This post is dedicated to my long time friend Laura Kristi, who has a passion for cupcakes that is comparable to Mother Teresa’s passion for the hurting. Okay, maybe not quite like that, but her love for cupcakes runs deep, and ever since I learned this about her, I can’t make a cupcake without thinking of her. I wish she could be my taste tester for each and every one I try!
Not unlike Laura’s love for cupcakes, I possess the same affection for caramel. When I was in 5th grade I acquired braces on my teeth that I was stuck with for 5 grueling years, and even this plight didn’t keep me from the ooey gooey richness of caramel (sorry Dr. Patton!). Many a wires I broke from this love….
So when I saw the recipe for Chocolate Salted-Caramel Cupcakes, I figured there was no better way to merge two of the very best things in the world–chocolate and caramel. **Deep sigh** My creative wheels are turning at their fastest during the early morning hours, so I woke up and started on these at 6:00am the other morning, and by 8:00am, I was staring at this:
Try not to drool on the screen. I hear it’s bad for your computer. But seriously, how could you not want to just pop this little diddy right in your mouth? The thing that really made these irresistible was the fact that they were mini cupcakes, so you really could fit the entire thing in your mouth in one bite. Don’t judge me. I’m a VanDusen, and we love to eat, so it’s taken years to get here, but I can fit a lot of food into my mouth at once…just like the rest of my family. It’s one of the reasons I love us. 🙂
Back to it…these started out with a simple chocolate cupcake recipe that included buttermilk which I always feel makes for a much milder chocolate flavor than I like, but when paired with the caramel filling and the frosting that I haven’t even mentioned yet for fear that you may have a heart attack just hearing about, it was the perfect level of chocolate.
Simple! I actually ran out of mini cupcake liners half way through, so I even made some full-sized cupcakes and they were equally as good (I mean, come on, it’s just more of a good thing, right?). Next I cut a small circle out of the center of each cupcake in preparation to pour in the caramel. I’ve tried making caramel more times than I can count, and I have NEVER been able to get it right. There have been times where it has turned out better than others, but it’s never been perfect. This time was no exception. It tasted amazing, but the consistency just wasn’t what I was expecting. Nonetheless, it was yum.
I love this new salted caramel trend! I’m sure that it’s been around for quite some time, but it’s just been in the last year that I’ve started seeing it around bakeries, coffee shops, and specialty stores, and it’s oh so good! A touch of salt brings out the buttery taste of caramel while highlighting the sweetness. After pouring the caramel into the cupcakes, I was ready to frost them with the most decadent dark chocolate frosting I’ve ever tasted. If Jesus tasted it I’m fairly certain He would have spoken the words, “It is finished.” I’ll wrap up on that semi-sacrilegious note, but not without this last plea…Laura, have I enticed you and Steve to come to Bend for a weekend?
Chocolate Salted-Caramel Mini Cupcakes
Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes
Makes about 56 mini cupcakes
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup warm water
Salted Caramel Filling (recipe below)
Dark Chocolate Frosting (recipe below)
- Preheat oven to 350. Line mini muffin tins with paper liners. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and the water. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat until smooth and combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
- Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 1 month in airtight containers.
- To finish, use a paring knife to cut a cone-shaped piece (about 1/2 inch deep) from the center of each cupcake. Spoon 1-2 tsp warm filling into each hollowed-out cupcake. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over filling.
- Fill a pastry bag fitted with a medium open-star tip (Ateco #821 or Wilton #18) with frosting. Pipe frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Garnish each cupcake with a pinch of sea salt. Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are filled and frosted; store at room temperature in airtight containers (do not refrigerate) until ready to serve.
Makes about 2 cups
2 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 tsp sea salt, preferably fleur de sel
Heat sugar with the water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over high, stirring occasionally, until syrup is clear; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Stop stirring, and cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and just reaches 360 degrees. Remove from heat; slowly pour in cream (mixture will spatter) and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in sea salt. Use immediately; if at any time caramel begins to harden, reheat gently until pourable.
Dark Chocolate Frosting
Makes about 5 cups
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp boiling water
2 1/4 cups (4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar (sifted)
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 pounds best-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
Combine cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, powdered sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture. If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 days, or frozen up to 1 month, in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again.