Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cupcake Saturday Part Deux: Chocolate Caramel

Remember to remove the giant sugar decoration before trying to eat the cupcake in one bite.

For the second cupcake of our epic day of baking, Jenny and I decided to balance the fruit cupcake with some chocolate. We had previously made a devil's food cupcake topped with a ganache that was good, but a little too one note since it was just chocolate on top of chocolate. To fix this we made a cupcake that contained the gooey severe burn hazard caramel and a cream cheese and caramel frosting.

The following recipe yields 28-30 cupcakes.

Salted Caramel
Time: 10 minutes + cooling

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp corn syrup
1/2 cup cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp sea salt, crushed

Progression of the caramel. 
  1. Stir the sugar, water and corn syrup together in a medium sized sauce pan (make sure there's plenty of extra room because scolding hot sugar is not something you want touching you).
  2. Bring to a boil and swirl occasionally (do not stir).
  3. When the mixture gets a hint of amber color remove from heat (see picture). It's very easy to burn the caramel. It will rapidly progress once it hits this color (even after you remove it from the stove).
  4. Very carefully add the cream in a slow but steady stream and stir with a long wooden spoon. The mixture will steam and grow, so you might want to wear a cooking mitt on your hand that is adding the cream.
  5. Stir in the butter and salt then let cool to room temperature. You should cover it with a paper towel, since anything that lands in it will get stuck.
The finished highly viscous treat also works great as a hair gel.
This is a great caramel recipe. The only change I would consider making is either adding a little more salt or use a coarse sea salt to really bring out that salty/sweet contrast that I love so much in desserts like Pizzeria Mozza's Butterscotch Budino.

Sugar Decorations
Time: 10 minutes + cooling

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup sater
1 tbsp corn syrup

We're quite artistic when it comes to randomly dripping hot sugar.

  1. For the decorations, you just need to follow the same procedure as the caramel without adding any of the cream, butter or salt.
  2. Quickly drizzle shapes onto a sheet of parchment paper and let them harden.
  3. Remember to remove the drizzling tools from the mixture as they will become stuck.
Like I said, remember to remove the spoons from the sauce before it thickens...
Once you've made the caramel, making these sugar decorations is a snap. Plus, it's super fun. The Bakingdom site also recommends making spiral shapes by lining a rolling pin with parchment paper, but we weren't quite up to that decorating challenge. Try to use parchment paper that isn't too waxy. If it is, the caramel designs will roll and break apart.

Chocolate Cake
From Anne Thornton's Recipe
Time: 15 minutes prep + 25 minutes baking

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Mmm chocolatey
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugars together in a mixer on medium until light and fluffy.
  4. Add your eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.
  5. Mix in the melted chocolate and vanilla well.
  6. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk at low speed (1/3 dry -> 1/2 buttermilk -> 1/3 dry -> 1/2 buttermilk -> 1/3 dry). Scrape the sides down after each cycle and be careful not to over mix.
  7. Scoop the batter into a lined cupcake pan. Fill each division 1/2 to 2/3 full to avoid muffin tops.
  8. Bake for 24-26 minutes or until the toothpick test comes out clean. Make sure to rotate halfway through.
  9. Let cool in the pan for 1 minute then remove to a wire rack.

Originally, we tried the cupcake recipe from Bakingdom, but we were not happy with the results. The cupcakes tasted fine, but they had a very strange, gooey consistency with caved in tops. The recipe calls for 2 cups of liquid and applesauce instead of eggs, so the combination of that probably led to our problems. Not to be deterred, we embarked on Anne Thornton's recipe that I previously used for whoopie pies. It was far too cakey for the whoopie pies, but perfect for our cupcakes. 

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Time: 10 minutes

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla
5-6 cups powdered sugar
Salted caramel sauce (see above)
Sugar decorations (see above)

  1. Cream the butter and cream cheese together in a mixer.
  2. Add in the vanilla.
  3. Mix in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. Stop when you reach the desired sweetness.
  4. Glaze the cupcakes with the caramel sauce or add it as a filling in the middle.  You may have to microwave the caramel if it has hardened too much. Go for 15 seconds at a time at medium power.
  5. Drizzle the inside of a piping bag with caramel then add the cream cheese frosting.  Pipe on the frosting.
  6. Garnish with a sugar decoration.
Glazed wins out over filled because you get caramel in every bite.
The caramel swirls in the frosting added a great element of color and flavor. Even though both of our frostings today were cream cheese based, they actually provided some nice variety. The sugar decorations add a nice crunch, so you should also make some small dot shaped ones that are easier to eat.

At last a cupcake Rorschach test! I see a dancing lizard.

We preferred the glazed cupcakes over the filled ones, but the filled ones were like a super awesome Hostess cupcake. I'm starting to think that every cupcake should have some sort of delicious glaze or drizzle on top. Everything came together for one great cupcake that is definitely my favorite chocolate cupcake so far. 

It was a fantastic day of baking with Jenny that will hopefully be followed by many more. Now, I just need to finish convincing her to put up a baking blog, so my stomach can live vicariously through it.

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