Sunday, February 23, 2014

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Filling and Honey Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Well hello there!

I know it has been a while since my last post... I've been caught up in the beginnings of the semester and haven't had a chance to get back into my blogging creativity until now.

I just cannot believe that it is almost March already. Time flies in an oh so cliché way, before I know it this semester will be over (yay!!) and I will be on to new and (hopefully) greater things! A free trip to Israel (fingers crossed that I get in to Birthright), culinary school, working in a bakery again. Oh to just fast forward!

But back to these cupcakes...My wonderful friend Allison had a birthday earlier this week, and I couldn't make it to her celebration, so we had a lovely little belated birthday evening friday night. 
We went to a fancified diner in town for dinner (Luke's Joint...super good organic/local foods), and then came back to Pheebs' and my place for tea and cupcakes. (Because tea: always. And cupcakes: duh).

These guys are a combination of a few different recipes that I have come to love in my time blogging. The cake is the same one I used for the Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting (which I got from A Cup of Marscapone). Super moist, fluffy and the coffee just gives the chocolate that wonderful boost of flavor.

The salted caramel filling came from this same recipe I used for these Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies I did. Easy, no thermometer needed. But of course, watch that FINE line between delish and burnt.

And the Honey Vanilla Buttercream came from the Baked Explorations cookbook recipe for their Aunt Sassy Cake. Such a perfect buttercream. I find the amount of honey they use to be a little much, so I reduce it to one or one and a half tablespoons, and I use vanilla bean paste. Out of this world.


2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I used fat free)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup hot brewed coffee (you can use boiling water instead, but I recommend the coffee for taste!)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp water
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp butter
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp and cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or extract
1 (or 1 1/2) tablespoon honey

Make the Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line your cupcake tin with papers. Mix together the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla and mix on low for about two minutes. Add in milk and mix on low until incorporated, then scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Add in the hot coffee and mix on low. Batter will be very thin, but that's how it supposed to be. Fill the cupcake tins 3/4 of the way with the batter, and bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool before filling/frosting.

Make the Caramel: In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water (after whisking together slightly) over high heat until it turns an amber color (about 8 minutes on the stove), swirling the pan occasionally to get the sugar moving a bit. Once you've reached the color, remove from heat and whisk in the butter. Then slowly pour the cream in a small stream, whisking as you go. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan with your whisk so the sugar doesn't clump. Once everything is combined, whisk in the salt and vanilla.

Make the Buttercream: In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar and flour. Add the milk and cream, and cook over medium heat while continually whisking or stirring with a heatproof spatula to prevent the bottom from scorching. Cook until it comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 minutes. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat with the paddle attachment on high speed until cool, about 10 minutes. Then on medium speed, add in the butter a few pieces at a time. Mix until the butter in incorporated (about 5 minutes), and then turn it up to medium-high and beat another two minutes. Add in the vanilla and honey, and beat until combined. If it isn't the right consistency, try sticking it in the fridge for 10 minutes or so and beat again. When in doubt, beat the hell out of it! :)

Assembly: Using a small knife, or a cupcake corer, take out a middle section of each cupcake. Pipe or spoon about a teaspoon of caramel into each one (just up to the edge of the hole, not over it), and then using a piping bag and a star tip (or any tip you'd like) frost over the caramel holes. Top with caramel drizzles and mini chocolate chips.

And there you have it. The best way to spend my free Friday afternoons! Baking for my lovely friends. I'm amidst the beginning of my midterm weeks, so I better get back to studying and writing papers...but I wanted to leave y'all a nice little 'sweet treat' (as Nevin and his roommates have come to call my baking explorations) before getting back to the grind of school. 

Ugh. Summer, come faster please.

Photos by Nevin Cullen

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