Salted Caramel Cupcakes

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August and September are big birthday months around our home, beginning with mine in late August, Brent's in early September, followed by Sebastian's mid-September. It's not typical for me to make my own birthday cake, I usually leave that up to others, but I do like to go all out for Brent and Sebastian's. 

Brent loves salted caramel. Aside from chocolate mint, caramel has got to be his favorite dessert flavor. I, on the other hand, love all things sweet and am really not that fussy. I do really love salted caramel though and was really excited when he asked for some sort of dessert with caramel incorporated.  

I decided to add the caramel sauce to the frosting, making a cream cheese/buttercream salted caramel type concoction, and it turned out so incredibly light and fluffy. The cake recipe is my standard John Scharffenberger chocolate cake, which if you've read any of my other chocolate cake posts, you'll know that I always make this recipe. 

If you've ever been to Seattle and visited Trophy Cupcakes, one of my favorite cupcakes on the menu is the salted caramel. Without having ever tried to recreate their recipe, I was delightfully surprised when these cupcakes came out almost exactly the same. The cake is delightfully light and moist. The frosting is light and airy, slightly sweet, with a touch of saltiness. Brent is not really a dessert guy, but I kid you not, he ate at least 15 of the 24 cupcakes. Over the span of a week, that is.  

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SALTED CARAMEL CUPCAKES

cake recipe adapted from Essence of Chocolate

makes 24 cupcakes/ prep time: 30 minutes / baking time: 15 minutes

2 cups granulated sugar

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

2 large eggs

1/2 cup of a light tasting oil (canola, avocado, etc.)

1 cup whole milk

1 cup boiling water

CARAMEL INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 tsp Maldon salt

ICING INGREDIENTS

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup caramel sauce (see above)

1 tsp vanilla 

2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Line two cupcake tins with 24 cupcake liners. 

To make the cupcakes, in a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. 

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, and milk to combine. 

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk to combine. Add the hot water and whisk to combine. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full. Place the trays into the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 

Remove from the oven and let cool. 

While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the caramel. 

To make the caramel, in a small saucepan, heat the sugar on medium-high heat whisking continually until it begins to melt. Once it has started to melt and you can no longer see any clumps, stop whisking, and begin to gently swirl the liquid in the saucepan. Using a candy thermometer, heat the sugar until it reaches 350ºF. Once it has reached 350ºF, the sugar should be a nice caramel color. note: If you heat it any higher than 350ºF, it will begin to smoke and then you will have to start over.

Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the butter and vigorously whisk until the butter is incorporated. note: adding the butter will cause the mixture to bubble and spurt. This is normal. 

Add the cream and whisk until combined. Finally, add the salt and combine.

Transfer the caramel to a bowl and let it sit on the counter until it reaches room temperature. 

To make the frosting, add the butter to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and beat until soft and pale. Add the cream cheese, room-temperature caramel, and vanilla and mix until creamy and light. Add the powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Transfer the icing to a piping bag.

Once the cupcakes have cooled to room temperature, you are ready to ice them. 

Can be stored in a container in the fridge for 4-5 days.