I have been obsessed with salted caramel cupcakes and have tried many iterations of the basic salted caramel cupcake recipe. First, I tried using Rose Levy Berambaum's recipe for caramel cake and frosting it with a salted caramel Italian meringue buttercream. The cupcake was delicious (as expected since it was a Rose Levy Berambaum recipe) but the entire cupcake combination didn’t quite have the potent salted caramel flavor that I wanted. Next I found a triple salted caramel cupcake recipe on sprinklebakes.com. It had gooey salted caramel oozing out of the middle, and after I slightly adapted the buttercream recipe to my taste (I prefer an Italian, French or Swiss buttercream rather than an American buttercream), I thought it was exactly what I was looking for in a salted caramel cupcake until I found the recipe below. This cupcake apparently won on Cupcake Wars in 2012 and I can certainly understand why and agree with the judges.
The original recipe called for a pecan coconut brittle crumble and the first time I made these, I made the crumble as instructed and sprinkled a dusting on each cupcake. Many of my friends didn't like the coconut in brittle and to be honest I wasn't crazy about it either -- so the next time I made them I used a homemade chocolate toffee crumble. The chocolate toffee crumble woked perfectly with the flavor profile of the cupcake and it put this cupcake over the top for me. It's my new favorite salted caramel cupcake.
Adapted from the Food Network's Salted Caramel Cupcakes with Pecan Coconut Brittle Crumble and Caramel Swiss Buttercream
Makes 24 cupcakes
For the Homemade Salted Caramel:
- 1-2/3 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
- 1-1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
For the Chocolate Toffee Candy Bar:
- 1-1/2 cups slivered almonds
- 1-1/2 cups butter (3 sticks)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup water
- 1-1/2 to 2 bags chocolate chips (preferably 60% bittersweet chips)
- 1/3 cup almonds
For the Cupcakes:
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1-3/4 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
For the Caramel Italian Meringue Buttercream:
- 1-1/4 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
- 1/2 cup homemade salted caramel
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two standard muffin pans with 24 cupcake liners.
Step 2: For the salted caramel: Combine the sugar, 1/3 cup water and the corn syrup in a small saucepan. Stir with a wooden spoon and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer, swirling the pot occasionally, until the mixture is a beautiful amber color (watch closely).
Step 3: Once the desired color is reached, immediately add the butter and stir with a wooden spoon until completely incorporated.
Step 4: Remove from the heat. Add the heavy cream and stir to incorporate. Stir in the coarse salt.
Step 5: Pour 1/2 cup of the salted caramel into a small bowl or measuring cup, and the remainder into another bowl. Cool completely, stirring occasionally.
Step 6: For the chocolate toffee: Toast 1-1/2 cups slivered almonds for about 10 minutes in a 425 degree oven until lightly browned (watch carefully; it can burn quickly). Place in a bowl.
Step 7: Place the remaining 1/3 cup almonds in a blender and blend/grate to a fine consistency; set aside.
Step 8: In fairly deep soup pot, combine the butter, sugar, salt, and water. Cook, stirring with a long-handled spoon on medium high heat. When temperature reaches 140 degrees C, add toasted almonds. Continue cooking and stirring.
Step 9: When temperature reaches 150-154 degrees C, pour out quickly on to lightly oiled cookie sheets (2 small or 1 very large) and spread thin with the back of the spoon. When cool spread with melted chocolate chips and sprinkle with ground almonds. When cold, break into pieces.
Step 10: For the cupcakes: In a medium bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder and kosher salt and set aside.
Step 11: Combine the milk and vanilla and set aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Step 12: Once incorporated, add the eggs, one at a time, at low speed. Be sure to incorporate after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Do not over beat.
Step 13: Once incorporated, add the flour mixture and the milk mixture. Alternate with three parts flour and two parts milk, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary (we don't want any butter chunks stuck to the bottom). Using a 1/4-cup ice cream scoop, fill each cupcake liner with batter.
Step 14: Bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer the pans to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, and then transfer the cupcakes to the racks to cool completely before filling and frosting.
Step 15: While the cupcakes are baking, make the buttercream: Separate the egg whites and place them in the bowl of the standing mixer fitted with a wire whip attachment.
Step 16 Measure 1 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup water into a heavy bottom 1-2 quart sauce pan. Gently stir to combine.
Step 17: Measure 1/4 cup of sugar into a small bowl and set aside. cut the butter into tablespoon size pieces and set aside in a medium bowl.
Step 18: Begin heating the sugar syrup. Place the pot with sugar over medium-high heat. Partially cover with a lid to capture the evaporating water - this will help moisten the sides of the pot to prevent sugar crystals separating from the syrup.
Step 19: Begin whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks in a standing mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment on high speed. When the meringue is at stiff peaks, keep the mixer running and pour 1/4 cup sugar into the meringue.
Step 20: Test the temperature of the sugar with a candy thermometer. Raise the heat to bring the syrup to 248 degrees Fahrenheit if it is not there already. When the syrup is at 248 degrees F, remove the thermometer and slowly pour the syrup into the meringue.
Step 21: When pouring, keep your eye on the bowl. Aim for the space between the mixer bowl and the revolving whip. To maintain the same rate of pouring, poor slowly and raise the pot from your shoulder.
Step 22: To assemble: Use a small serrated knife, core each cupcake about 1-1/4 inches wide at the top and halfway into the cake. Fill each with about 1 tablespoon of the remaining salted caramel.
Step 23: Frost each cupcake with a generous amount of caramel buttercream and garnish with crumbled pecan coconut brittle.