A friend of mine had a birthday party recently. It was one of those events that spans both hours and miles, which was actually quite considerate of her. Living in LA is sometimes unlike anywhere else, in that people don’t want to drive a few miles to a different part of town if they don’t have to. Not even to celebrate the birth of a wonderful person. My friend’s party started down in Hollywood, and ended up in the valley so that people from all over would be inclined to join up when they could.
Being a typical LA person, and also because I had to work during the day, I wasn’t able to go over the hill to join everyone for a French Toast Cookoff in the morning. To make things even more challenging/awesome, someone threw Jack Daniel’s into the mix as a secret ingredient. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, I decided to whip up these cupcakes and keep with the theme.
You guys remember my post about simple syrup, don’t you? The one where I told you that you could make syrup out of anything as long as the ratio of liquid to sugar was 1:1? Well, that’s where Jack Daniel’s came into play. I swapped out water for whisky, and sugar for brown sugar. Then, I subbed it into my caramel cupcake recipe, swapping out the regular caramel syrup.
I’m going to give brief directions on how to make everything, but for more in-depth descriptions, visit the links above.
SIMPLE SYRUP – yields just shy of 1/2 cup syrup
- 1 cup Jack Daniel’s
- 1 cup brown sugar (or regular sugar)
Bring the Jack and sugar to boil in a small saucepan for 3 minutes, stirring to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. Reduce heat and let simmer for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
I don’t know if there’s a scientific reason for this (read: I don’t feel like looking it up either way), but this syrup hardened really quickly. So something I’d note is that you’ll want to get it into your batter quickly. HOWEVER – when I reheated it to make it liquid, it melted the butter. (Nuked it in the microwave for 30 seconds.) So… that was a delicate dance. (I put the mixer bowl in the freezer for a few minutes after I mixed in the syrup.) I’m sure you could add it later on in the process, but the milk might cause it to seize. My way worked fine, I promise.
Using the caramel cupcake recipe, just swap in the JD syrup for the caramel syrup. (Yes, I increased it slightly, because it wouldn’t affect the cake.) If you want to make extra, it will probably be really good in frosting – or if it’s solidified, you can use it as a tasty garnish!
JACK DANIEL’S CARAMEL CAKE – makes 18
- 10 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup granulated sugar (I used 1 cup – they were SWEEEET)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup whisky caramel syrup
- 2 eggs, room temp
- splash vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup milk, room temp
Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Line 18 cupcake tins with paper.
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 continue beating until it’s light and fluffy. While that’s going, in another bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder.
Pour the syrup into the butter/sugar mixture, and beat until evenly blended. Then add in your eggs/vanilla and mix until combined – but not too much!
Using the dry/wet/dry method, alternate adding your dry ingredients and the milk. Mix just until all the flour is incorporated.
Evenly distribute your batter among the lined tins, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. My cupcakes didn’t brown all that much, but I sacrificed the appealing color to make sure they didn’t end up super dry. (You’re covering them with frosting anyway. And yes, those are caramel chunks that didn’t blend in with the batter. Yum.)
My cupcakes ended up SUPER SWEET – I used 1 cup sugar – so I amended this recipe to reflect what I’ll do next time. You’re welcome to use the full cup, but coupling that with the frosting - you’ll push them over the edge. I might just be sensitive to sweets, but this was over the top.
I topped these with a “caramel” buttercream, but if I’d had more time, I would have topped them with this caramel buttercream.
HALF-ASSED CARAMEL BUTTERCREAM
- 2 sticks butter
- 2 cups powdered sugar (more if it’s not stiff enough)
- 1/4 cup-ish caramel syrup
Beat the butter until it lightens. Add in the caramel syrup and continue beating. Add in powdered sugar gradually until you reach your ideal consistency. This didn’t taste super caramel-ly, but it sure was good! (and SWEEEEEET) Again, next time I might make extra JD syrup and let some of it harden for me to sprinkle as a garnish. And maybe make extra to use in the buttercream itself.
These cupcakes were phenomenal, despite the fact that I couldn’t get over the sugar overload. The house smelled like whisky while the syrup was going, and even while they were baking, but there was surprisingly no alcohol flavor in the end product. (And that syrup was incredible on its own, hardly alcoholic! Just how I like my alcohol! All flavor, no burn.) The birthday girl’s favorite colors are also my favorite colors, hence the decor, and these were well received by the birthday girl and revelers alike. I will for sure work some of this syrup into things in the future.
These will rate at a 4.5 because they’re “alcoholic,” sugary, and went like hotcakes. Do you have a favorite alcohol-infused baked good?