I've been staring at this recipe for weeks now. I have a thing about cooking sugar. I'm terrified of it. Almost as terrified of it as I am of opossums and the dark (laugh it up now, just wait until they take over!). I finally braved it though. For a good cause. I'm not going to lie, there was at least one messed up batch, and quite a few expletives, but definitely a good cause. Caramel-making is not for wusses.
(Forgive me for the awful piping job. My piping skills are still a work in progress, and would probably be more easily honed had I a decorator's set instead of a ziplock bag.)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt (it really does make a difference!)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick, softened)
1 cup plus 2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp salted butter, cubed
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 sticks salted butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 - 2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
Preheat oven to 325º. Line a muffin tin with baking cups.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
Cream sugar and brown sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined after each. Add vanilla, combine. Add flour in three batches, alternating with two batches of buttermilk, combining well after each addition. Divide batter evenly between 12 cups. Bake for 25-30 mins or until a toothpick/knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool.
In a medium to large sized sauce pan, melt sugar for caramel. Whisk the sugar as it melts until it becomes deep amber in color. Add butter, whisk until melted, then add cream, slowly (watch out for the foam, it will get you if you're not careful!). Whisk until sauce is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Cut a small round piece out of the top of each cupcake and fill with 1 tsp caramel, then replace cupcake piece. (See below for demonstration)
(credit to Sprinkles Bakes)
After filling the cupcakes, you should have some caramel left over if you only used the 1 tsp per cupcake. Use the rest of this caramel for the frosting.
Beat the butter, vanilla and salt together until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, mix until well combined. Add the caramel (you can save a smidge for drizzling over the tops if you choose, but they're still pretty good without. You can also just make another batch to drizzle over the cupcakes.. and maybe some vanilla bean ice cream. YUM. Beat the frosting until light, fluffy and airy. Start with the 1 1/2 cups, adding more if you desire a stiffer consistency. I used about 2 1/2 cups because it was pretty hot and humid the day I made them and my frosting wouldn't have held up otherwise.
Pipe (or spread) the frosting onto your cooled cupcakes. Garnish with a caramel drizzle, coarse sugar, whatever your little heart desires. You can also visit the original site for a recipe for caramel rounds to decorate, as seen in the picture above.
The frosting is creamy, smooth, and the perfect balance of sweet and salty. The brown sugar cupcake adds to the caramel goodness, and then there's the sweet surprise in the middle. I was informed that these tasted like a cupcake shop cupcake, only better! What praise!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some more cupcakes to make! Next round is lemon blueberry cupcakes, post to come soon!