I totally didn’t plan this.
One of the many benefits of having a teenage niece across the street are those times she decides she wants to bake – and wants your help. Here I was minding my own business, doing things that were probably productive, possibly healthy and definitely didn’t involve cupcakes, and then there she was, just-baked chocolate cupcakes in hand, wanting to make frosting together.
(She made red velvet cupcakes too, but that’s another story.)
Her goal: salted caramel on chocolate cupcakes. We made a brown sugar frosting, and the caramel was her idea – her plan was to run to the store to buy caramel sauce to dribble overtop, but I explained that caramel could be made easily out of the sugar we already had in probably less time than it would take to run to the store. We brought sugar to a simmer with a bit of water to help it along – and a drop of lemon juice, which helps caramel stay in its liquid state and not crystallize. We swirled the pan until it turned golden, then drizzled some in a thin stream into cold water to make it turn hard and crackly – fun kitchen science – then whisked in some cream (it foams and bubbles – more delicious science!) which turns it into a sauce you can drizzle over ice cream – or cupcakes.
Em: That’s it? We made caramel?
Em: It’s so good! And so much cheaper!
Look how lovely!
A piping bag with a star tip and some sugar and a pot, and these beauties can be yours.
Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup strong coffee (I mix together instant decaf)
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. maple or Roger’s golden syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups icing sugar, plus extra if needed
1-2 Tbsp. milk or cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1/4 tsp. sea salt
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt, breaking up any lumps of brown sugar and cocoa.
Add the milk, oil, eggs and vanilla and whisk to combine; add the coffee and stir until well blended and smooth.
Divide the batter among the cups and bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are springy to the touch. Tip the cupcakes in their tins to allow the steam to escape.
To make the frosting, beat the butter, brown sugar, syrup and vanilla until fluffy. Beat in the icing sugar and milk or cream, adding extra sugar or milk if needed to achieve a spreadable consistency. Spoon into a piping bag with a large star tip and pipe over the cooled cupcakes.
To make the caramel, stir together the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. When it comes to a boil, stop stirring and swirl the pan often, cooking until it starts to turn golden. When it starts to change colour don’t leave the pan – swirl it often until it turns a deep golden – the colour of maple syrup. Remove from heat and whisk in the cream – it will foam up. Whisk in the salt and let cool to room temperature – it can be slightly warm, but not so warm that it will melt the icing.
Dribble over the cupcakes. Makes 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes.