Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mini Caramel Cupcakes with Carmelized Butter Frosting

November 2008 Daring Bakers Challenge

Author: Shuna Fish Lydon
Recipe Origin: Caramel Cake, the recipe
DB Challenge Hosts: Dolores of Culinary Curiosity, Alex of Blondie and Brownie, and Jenny of Foray into Food with gluten-free recipe assistance from Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go .

It will come as no shock if I point out that two days ago was Thanksgiving, the mother of all American cooking holidays. It's also the end of the semester, and the papers I have to grade are piling up. And then there's this other holiday that's coming -- you, know: Christmas -- and preparations have already begun. So getting this challenge together was, well, challenging.

By far, the most difficult part of this was making the caramel syrup. I wasn't sure what I was looking for - how dark? How thick? I'm still not sure if I got it right, or if I just ended up with simple syrup.

The cake and frosting were reasonably straightforward. I did enjoy practicing browning butter; it's always fun to play with a technique you didn't know or had forgotten, and browned butter really does add a nuttiness that melted butter lacks.

As for the whole package -- the cupcakes topped with frosting -- I wasn't wowed. They remind me of yummy vanilla cupcakes, but the caramel notes are lost on me. Perhaps this is due to my issues with the caramel syrup.

DBers, how did you do with this challenge?


Caramel Cake with Carmelized Butter Frosting (adapted)

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two mini-muffin pans with cupcake liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place pans on cookie sheets. Set first timer for 15 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 10-15 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until a skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.} Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.

To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light


Dragon said...

Your cupcakes turned out wonderful. No wonder they were a hit!

Lis said...

I had the same question.. although I thought my caramel was pretty damn dark, the cake was just sweet.. not caramel sweet, you know? But that frosting.. ohhh la la - the browned butter and extra salt just brought that over the top for me.

So I've only made it through a very small amount of blogs (but it's already like 500% more than I normally get to read! WOOT!) so far, but I can already tell - that's the cutest lil caramel cupcake EVER! :D


Sara said...

Cute cupcake! The caramel was definitely very challenging, you are right. And yeah the brown butter was cool! I've never browned butter on purpose before.

Sherry Trifle - Lovely Cats said...

I love that cupcake with the prettily designed frosting. They must have looked so festive at the table.

Anonymous said...

Wow, your cupcakes look adorable! ;o)

Anonymous said...

That cupcake looks totally adorable with the colored sugar on top. I did feel the caramel flavor on the cake, even though it was subtle, nothing overpowering, and even more so on the frosting. Maybe you are right and the "problem" was not getting the caramel dark enough.

Jen Yu said...

Aw hon, your cupcake is incredibly cute! I think the sugar needs to turn into a dark amber color. That's when it takes on that lovely caramel flavor. I'm sure you would have tasted it in the cake. It just requires quite some time for it to change (and then it does, rather quickly). But I have to agree - I didn't really need MORE baking after all of the t-giving prep...

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that the caramel didn't come through.. Maybe a bit more sugar burning next time? It came out nicely for me -- the caramel taste was almost in yo face.

Jo said...

Absolutely cute and dainty. Definitely something to served at an "all girls" tea party.

Anonymous said...

What a dainty cupcake! I must have had a dark caramel than you because I could definitely taste it.

Lot-O-Choc said...

Mmmm yummy! Love the way youve decorated them, looks great!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Your cupcakes are just adorable! Too bad the caramel flavor did not come through as much as you would have liked!

Faery said...

Yummy and so cute and beautiful :)

CookiePie said...

Your cupcakes are so lovely!

glamah16 said...

Your experince echos many DB's . But I love the cupcakes. I need to work on my caramel too.

Anna said...

It wasn't just you; I couldn't really taste the caramel in the cake either. But hot damn I love that frosting. Your cupcakes are adorable!

Vera said...

These are so cute!

Dolores said...

Cute cupcakes! Thanks for baking with us.