Caramel? Carmel? Huh?

Who the heck cares how it’s pronounced (the first way is correct. The latter is a town in California).

Only fifth day back on the ol’ blog and I’m going to hit you with a recipe. And I’m giving you this one so that you can knock it out of the park when that first bake sale comes along at your kids’ school. Which should be any minute. Amazing how quickly those volunteer forms go out.

This will take a little bit of work, but you can assemble each part of it on different days ahead, but the parts are easy and will therefore render the whole thing not so horrible. AND, it’s the best recipe for a cupcake that I have tried in a long, looooonnng time. In fact, I recently made it for a good friend’s birthday and as we all sat around the table eating it, there was silence. That’s always a good sign.

One of the good things about these cupcakes is that they are mini-cupcakes. Your sugar-craving brain right now is saying “What?? Mini?? I want a FULL-size, not a supposed FUN- Size!”. But yes, you do. The Mini is the perfect size for these, we discovered,  because they are so sweet. You won’t feel sick afterwards (as you often do after eating a whole, mammoth CRUMBS cupcake), you will feel fabulously satiated only in the way you can when you have eaten the perfect amount of something.

*A Note: I’d add a wee bit more salt (to taste) to the caramel…and this recipe for chocolate frosting is a stinkin’ winner! Also, make the frosting three days ahead of when you need it, make the caramel two days ahead (rewarm for filling) and the cupcakes one day ahead. When it’s done in stages, it’ doesn’t seem like a production.

Salted Caramel filled Cupcakes, courtesy of Martha Stewart

The Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup warm waterDirections
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line mini muffin tin with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract, and the water; beat until smooth and combined.Spoon the batter into liners about two-thirds full. Bake approximately 15 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Transfer tins to wire racks and allow to cool for 10 minutes; turn cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 1 month in air tight containers.ON THE DAY YOU WILL BE EATING THEM: Use a paring knife to cut a cone-shaped piece (about 1/2 inch deep) from the center of each cupcake and throw away the pieces. Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons warm Salted Caramel Filling into each hollowed-out cupcake. You will notice the caramel will sink into the cupcake a little, just fill it up a bit more. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over filling.

Spread Dark Chocolate Frosting onto each cupcake. Garnish each cupcake with a pinch of sea salt. Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are filled and frosted. Store at room temperature in airtight containers – do NOT refrigerate. Enjoy!

Salted Caramel Filling
2 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, preferably fleur de sel

Heat sugar with the water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over high, stirring occasionally, until syrup is clear; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan and stop stirring.

Cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and just reaches 360°F. Remove rom heat and slowly pour in cream; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in sea salt.

Use immediately; if caramel begins to harden reheat gently until pourable.

Dark Chocolate Frosting
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
2 1/4 cups (4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds best-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Combine cocoa and boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved.

With electric mixer on medium-high, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture.

Frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 days, or frozen up to 1 month in an air tight container. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat on low speed until smooth again.


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