Saturday, 29 November 2014

Salted Caramel Cupcakes oh my!

Browsing around the supermarket yesterday I came across this:

Oh my, I adore salted caramel there is just something about that salty sweet goodness that hits just the right spot! I mean look at it! Golden and thick and gooey, mmh... (yes, that spoon did go in my mouth right after that photo was taken)

So, as you can guess, I bought this wonderful pot of deliciousness and decided that the only decent thing to do with it, besides spooning it directly into my mouth, was to make cupcakes with it. I mean cupcakes are awesome, salted caramel is awesome so put them together and you have something extra awesome right? Right! 

I searched for some salted caramel cupcake recipes and boy were there many to choose from, should I go with Vanilla or Chocolate? How about double salted caramel? I actually tried out a few cupcake recipes but none seemed to hit the spot. One was a chocolate cupcake made with oil, I learned that I do not like oil in cupcakes they taste weird and have a funny texture, the other was a vanilla cupcake that just seemed to lack that wow factor I was after. Then I remembered these cupcakes from my first post that I adored. They were so chocolatey and rich and fudgy, perfect! They are quickly becoming my go-to chocolate cupcake.

Then onto the frosting, since I was using caramel I didn't really want to use plain old buttercream as it is so very sweet. I noticed that many of the recipes I was browsing used Swiss Meringue Buttercream but that had a heck of a lot of butter, but then I noticed once that had Italian Meringue Buttercream, it seemed much simpler than the Swiss kind, no whipping egg whites over a pan of simmering water.. yay! So I went with Italian. 

I am so glad Mr. Grad bought me a Kenwood Stand mixer for my birthday this year, oh boy do I love that machine and that man! I don't think you can really make this kind of frosting without one. It was my first time making this kind of frosting and it is a bit more involved than just whacking sugar and butter in a mixer but I followed this recipe by Annalise and it turned out perfectly. If you are struggling I totally suggest you to check out her step-by-step tutorial. Incidentally today I also learned how to make Marshmallow Fluff, now that is dangerous knowledge to have! 

So anyway back on track, cupcakes... chocolatey, fudgy cupcakes topped with a billowing cloud of caramel flavoured Italian meringue buttercream, drizzled with more salted caramel and finished off with a little chocolate shard! Heaven! These quickly got sent with Mr. Grad to work because, you know, its not a good idea to leave me alone with 12 of these babies! Everyone LOVED them. I tell ya I'm making that man look good! I mean... just look at them... who could resist?**

So without further ado, I present to you...
Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes: makes 12
These cupcakes are so amazingly delicious, intensely chocolatey and fudgy with a nice light frosting taken over the top with the addition of delicious salted caramel! Heaven! You will go back for seconds!

You do need a sugar thermometer for the frosting, I mean you could do it by eye but the thermometers are so cheap it's simpler just to buy one!

Ingredients: For the Cupcakes:
  • 125g Plain Flour
  • 150g Caster Sugar (I like to use golden caster sugar but white will do fine)
  • 40g Cocoa Powder
  • 2 tbsp Instant Coffee (I use espresso powder, it gives such a better flavour!)
  • 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 113g Butter - melted 
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 120ml Fresh Brewed Coffee - cooled
For the Italian Meringue Buttercream:
  • 2 egg whites
  • 100g Granulated Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Water
  • 225g Butter - cubed and at room temperature
  • 4-5tbsp Salted Caramel Sauce 

To Finish

  • Salted Caramel Sauce
  • Chocolate Shards - I used Dr. Oetker striped chocolate triangles. 

For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat the oven to 175C/160C Fan/Gas Mark 4. Line a 12 hole muffin pan with cupcake liners. 
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the Flour, Sugar, Cocoa, Instant Coffee, Bicarb. and Salt.
  3. Add the eggs, butter and vanilla to the bowl and beat on a medium speed for one minute until well combined.
  4. Pour in half of the coffee and beat for 20 seconds on medium speed again, scrape down the sides and then add in the rest of the coffee and beat for a further 20-30 seconds until the batter is smooth.
  5. Divide the batter equally between the cupcake liners (usually about 2/3 full) and bake for 18-20 minutes. They're done when a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Leave to cool on a wire rack. 
For the Frosting:
  1.  Put the sugar and water in a small pan over a medium heat. Bring to a boil, making sure to stir occasionally. Once it comes to a boil you must stop stirring it. Insert the candy thermometer and bring up to 115C. You can swirl the pan at this point, but no stirring with utensils! 
  2. Once the sugar comes to a boil you can start whipping up your egg whites, whip them in the bowl of your stand mixer until they reach medium peaks - by the time they are whipped up you sugar should have reached the right temp.
  3. When your sugar reaches 115C take it off the heat immediately and turn you mixer to medium speed and pour the sugar in a slow, steady stream.
  4. Once the sugar has been added, turn the mixer up to high and beat until the mixture has cooled to room temperature. Keep checking the side of the bowl, when it's no longer hot to the touch you should be pretty much there. At this point you will basically have marshmallow fluff. ( you could stop here and add your flavourings and just pipe that on the cupcakes it would be equally delicious.)
  5. Now, turn your mixer down to medium speed and start adding the butter a few tablespoons at a time. Make sure its fully incorporated before you add the next batch. Keep going until you've added all the butter. In some cases you may not have a smooth frosting immediately, it may look a bit separated, don't panic! just keep beating it on high for a few minutes until it comes together.
  6. Add the salted caramel to your frosting (if you are using premade like I did and it's a bit hard, I just put the jar in the warm oven after I'd baked the cupcakes (turned off of course!) for 10 minutes or so until more liquid. 
  7. Now just beat for a few minutes until all light and fluffy!

To Finish:
  1. Using your favourite tip, pie the frosting onto the cupcakes in any pattern or style you like. I like to use a large star tip and pip up mounds of it.
  2. Drizzle with a little of the salted caramel sauce and finish off with a delicious chocolate shard (or even a caramel sweet on top would look good, use your imagination!) 
  3. Try not to eat all 12 by yourself.

** I do apologize for the horrifically bad photograph, it was 22:30 and I was tired, and my lightbulb blew so pretty much no light! oops! But they still look delicious! 

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