Saturday, March 9, 2013

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes

Happy (early) St Patty’s Day!

I know, I know.

March is supposed to be about Leprechauns and turning everything green and pretending you’re Irish.

But I didn’t want a green cupcake. I didn’t want green frosting. I’m already Irish (remember those Guinness Spice Cakes?) so I went a complete different route.

I went for the pot of gold.

I went for caramel.

Ooey, gooey, SALTED caramel.

Inside a super moist chocolate cupcake.

Topped with the absolute best brown sugar Swiss meringue buttercream.

My biggest regret in this is that I did not take a picture of the inside. I always take a picture of my filled cakes. But with these cakes, a silly little problem kept happening…

I would take my picture. Grab a knife. Accidently touch the frosting. Go to lick the frosting from my finger. And end up devouring the whole cupcake.

Like seriously. Happened twice. Then I gave up.

So you have to take my word on how gooey this caramel is. It’s a touch thicker than store bought sauce, but not quite to the caramel chew stage.

I did have to thin this recipe out. I originally cooked it to the specifications. Then I let it sit overnight.

When I went to try it the next day, it was solid. Like cut it into cubes and wrap ‘em in wax paper solid. But so DELICIOUS! I would scoop a nibble and walk away.

Then I’d think of some reason to go check on it again. And take another scoop. And maybe that happened a few times.

Then I decided it would be too thick in a fluffy cupcake.

I don’t know if there is really a good way to reheat a homemade caramel. You might have experience with this. I mostly just make everything up and hope for the best.

Through careful deduction and thoughtful deliberation, it was determined that a double boiler would heat it slow enough that it would not burn the caramel. So I tried it.

It worked. Slowly. So slow that I had to help it along. I used my electric tea kettle to boil some water and added that to the caramel. In total I used about 3/4 of a cup of water, added one tablespoon at a time.

For the sake of full disclosure, let me add that while I didn’t notice it at the time (or even the next few days that I was scarfing down these cupcakes), I think the water additions caused the sugars to crystalize. I saved the extra sauce in a squeeze bottle (Hello Ice Cream!) and now it’s a bit grainy. Granted, it could be the sitting on the counter that did it. Or the slight reheating I would do to cover that ice cream.

But it’s no biggie to me. It’s still CRAZY GOOD!

Salted Caramel Sauce
(recipe from a Cake Central forum)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups dark brown sugar, packed firm
1 cup light corn syrup
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 teaspoons salt

1. Combine butter, sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk in a medium heavy bottomed sauce pan set over medium heat. Stir constantly.
2. Bring to a boil before adding cream. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Remain stirring.
3. Allow caramel to reach 230 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract and half of the total amount of salt. (How much salt depends on your taste and the type of salt used. I used kosher salt. And I ended up using two heaping teaspoons. But I like salt.)
4. Pour caramel into a glass bowl. Allow to cool at room temperature. Taste the caramel. Add remaining salt and stir well. Cover tightly and store. If stored in the refrigerator, allow two to three hours to return to room temperature before filling any cupcakes. It can sit at room temperature for several days.

For the cupcakes pictured here, I baked my favorite scratch chocolate cake recipe and made this brown sugarbuttercream.
I used a size 100 disher to scoop out the middle of a cooled cupcake. (This did get messy and required a lot of quick washes about every 4 or 5 cupcakes.) I then used the same disher to scoop caramel into the hole created. Using a Wilton 1M tip, I piped a swirl of frosting on top to seal the caramel in.

So this Saint Patrick’s Day, make something to wash that icky green beer taste away. Besides, it’s all about the pot of gold anyways.