Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chocolate Salted-Caramel Mini Cupcakes

I'm going to start this post off by saying that these are AMAZING!  Seriously - amazing.  They take a lot of time and effort, but soooo worth it.  Before making these, I wasn't too sure about the chocolate cake with chocolate frosting - I thought it was going to be too overpowering....I was so wrong.  The caramel that's in the middle of this cupcake totally changes the taste of everything and makes it delicious and not overpowered by chocolate.  Points to Martha Stewart for putting this recipe out there.  It is now my new favorite.  I didn't really have a favorite cupcake before.  But as I took my first bite of one I'm pretty sure some expletives formed in my head about how good these really are.  I mean look at this.......

rich and delicious
......it's amazing.  Set aside some time for this one - it's a lot of steps.  And the fact that I only have 1 mini cupcake pan didn't help me either.  And I think that if this was made into larger, regular size cupcakes they would be too rich so I would stick with the minis.

Once all my cupcakes were baked off and cooled, I cut holes into each of them - make sure that you don't cut all the way to the bottom.  You want to leave a layer of cake to support the caramel. 

don't worry if they aren't pretty,
no one is going to see this part
Once this step is done, time to make the caramel.   This being my second time making caramel, I still was amazed and scared by it - I definitely don't want to get burned by hot sugar.  Once it's all ready, I took a spoon and filled each cupcake with the warm caramel.  The caramel will cool off because this takes a while, gently reheating it is allowed and ok.  I had to reheat mine twice.  And I had some left over so I filled up some candy molds to use it all up.

caramel pops :)
 Once all filled, top off with some sea salt and get going on the frosting.  Best, richest chocolate frosting ever.  All ready to go, I put it in my pastry gun and top away.   And somehow now I can't unscrew the top half of my gun - so it's just sitting by my sink, full of the remains of chocolate frosting - waiting to be cleaned.  Anyone have any suggestions to unstick it?  None of us can unscrew it and it's driving me crazy.  Back to the cupcakes - once they are all frosted, sprinkle a little of sea salt on top of each cupcake and you are good to go. 

Then you are good to go! Eat them! They are so worth all this work.  Heays ate one and while she was eating it she looked at me and said that these are amazing....and she was sad that I said to bring in the tupperware full of them on the counter this morning - she wanted those for us. 

Chocolate Salted-Caramel Mini Cupcakes
makes about 56 minis

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup warm water
Salted Caramel Filling
Dark Chocolate Frosting
Sea Salt for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line mini muffin tins with paper liners.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add eggs, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and the water.  With an electric mixer on low speed, beat until smooth and combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. 
  2. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about two-thirds full.  Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until cake tester comes out clean, about 15 minutes.  Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and cool completely. 
  3. Use a paring knife to cut a cone-shaped piece (about 1/2" deep) from the center of each cupcake (discard pieces).  Spoon 1-2 tsps warm filling into each hollowed-out cupcake.  Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over filling.
  4. Fill a pastry bag with a medium open-star tip with frosting.  Pipe frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak.  Garnish each cupcake with a pinch of sea salt.  Store at room temperature (do not refrigerate).

Salted Caramel Filling
makes about 2 cups

2 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tbsp light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 tsp sea salt

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.  Stop stirring, and 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 degrees F.  Remove from heat; slowly pour in cream (mixture will spatter) and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Stir in sea salt.  Use immediately; if at any time caramel begins to harden, reheat gently until pourable.

Dark Chocolate Frosting
makes about 5 cups

1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp boiling water
2 1/4 cups (4 1/2 sticks) butter, room temp
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 lbs semi sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Combine cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved.  With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, 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.  If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 days, or frozen up to 1 month, in an airtight container.  Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again.

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