Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sea Salted Caramel Cupcakes

I usually go to the gym on Friday nights.  Given my propensity for consuming fairly large quantities of food and drink, heading to the gym on a regular basis is probably a good idea.  Last week, it was my friend Kat's birthday so we decided we would pick up a few beers and toast to another year.  Somewhere between the beginning of class and the end of class, "picking up a few beers" turned into "getting a Luke's Lobster Roll".  How could I argue with that?

We headed over to 7th St. and devoured Luke's lobster rolls like there would be no tomorrow.  Yes, we made spectacles of ourselves.  I asked for extra seasonings.  Kat took pictures of me sniffing the seasonings which were stuck to my fingers after the lobster roll was inhaled.  (Don't act like you don't do it too.)  I may have badgered the nice guy at the counter to obtain the seasoning ingredients.  OK, maybe I just made a spectacle of myself.  Anyhow, at one point we noticed the Luke's guys were munching on some tasty cupcakes.  Immediately, we demanded cupcakes from the unsuspecting workers.  It turns out that these cupcakes were from Butter Lane, a cupcake bakery that was just down the street.

Stomachs full of lobster, but still unable to pass up a cupcake opportunity, Kat and I headed to Butter Lane.  I'm not going to get into all that Butter Lane has to offer.  I think I need to do some"hands-on research" before I blog more about it.  But essentially, you can customize your cupcakes by picking a cupcake base flavor and then choosing a frosting from their extensive list of specialty frostings.  This is so much more than a cupcake shop.  It's 500 square feet of heaven.

So.  What does this very very long story have to do with Sea Salted Caramel Cupcakes?

One of the frosting options at Butter Lane was a Sea Salted Chocolate frosting.  Kat and I both chose this frosting on a plain vanilla cupcake (it is possible that 2 other cupcakes were also involved in our purchase, but we need not speak of them).  The cupcake was completely delicious.  However, it felt a little heavy.  (In all fairness to Butter Lane, I had already eaten a Luke's Lobster combo and a Butter Lane Espresso-frosted cupcake before I got to the Sea Salted Chocolate cupcake.)  I began wondering how the frosting would turn out if it wasn't chocolate.  My client has also been raving lately about the sea salt/caramel flavor combination, so I got to thinking that perhaps I should try making similar cupcakes with a caramel spin on the frosting.

Sea Salted Caramel Cupcakes
cake slightly adapted from A Sweet Spoonful's Salted Caramel Cupcakes
frosting slightly adapted from Sprinkle Bakes Triple Salted Caramel Cupcakes
yields ~24 cupcakes

Print Recipe
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups cake flour*
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

1) Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2) In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup of the milk with the egg whites and vanilla extract.

3) In the bowl of a mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

4) Add the butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of milk.

5) Beat at a low speed until blended, then beat at medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.

6) Add the egg white mixture in 3 additions, beating the batter on medium-speed for 20 seconds after each addition.

7) In another bowl, using a mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form. (You can also do this by hand, but from personal experience, I don't recommend this approach.)

8) Stir 1/3 of the whipped cream into the batter, then fold in the rest with a spatula.

9) Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full with the batter. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.

10) Let the cupcakes cool for a few minutes in the cupcake tray.  Then remove them from the tray and allow to cool completely.

* I would recommend using cake flour instead of all-purpose flour for this cupcake.  I usually use all-purpose flour just because it's what I have on hand, but I splurged this week and bought cake flour.  It really made a difference in the texture of the cake.

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
frosts ~24 cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks salted butter
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

1) In a saucepan, stir together granulated sugar and water.  (I don't have a small saucepan, but if you do then you should use that.)

2) Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Cook without stirring until mixture turns a honey color.

3) Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring until very smooth.  Let the caramel cool for about 20 minutes, until it is just barely warm and still pourable.

4) Meanwhile, in a mixer, beat butter and salt together until light and fluffy.

5) Reduce speed to low and add the powdered sugar very slowly.  Mix until thoroughly combined.

6) Add the cooled caramel to the frosting.  Beat on medium high speed until light and airy, and completely mixed (about 2 minutes).  If your caramel was too hot when added, the frosting will be runny.  Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes in order to stiffen the frosting again.

7) Spread or pipe the cupcakes with the frosting.  Drizzle extra caramel on top of the frosting and dust with a little extra sea salt.  (I cheated on this step and used store-bought caramel here.)

The only issue I had with these cupcakes was that the wrappers seemed to want to come off.  I don't know if it was because it was a really hot and humid day when I made them, but watch out for this if you make these. Maybe you'll also have some ideas as to how to prevent this.  A coworker of mine who makes tons of cupcakes said it may have been the humidity but it may also have been that the cupcake wrappers weren't filled with enough batter in some cases.  I would suggest making a batch of test cupcakes before baking the entire batch of cupcakes.  I usually do this, however as I just mentioned it was a really hot and humid day and I couldn't stand the idea of leaving the oven on long enough to bake up two batches of cupcakes.

The final verdict?  These were some amazing cupcakes.  And I don't say that because I made them and I'm biased.  I'm pretty much neutral about my cupcakes because by the time the cupcakes are done, my taste buds are totally confused.  I'm a thorough quality control analyst and I make sure to taste test the cupcake batter, the frosting, the finished cupcakes (without frosting), and then finally the cupcakes with frosting.  I can tell if the cupcakes are inedible, but it's hard for me to tell if the cupcakes are only "good" or if they're "great".  So I just wait until someone (usually my roommate) comes along and lets me know.  I took these babies to work the next day and everyone loved them.  The cupcake was light and airy, and the frosting's sweet, salty and caramel flavors were a perfect balance to round out the entire experience.

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