. In a small bowl, mix together the almond meal and tapioca flour, and gradually add it to the butter mixture. Mash up your bananas, and add them to the mix gradually as well. If the mix is getting too dry, add some of the milk. Continue balancing everything out in this way until you have added all the flour and milk.
4. Add the baking powder and apple cider vinegar, and stir through with a spoon once the reaction has subsided. 
5. Divide the mixture between eight cupcake holes and pop them into the oven for 25-odd minutes.
6. While they are cooking, beat together your butter, sugar and peanut butter for the icing. 
7. Next up, add the butter, brown sugar and cream to a pan, and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, lower the temperature and cook for around 6 minutes. It should become thicker. Once the caramel is done, add sea salt flakes and continue tasting until you get the right saltiness.
8. ALRIGHT. In a large pot with a lid, add a bit of olive oil and 1/4 cup popcorn kernels, and turn the heat right up. Once you hear popping, turn the heat down, and make sure to roll the pan around. Keep transferring on and off the heat until the popping dies down. 
9. Your cupcakes should be done by now, so transfer them out of the tray when they've cooled, and then allow to cool completely.
10. Use a knife to cut a little Nutella hole in the middle of the cupcake. How much you want to stuff in there is up to you, but get stuffing.
11. Next up, pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes. You can just whack it on with a spoon if you find piping too fiddly.
12. Now for the popcorn! Let your inner artistic popcorn placer go wild. You will likely have leftovers, but if you're the sort of person that complains about extra popcorn then you have no place here.
13. Generously drizzle the salted caramel over the cupcakes. Read note above if you have extra leftover.
14. EAT. 

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