These little cakes have been a long time in the making.  I guess you could call them my own personal Frankenstein.  I've been searching for the perfect salted caramel cupcake recipe and although there are some good ones out there, I've never found the holy grail.  I did find pieces and parts of different recipes that I loved and wanted to use again.  I guess you could say that I stitched them all together and what you see above is the delicious result!
I experimented with the frosting until it had the perfect taste and texture.  The recipes I had tried before were either too salty or not salty enough to carry the name.  I also wanted the cake itself to have a caramel element instead of just being a mere vehicle for caramel frosting.  I used a light brown-sugar cake recipe (which adds to the caramely taste) and added a rich salted caramel sauce to the center.  

As a finishing touch, I added salted caramel rounds sprinkled with - not salt, but large crystal sugar (it just appears to be salted *wink).  The salt is added while the caramel is cooking. 

All the components are easy to make but the caramel will require your undivided attention.  If you've caramelized sugar before, then you know things can go from zero to accidental lollipops in NO TIME FLAT.  After the caramel sauce is made for the cupcakes, let it cool slightly.  Cut a small round out of the top of each cupcake, but not too deep.  You'll drop about 1 teaspoon of caramel in the divot and cover it back up with the cake piece.  You may be tempted to pour more caramel in, but trust me- more is not always better.  One teaspoon is sufficient especially with the addition of very sweet buttercream on top!

While making the frosting (various times) I never could seem to get the saltiness perfected.  I fiddled around with the salt measurements, but it didn't come out right until I replaced one unsalted stick of butter for one salted stick of butter. In addition, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt is added. The flavor hits all the right notes without being too salty, yet you know by taste that it is salted caramel buttercream.
We may cry when these are all gone...

The salted caramel flourish is nice if you are serving these for a special occasion or if you want something a little showy.  It tastes really good too!  The picture below is from a cookbook I have demonstrating the caramel technique.  I did the same thing except I moved my spoon in circles to form more of a spinning pattern.

I also wrapped my rolling pin in parchment paper and drizzled caramel back and forth over it to create a caramel arch.  After it dried and I removed the paper, I had an extra-long candied caramel tunnel.  I almost hated to break it apart!

If you don't want to go to the extra trouble of making the candied caramel, then you can still have "triple caramel" by drizzling a little caramel syrup on the buttercream.  You should have just enough left over after filling the cupcakes for a little extra on top.  

Triple Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Makes 15 Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon sea salt 
1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar 
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line muffin tins with papers. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
Cream butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until pale fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated.  Add vanilla.  Mix and scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until combined after each.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about halfway full.  Bake for about 25 minutes. When done, transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.

Salted Caramel Filling:

1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons salted butter cubed
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature

Melt the sugar over medium  high heat in a large pot.  Whisk the sugar as it melts and cook until it becomes a deep amber color. Add the butter and stir it in until melted. Pour in the heavy cream (mixture will foam) and whisk until you get a smooth sauce. You may have some lumps but keep stirring until they have melted.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  

Cut a small round piece out of the tops of each cooled cupcake and pour in 1 teaspoon of caramel.  Replace the cake piece and set cupcakes aside.

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting:

1/4 cup granulated sugar 
2 tablespoons water 
1/4 cup heavy cream 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 stick salted butter 
1 stick unsalted butter 
1/2 teaspoon sea salt 
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a saucepan, stir together granulated sugar and water.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Cook without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color.  Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring until very smooth.  Let caramel cool for about 20 minutes, until it is just barely warm and still pourable.

In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and salt together until lightened and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar.  Mix until thoroughly combined.

Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the caramel.  Beat on medium high speed until light and airy, and completely mixed (about 2 minutes).  Mixture should be ready to use without refrigeration. If your caramel was too hot when added, it will cause your icing to be runny.  If this happens refrigerate for 15-20 minutes. 

Top caramel-filled cupcakes with frosting.

Candied Salted Caramel Rounds

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar 
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup water
2-4 tablespoons of large-crystal sugar 

Lay out a large piece of parchment on your work surface and spray with cooking oil (such as canola). Fill a large tub (or your sink) partially full of ice water.
Put sugar, salt and cold water in a heavy pan; stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat and bring syrup to a boil.  Lower heat slightly and swirl the pan once or twice as the syrup caramelizes so it will color evenly; do not stir.  When the caramel is deep amber, plunge the base of the pan into ice water for about 2 seconds to stop further cooking. 

Working quickly, dip a spoon in the caramel and let it fall onto the parchment paper in a drizzle.  Move the spoon in a circular motion as the syrup falls from the spoon. Repeat 15 times.  When caramel has hardened (it will still be sticky) sprinkle on the large-crystal sugar.  Remove from paper and adorn cupcakes.

Courtesy: Sprinkle Bakes


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