I hope you all had a good 4th! I know I did, which is why this entry is a day late…
Let me start this post off with a story… I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business, when I hear someone scream out behind me “Oh my G-d!” I turned to see if my coworker was okay, thinking he’d screamed out in pain, when I saw the empty cupcake wrapper on his desk and he replied “that was amazing.” So that pretty much sums up these treats.
The recipe was provided to me by a coworker a couple of months ago after he found them on Bakers Royale, and he requested them for his birthday in June. These ended up being a belated birthday treat, for all the June birthdays really, because he was out on his actual birthday and I had no free time to make them, but they were well worth the wait. I think I got more compliments on these than anything I have made – even Bras told me this is by far the best thing I have ever baked.
The recipe yields a dozen regular sized cupcakes, but I ended up making 4 dozen mini-cupcakes and 3 regular sized ones for the birthday peeps. I made mine slightly differently than Naomi on Bakers Royale, but the idea was the same. Also, check out her page because she’s got some great notes on this recipe, as well as some step by step pictures that I failed to take.
SALTED CARAMEL CHEESECAKE BITES
For the cheesecake:
- 4 oz graham crackers (I bought a 1lb box, so I just counted out 1/4 of the crackers)
- 4 Tbsp butter – Melted
- 16 oz cream cheese (2 packages – I mention that because for some reason I assumed it was one originally)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
Line some muffin tins, 12 regular sized or about 48 mini ones, and set aside.
Then, pulverize your graham crackers until they’re super fine and resemble sand. I should have used a processor, but I did get out some aggression by smashing them with a meat tenderizer. (Best done by putting the crackers in a zip-top bag, sealing it, and then smashing. Flip the bag over occasionally so you crush everything evenly.)
Add the melted butter and process some more (in my case I put the crumbs and butter in a bowl and stirred) until all the cracker crumbs are coated. Distribute the mixture among the muffin liners. You don’t want to use too much in each cup because you want to save room for the cheesecake. Pat down the crumbs with either a pastry brush or, as I did, the back of a wooden spoon. Place the tins in the fridge to cool for half an hour.
After those go into the fridge, preheat your oven to 275º. Cheesecake is best cooked low and slow.
To make the cheesecake filling, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated – scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Don’t over-beat once the eggs have been added.
Add the filling to your chilled muffin tins, about 3/4 of the way full. You’ll want extra room at the top for the caramel, so it doesn’t spill out of the cup, and these will puff up slightly as they’re baking. (Pre-bake picture below – that’s about how full you want them to leave room for the caramel)
Bake regular sized cupcakes for 25 minutes, and the mini ones for about 16-18 minutes. I wish I had a good way of telling you how to check when they’re done, but I actually just went with baking time on this. They kind of dome up a little on the top, and there’s no sheen, but they don’t brown or anything. They should just look set, I guess. (If anyone has a real gauge for doneness, please let me know!)
While those are cooling, still in the tins, you can start on the salted caramel topping.
Salted Caramel Topping:
- 5 Tbsp water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp sea salt
- extra sea salt for decorating
Put the water and sugar in a medium sized saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high, and the mixture will start to bubble after about a minute. DO NOT STIR THE SAUCE DIRECTLY. Every now and again, using the handle, give the pot a swirl to agitate the mixture. After a few more minutes, it will turn a light shade of amber, and a couple minutes later it will be darker. (The original Bakers Royale post has a great photo set of these different stages, check it out.) Once it hits the darker shade, take the pan off the heat and add in the cream. It will foam up, but don’t worry – just whisk to combine. Then, when it’s smooth, add in the teaspoon of salt and vanilla and mix to combine evenly.
Let the sauce sit for a while until it cools down to a much warmer temperature. Stir it once to make sure the salt is fully melted, then spoon it over the cheesecake, almost to the top of the liner. Please keep in mind that, I didn’t realize this at first, the caramel doesn’t harden or solidify – even if you put the cupcakes in the fridge overnight. Sprinkle the tops with a little extra sea salt and you’re set to serve.
A little note about taking them out of the muffin tins – these are soft, not like a regular cupcake, so you’ll want to use a knife to help get them out of the cups. Just run a butter knife on one side of the cupcake, or all around if it doesn’t seem to budge, and use it to pull the cup up enough for you to grab it. Otherwise, if you just try to pull them out, you’ll squish them and they won’t look too pretty.
Now, I know you’re all wondering about the evil rating on these bad boys. It is extremely high, I’m giving them a 5. You want to know why? Because of all the lovely comments I got from my coworkers about them. Maat said “These things look gnarly, like good gnarly.” Then he took a bite and said it was “Pretty close to being the most amazingest thing I ever had in my life.” Ash told me they were ridiculous and cautioned “don’t ever do it again.” Brett, one of the June birthday boys, said “Thank you for the little treats, they are a masterpiece!” Miss J called them life changing, and Kevin said “You are EVIL.” When I responded “but they’re mini cupcakes,” he replied “Yeah, so I eat more of them!” I said you’re welcome.
You should make these as soon as possible. They’re easy and don’t require too many special ingredients – aside from the cream cheese, I had everything else lying around the kitchen. (Or properly refrigerated, like the eggs and cream.)
Plus look at all the pretty layers!