Chatter, chatter, chatter, “This is the best cupcake ever. No really, it’s the perfect cupcakes!.” – Jess
I made these beautiful salted caramel chocolate cupcakes for my dear friend and roommate Stacey. We took them to a local establishment to share dessert and drinks with friends. The bouncer may have tried to steal the cupcakes, but Stacey was protective. We had a lovely night with friends, drinks, and cupcakes!
These cupcakes are an act of love because they are not a simple, throw it together type thing. This recipe requires some focus and a lot of bowls, but the end result is absolutely worth it! The cake is moist, dark, chocolaty, and has a perfect light crumb. The filling didn’t really turn out for me, but was still buttery, smooth, and sweet despite the chewy chunks of caramel. The frosting is decadent with the sweetness from the melted chocolate balanced by the bitterness of the cocoa powder. And all of this is topped off by a generous sprinkling of sea salt which makes this rich cupcake completely well balanced. Like I said, and act of love!
Yield – 22 cupcakes
Dark Chocolate Cupcake
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cups dark unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 ½ tea. baking soda
1 tea. baking powder
1 tea salt
4 table. vegetable oil
¾ cup buttermilk (I use the juice of half a lemon in a measuring cup and then I filled to the ¾ mark with whole milk)
¾ cup coffee
1 table. vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 ˚F while you gather all your ingredients. In the bowl a mixer add the flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, powder, and salt. Mix on the slowest speed with the paddle attachments until the mixture is homogeneous. In bowl whisk together the oil, buttermilk*, coffee, eggs, and vanilla until well combined. Slowly pour this mixture into the dry and beat until combined. Turn the mixer up to high for a few seconds to combine. Scrap the bowl, mixing once by hand. Use a standard size ice cream scoop to pour into a lined cupcake pan. Don’t worry, the better is runny. Bake for 18 minutes one pan at a time. Check that a toothpick comes out clean of a middle cupcake. Place on a cooling rack. When cool, cut a shallow cone out of each cupcake with a paring knife. Eat the cones or save them for your roommates!
* I hardly ever buy buttermilk, it just seems like too much for me. I almost always use the adding acid to milk trick. Feel free to use buttermilk and/or Google the substitutions yourself for a clearer answer.
Salted Caramel Filling
½ cup + 2 table. sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup heavy cream
big pinch of sea salt (I use a small grey fleur de sel from Penzey’s)
¼ cup + 2 table. sugar
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature
In a medium sauce pan heat water and sugar (1/2 cup + 2 table.) until the sugar turns an amber color. It smells like it is burning and it is not going to work, but it does. Once the sugar has changed color whisk in the cream and salt, keep whisking until well combined. Be careful of the bubbles. Put aside to cool.
In a double boiler, whisk together the sugar (1/4 cup + 2 table.) until they reach 160 ˚F or until you touch the egg/sugar mixture and it feels completely smooth, no grittiness. Pour the mixture into a mixer with a whisk attachment. Beat at high speed until the sugar and eggs have stiff, white, glossy peaks and the mixing bowl is cool to the touch. Add the butter about 2 tablespoons at a time until all incorporated. Just keep mixing, everything will work out! The recipe says to add the cool caramel at this point, I did and the caramel seized up making a big hard mess. Next time I’ll probably just add a pre-made caramel syrup to get the right flavor. This was a really big mess, I would have make it over, but I did not have enough butter. The chunks of caramel kept getting stuck in my piping bag and the butter cream did not taste like caramel at all, just a buttery, sugar pile of deliciousness, but no caramel notes. I will tackle the caramel butter cream some day!
Pipe the caramel Swiss meringue butter cream into the little cones on the top of the cupcakes. Sprinkle a little extra sea salt over the filling.
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
⅓ cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
⅓ cup hot water
18 table. unsalted butter, room temperature
⅓ cup + 1 table. powdered sugar
big pinch of sea salt
1 table. vanilla
Melt the chocolate chips over a double boiler. I rinsed the bowl out from the eggs and used the same set up. Once melted, set aside to cool. Beat the butter and sugar until pale yellow in the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment. Add the chocolate. While beating, stir together the cocoa and hot water until smooth in a separate bowl. Add to the mixer with the vanilla and salt. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy. Put into a piping bag with a round tip and pipe onto the cupcakes.
¼ cup water
½ cup sugar
½ cup heavy cream + a little extra
½ tea. vinegar or lemon juice
1 tea. vanilla
pinch of salt
Pour the water into a medium sauce pan and add the sugar in a pile in the middle. Heat until the sugar is all bubbly and turns a dark amber. While the sugar is heating, warm the cream in a small sauce pan with the salt. Once the sugar turns in the proper color, turn off the stove and add a little bit of the cream, whisking together. Watch the bubbles. Add the rest of the cream and keeping whisking. Add the vanilla and vinegar. The real recipe calls for lemon juice, but I was out from making my “buttermilk” so I substituted another acid. I think the caramel must need some sort of acid because this caramel worked a lot better than my first batch. The vinegar did not affect the taste at all. I added a little bit more cream to make it more of a drizzle-like consistency. Let cool until you are not afraid to touch it. Drizzle over cupcakes and then sprinkle with more sea salt.
The caramel drizzle is not apart of the original recipe, but since the caramel Swiss meringue butter cream did not work out, I really wanted a caramel element. It adds the perfect, jewel like touch to these cupcakes. I really believe the drizzle was the icing on the cake, if you will!
Cupcake, filling, & frosting adapted from Annie Eats
Caramel drizzle adapted from Baking Illustrated page 499