Today, I thought you deserved something special.
And by special, I mean luscious salted caramel. Tucked inside perfectly moist chocolate cupcakes. Does that qualify?
No? Hmmm… How about if I throw in some salted caramel buttercream frosting? I thought so. I knew you’d be into this. What’s not to be into? These cupcakes are a little taste of heaven in every bite. Well, if you like chocolate and salted caramel…and the food-gasm that entails once you’ve achieved that perfect salty-sweet combination. That’s what salted caramel is all about, after all – and chocolate is an obvious match for it.
Caramel…shall we discuss? I have a feeling we’ve talked this one through before, but just in case you’re new here, let me tell you: It’s not that hard to make. Try it, if you never have, and you’ll likely surprise yourself. The trick I can let you in on – and it’s not exactly a secret – is that caramel turns quickly from velvety and smooth to a hardened, burnt mess. As long as you’re paying attention, you’ll be fine. This is not something you want to be doing while talking on the phone, while licking the cake batter bowl clean, while trying to braid your dog’s hair with your toes.
Just kidding…I don’t have a dog. And if I did, I’m fairly certain it’s hair wouldn’t be long enough for me to perform such a task. Dog people – is this possible? Just wondering.
When I first set out to make these babies, I saw a lot of recipes from crazy (talented!) people who wanted me to make one caramel to fill the cupcakes, and then another one to make the buttercream. Why? How about we keep things simple – because clearly salted caramel-filled chocolate cupcakes are brimming with simplicity – and use the same caramel for both the filling and the frosting? It’s a win for everyone.
Trust me. You won’t want any more leftover salted caramel. You’ll eat enough frosting while making these to satisfy your craving. I’m nauseous - in a good way, if that makes any sense – just thinking about this frosting.
Please – if you make these and feel the same way, tell me. If you want to make them, and are quite sure you’ll feel the same way, tell me. I need to know I’m not alone in this.
And if you want to watch me make caramel in a video – albeit a different kind, this one turns into caramel candies, it’s the same process, and you’ll get the idea of what to expect. Maybe you’ll see that it’s nothing to be afraid of at all!
Adapted from Martha Stewart
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup warm water
- Salted Caramel Filling, recipe below
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract, and the water; beat until smooth and combined.
Spoon the batter into liners about two-thirds full. Bake approximately 15-17 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Transfer tins to wire racks and allow to cool for 10 minutes; turn cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 1 month in air tight containers.
Use a paring knife to cut a cone-shaped piece (about 1/2 inch deep) from the center of each cupcake and throw away the pieces. Make the salted caramel.
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 2/3 cup water
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 1/2 teaspoons flaked sea salt, preferably Fleur de Sel
Heat sugar with the water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until syrup is clear; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan and stop stirring.
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°F. Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in sea salt.
Let cool for about 15 minutes; if caramel begins to harden reheat gently until pourable. Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons warm caramel into each hollowed-out cupcake. The caramel will slightly sink into the cupcake – just add a bit more. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over filling.
Use the leftover caramel for the frosting.
Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
- 1 stick salted butter
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon flaked sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 – 4 cups powdered sugar
- About 1/2 cup leftover caramel sauce from above
Caramel should now be cool enough to use for the frosting. Make sure it’s slightly warm to the touch, and still pourable. If it’s hardened too much, gently reheat until pourable.
In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and salt together until lightened and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly combined.
Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the caramel. Beat on medium-high speed for a few minutes until light and airy, and completely mixed. If the frosting looks like it needs to set up a bit, refrigerate it for 15 – 20 minutes. The caramel walks a fine line between being either too warm, or too thick and unpourable if it gets too cool, so this affects the temperature of the frosting and you may need to compensate for that by refrigerating if the caramel warmed the frosting too much. Add more confectioners’ sugar, in 1/2 cup increments, to make the frosting stiffer if you need to.
Use a pastry bag with a medium open-star tip and 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.
Makes approximately 21 cupcakes.