Cupcakes. What can be said about cupcakes? I love cupcakes. I love simple vanilla cupcakes just as much as I love gourmet flavors and combinations. This particular cupcake is ranking high up on my list of favorites. Salted caramel cupcakes. How amazing do these sound?!?! They start with a home made caramel sauce that is added into a basic vanilla cake recipe. The frosting is a simple buttercream made with European butter and more of that homemade caramel sauce. To finish this beauty off I drizzled some of the caramel sauce on top. A work of art! A tasty little indulgence! AND, these just happen to be my birthday cupcakes! Both baking and eating these cupcakes was a true treat for me!
Now, all that being said, two things happened to me while this whole cupcake experience was going on. The first thing was: I turned 38. Not an age to be considered 'old' by any stretch of the imagination. Heck, I still feel like a 23-year-old! The problem is, I'm NOT 23 anymore. The big, proverbial 4-0 is sneaking up just around the corner and it is time to really start taking better care of my health. The other thing that happened to me is I stepped on the scale and saw a weight I haven't seen in over a year...and not in a good way. Last year at this time I was 110% dedicated to Weight Watchers and I managed to take off 15 pounds and keep most of it off! I felt great! Seeing the scale the other day...well...let's just say between the birthday and the scale I decided I HAVE to get serious again and start eating better and exercising more. None of us are getting any younger and shorts season is going to be here before we know it. Oh yeah, and that pesky little Pittsburgh Marathon Relay Team I signed up for. Yikes! I have to run 5.5 miles in less than 9 weeks! So, Butter Fans, to that end, the cupcake blogs are going to be slowing down for a bit while I focus on some healthier foods. No fear though, I only post the yummiest of yummy recipes!
Salted Caramel Cupcakes
Makes about 24 cupcakes
For the caramel sauce
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon water
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
Pour sugar and water into a large saucepan. Heat on medium-high heat and stir constantly until the sugar completely liquifies. Stir constantly being careful not to burn the sugar. After all the sugar has dissolved, add the butter and vanilla extract to the saucepan and mix thoroughly. Once the butter has melted and the butter and sugar are completely mixed, remove from heat and, using a whisk, slowly whisk in the heavy cream. Be aware the mixture will bubble violently for a few seconds. Continue whisking until you reach a beautiful golden brown caramel color. If the mixture seizes into any small, hard chunks, place the pan over medium-low heat and continue to whisk until the mixture smooths out. This may take a while, but it will come together eventually. Set aside and let cool completely.
** You can make the caramel the night before you need it and place it in the refrigerator until you are ready for it.
For the cupcakes
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1 cup caramel sauce
Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 standard cupcake pans with liners. Set aside.
In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream the butter for about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing slowing after each addition. Add the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low, then gradually add one third of the flour mixture, followed by one third of the milk, beating until well incorporated. Add another third of the flour mixture, followed by another third of the milk. Stop to scrape down the bowl, as needed. Add the remaining flour mixture followed by the remaining milk and mix until just combined. Add the caramel sauce and mix slowly, swirling it into the batter, but not mixing it in completely.
Scoop the batter into the prepared liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool in pans for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the Salted Caramel Buttercream
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (I prefer Plugra, European butter)
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon whole milk
1 teaspoon fleur de sel (you can substitute kosher salt)
1/2 cup caramel sauce
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream the butter for about 1 minute. Add 2 cups of confectioner's sugar and mix on low until well combined. Add milk, fleur de sel and caramel sauce, mixing for about 30 seconds. Add the remaining 2 cups of confectioner's sugar and mix until just incorporated. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes.
Transfer buttercream to a pastry bag fitted with a wide tip and frost cupcakes. Drizzle caramel sauce on top.
Barely adapted from The Cupcake Diaries
Pittsburgh area mom striving to provide clean, healthy, REAL food for her family!