Summer has come to a close, the fall colors are in bloom and with that come fall flavors. One of my favorite flavors of fall are Caramel Apples. As a kid I used to get them from a local store in my hometown called Betty Jane Candies, which I recommend anyone check out if they are in the Midwest. Also they have a website you can mail order anytime http://bettyjanecandies.com. I recommend the Gremlin candies. They are to die for 🙂
It was from this local confectionery that my love of caramel came. Caramel on apples, caramel in chocolate, caramel on ice cream. You name it I like caramel on it. So who wouldn’t like the idea of a simple Caramel Cupcake for fall. Now I know what you’re thinking… making anything caramel is tedious and stressful, but the frosting for these cupcakes is quick and simple… I promise. If you are still skeptical you can always refer to a digital thermometer as back up but as long as you follow the formula you should have goof proof caramel frosting in no time.
The reason so many have issues with caramel is they usually wait too long to take the caramel off of the heat and it ends up burning from residual heat. Also traditional caramel recipes are made with granulated sugar but this recipe is made with dark brown sugar which already has a rich caramel taste to begin with and then that flavor further condenses upon heating. So there is really no need for a candy thermometer. The only tool you need is your eyes to watch for a ring of bubbles around the perimeter of the pan which is your cue that it is time to add the cream and in a few minutes get that pan off the burner.
Now if you are really pressed for time, although I don’t recommend it, you can use a boxed cake mix for the actual cupcakes. I would use a simple yellow cake mix and prepare it according to the box directions for cupcakes and then follow the formula below for the caramel frosting after the cupcakes have fully cooled. You may also wish to make a cake in the same fashion, following the box directions for a 8 or 9 inch cake and let that fully cool. You will have enough frosting for either size. The reason I don’t necessarily recommend a boxed cake mix is because the actual strength of the cake will be a bit weaker and the heaviness of the frosting may put too much weight on the cupcakes made of boxed mix. I provide a formula below for a stronger structured cake but if all you wish to do is sneak them to eat during the week or feed them to a mob of hungry kids, then by all means save yourself some time and use a box mix. It can be your secret and no one will be the wiser as the rich, delicious flavor of the frosting will distract them.
- ½ cup Buttermilk, room temperature
- 4 Eggs, room temperature
- 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 2 ¼ cup All-Purpose Flour
- 1 ½ cups Granulated Sugar
- 1 ½ tsp. Baking Powder
- 1 ½ tsp. Baking Soda
- ¾ tsp. Salt
- 16 tbsp. (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened & cut into 16 pieces
- 12 tbsp. (1 ½ sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened & cut into 12 pieces
- 2 cups Dark Brown Sugar, packed
- ½ tsp. Salt
- ½ cup Heavy Cream
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 2 ½ cups Confectioners’ Sugar, sifted
- Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat to 350°. Fill a cupcake pan with paper liners. Whisk buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla in a large measuring cup. With mixer on low, mix flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined. Beat in butter, 1 piece at a time, until only pea-sized pieces remain. Pour in half of buttermilk mixture and beat over medium-high until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Slowly add remaining buttermilk mixture to bowl and beat until just incorporated.
- Pour the batter into prepared liners of the cupcake pan and bake until golden, about 15-25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack, at least 1 hour.
- Heat 8 tbsp. butter, brown sugar, and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the perimeter of the pan. This should take approximately 4 to 8 minutes. Whisk in the cream and cook until the ring of bubbles reappears, about 1 minute. Take the caramel mixture off the heat and whisk in the vanilla.
- Transfer the hot caramel mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl if using a hand mixer. On low speed, gradually mix in the confectioners’ sugar until incorporated. Increase to medium speed and beat until the frosting is pale brown and just warm, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining butter, 1 piece at a time, beating until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Working quickly, spread the frosting over the cupcakes. Although the frosting stays soft and spreadable longer than other caramel frosting formulas it will harden over time. If the frosting for any reason does stiffen before you have finished, microwave it for about 10 seconds or until it returns to a spreadable consistency. Give it a quick beat and continue until all cupcakes have been frosted. Serve
Special Thanks To:
Peter Mendoros – Photography