Where to begin? My goodness, I love these babies! I had been craving a proper chocolate cupcake with a salted caramel frosting for a long time. I knew where I could probably buy one, but sometimes I get a little ticked at the steep price tag for just a “bite” of cake– especially when my kids beg for (and usually get) them every week. I got to thinking, and decided to try to make them myself. I combined several recipes, and came up with cupcakes that are even better than I imagined.
I used my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, but made it with coconut oil. The cake is moist and dense. I’ve become addicted to coconut oil lately (I’ve even made a coconut oil body butter–but more on that another time). These cupcakes have a nice, subtle coconut flavor that blends perfectly with the chocolate and caramel. Now my goal was to use a healthier fat– which worked– though I’m not sure the ‘healthiness’ mattered, since I piled a mound of buttercream on top. Oh well, they are cupcakes, after all.
Now, let’s talk about the salted caramel. Salt and caramel are such a heavenly combination. So perfect. You will not use all of the caramel, which is a good thing. Just keep it in your refrigerator, and use later poured over ice cream. Or drizzle it over a brownie. Or just enjoy it by the spoonful (or maybe that’s just me).
And you know that deliciously thick and rich frosting that makes those specialty shop cupcakes so good? Yeah, that’s this stuff. It not just a buttercream, it’s meringue buttercream. Big difference. This one uses egg whites, but don’t worry, they’re perfectly safe because they’ve been carefully cooked. They whip up beautifully and become a silky treasure when mixed with the butter. Add that liquid gold salted caramel, and you’ve just made one of the most delicious frostings possible.
The Recipe: Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Meringue Buttercream
(Makes 16-18 frosted cupcakes)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 teaspoon fleur de del (regular sea salt or even kosher will also work)
1/4 cup sour cream
To make the caramel: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup along with 1/4 cup water. Gently stir them together, being careful not to splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350°F, or until the mixture is a dark amber in color, about 6-8 minutes. Keep a watchful eye on it, as it can turn from a golden amber color to burnt very quickly. Remove from heat and slowly add the cream (be careful, it will bubble), and then add the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Or refrigerate if making ahead of time, then bring to room temperature before mixing into the buttercream.
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces high-quality semi-sweet chocolate (60% cacao works great), chopped
1/2 cup strong, very hot coffee
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup unbleached cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Bake until tester inserted into center comes out with some crumbs attached, about 16-18 minutes. Cool in pans for about 10 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to cooling racks and cool completely.
Salted Caramel Meringue Buttercream:
4 large (1/2 cup) egg whites
1 cup sugar
pinch of kosher salt
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/3 cup salted caramel
To make the meringue buttercream: Put the egg whites, sugar and salt into a medium-sized heatproof mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk gently and continuously until the egg whites reach 140°F. The eggs whites will be hot and the sugar will be dissolved, about 3-4 minutes.
Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl of a very clean stand mixer. Using the whip attachment, whip mixture on high until thick and cooled, about 5 minutes. (Make sure the meringue is cooled to room temperature before adding the butter, or the butter will melt and will not make a proper frosting). With the mixer running, slowly add the butter to the meringue, one chunk at a time. Beat until the buttercream is smooth and spreadable, scraping down the sides of the bowl, as needed. With the machine still running, slowly add the salted caramel and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes.
Troubleshooting: If for some reason your buttercream is too soft (perhaps your meringue wasn’t cooled enough), stir the buttercream over ice water; then beat with a machine until smooth and spreadable. Sometimes buttercream separates – it will look like scrambled eggs. If this happens, briefly immerse the bottom of the mixing bowl into some hot tap water, then beat again until the buttercream is smooth and spreadable.
To Assemble the Cupcakes:
After the caramel and cupcakes have cooled to room temperature, using a small knife carefully cut out a 1/2-inch circle midway down in the center of the cupcakes. Fill the hole with the salted caramel just to the surface. Place the salted caramel meringue buttercream into a large pastry bag and top each cupcake with a swirl of it — be generous! Frosted cupcakes should be eaten as soon as possible, but will hold their shape for a couple hours. Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container for a few days. Leftover caramel should be treated as gold, because it is that delicious. Store in jar and refrigerate — it makes a wonderful topping for ice cream. Enjoy!
Thanks for stopping by Relishing It today — hope you enjoy these cupcakes!
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