Over the next 2 posts, I am going to show you how I made these Caramel Cupcakes with White Chocolate frosting and Dulce de Leche drizzle:
These cupcakes were inspired not only by my love of arts and crafts (project!), as well as the fact that I was invited to a cupcake challenge. A cupcake challenge you say? Yes. A bunch of us came together this past weekend and brought either store-bought or homemade treats to share with the group, and in the end we voted on the best. I didn’t win, though I took second place, and I’m fine with that because I couldn’t have been prouder of my little caramel accomplishments. I’d asked beforehand if we were being judged on looks or taste, but I figured I should prepare for both just in case. So these not only looked fantastic, but tasted great as well.
I hunted for a caramel cake recipe that sounded good to me, and although this one was a little more challenging, you have to make your own caramel syrup, I figured that sometimes I just need to step up my game. I was also kind of pleased to see this had been a Daring Baker’s challenge, because I felt pretty daring making these. I’m giving directions for these in 2 parts because a lot went into the cupcakes and also into the decoration, and it’s a lot to absorb at once. So here we’re just going to talk about the cake.
Inspired by this recipe from Sugarlaws, I adapted her cake recipe to make cupcakes. The weird thing is, her picture shows cupcakes, but the recipe tells you how to make a 9″ cake. Whatever.
The first step is to make the caramel syrup. This is a little dangerous, no lie, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Just make sure you keep monitoring your stove.
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 add’l cup water (to stop caramelization)
- a rectangle/square of aluminum foil big enough to cover the top of saucepan, with a hole poked in the middle
Step 1 – put on long sleeves and oven mitts. I’m not messing around.
Then, in a small saucepan with tall sides, mix the 1/2 cup water and 2 cups of sugar until it feels like wet sand. I turned on the heat before combining the two, oops. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with a wet pastry brush. Turn the heat on high.
Let the mixture boil until it starts smoking slightly, and turns a dark amber color. I thought this was kind of an exaggeration, until the pot started smoking. See the change below:
Once color is achieved (like above), cover the saucepan with the aluminum foil, folding the edges over so the top is completely blocked, but make sure there’s about a 1/2″ hole in the middle. I did not take a picture of this, it seemed a little dangerous to be playing with the camera and boiling hot sugar. This is where you’ll pour the water to stop the caramelization. The caramel will jump, literally, around and will splatter everywhere. The long sleeves and oven mitts are more of a just in case, but that aluminum will be really helpful. You’ll hear the liquid hitting the foil as you add the cold water to the pan.
Turn the heat down to medium and whisk the mixture until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky. I dipped a spoon in, let it cool for a sec, and then felt it to see if it was sticky. I did not stick my hand into the pot.
You can see it a little in the pic below that there’s caramel syrup all over my range. Even with the foil on top, it still managed to sputter out. I am not kidding or exaggerating about this.
Take the pot off the heat and let the mixture cool down. The recipe made about a cup and a half of syrup, and you only need 1/3 of a cup for the cake batter. Yes, I originally measured out 1/2 cup, that’s what I get for not wanting to put my face at eye level with a boiling hot liquid as I was pouring it I remedied the situation before baking.
I put the rest in an airtight container for use at a later time. Now, while that’s cooling, you can start on the cake batter.
- 10 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup caramel syrup (that you just made without any accidents!), at room temp
- 2 eggs, room temp
- splash vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup milk, room temp
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Prep – beat the eggs with the splash of vanilla, just enough to combine them. Start creaming the butter in a mixer until it’s smooth, then add the sugar and salt and continue beating until it’s light and fluffy. While that’s going, in another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.
Next, slowly pour the caramel syrup into the mixer. I did this while it was going, just kind of guessed on that, otherwise why bother going slowly? Scrape down the bowl, and increase mixer speed. Scrape again and beat until light and completely incorporated.
After the syrup, add the eggs a little at a time and beat well.
While the mixer is still going on the lowest speed, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated, then add half the milk slowly. When each group is incorporated, add the next, alternating dry, wet, and ending with the dry. As I learned from the recipe, this method is used when there’s a lot of liquid in a batter. It seems to keep it from being completely liquidy.
Don’t overmix once you add the last batch of dry, use a spatula to do the last few folds and make sure the batter is uniform. Make sure you scrape up from the bottom, because I noticed that a lot of caramel syrup was hiding down there, unincorporated.
Fill lined muffin cups close to the top, but not quite all the way. I wasn’t sure if they were overfilled or not, and since the recipe I was following didn’t specify for cupcakes, I had to guess. You can see from the pictures below that they were just right. I baked these for 20 minutes, rotating them halfway. I baked the minis for about 15 mins, but I think I could have done less. Make sure a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean!
I had enough batter to make about 14/15 regular sized cupcakes, but since I only needed 12 for the competition (I probably only really needed 6), I decided to make mini cupcakes with the rest of the batter so I could share some at work. (This did not end up happening. A coworker hijacked the container and took them home with him. No matter, I made this cake again a couple of days later…)
These had just enough puff over the top of the cups so I could decorate them, but weren’t as big as I’d worried they might turn out. And only one of them sort of exploded (looks like a lump of syrup, yum!). They seemed to be extremely moist, even though I was worried about over-baking because I had to guess on the time.
And there you have it! You’ve successfully made fantastic smelling, and soon to be fantastically decorated, cupcakes! Until I was ready to decorate, I left them in the muffin tin, at room temp, covered with plastic wrap. They held up just fine. The recipe says the cake can last at room temp for 3 days.
Part 2 is next! You can top these with whatever frosting you choose, the original recipe is caramel buttercream, but I was so inspired by the idea of white chocolate!