Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with a Salted Caramel Buttercream

There are two times a year I always make cupcakes: Luke's birthday and my birthday.  For Luke's birthday I try to pick more crowd pleasers and usually make two kinds, so hopefully there is something for everyone who comes to his party.  I go through my Pinterest boards and try something new every year.  For my birthday it's always the same.  I make chocolate cupcakes.  The recipe changes every year but it's always chocolate.  I'm not a big cake person, besides the ones I make myself, but chocolate is definitely my favorite.  By far.  I mean, there are plenty of other good cakes, we had fantastic ones at our wedding (5 kinds!) with different fillings and such.  Getting to taste test all of those was definitely a highlight of the wedding planning.  But there are also plenty of ehhhhhh cake.  Not always worth the calories or sugar (I don't count calories but try to be somewhat aware of them, if I'm going to eat a lot in one baked good it better be pretty good.  Looking at you, stale grocery store donuts.)

This year I was looking for a somewhat easy cupcake recipe for my birthday.  I've done really involved ones with 5 components and filling and two kinds of topping and they are always fantastic but also, a lot of work and I'm just not always up for all that.  And while I know any cupcake could be made miniature, the fact that this recipe was specifically for mini cupcakes really appealed to me.  It made a lot of cupcakes, no filling (I think it'd be pretty hard and tedious to fill mini cupcakes, especially 48 of them), and a simple frosting.  These I could easily fit into my busy week before my birthday.  And then they were so good I made them again a week later for our niece's rehearsal dinner.  We had leftovers both times which means we ate a lot of cupcakes in two weeks.  Also ok with me!

These are rich and the salted caramel buttercream is about my favorite buttercream I've ever made.  Too often those just taste like butter but these definitely have a caramel flavor.  It would probably be too much if these were full sized but as minis, even eating two in a sitting, these are perfect.  The frosting doesn't overwhelm the cupcake and vice versa.  These might be my standard birthday cupcakes for a very very long time.
Please don't let the prospect of having to frost 48 mini cupcakes deter you.  Just get a large tip (I have this one, but only paid $2 through Amazon a few years ago), a piping bag, and the coupler, and then it's actually really fast.  I frosted 48 in less than 5 minutes while listening to podcasts during quiet time.  It almost took longer to fill the piping bag than it did to frost the cupcakes.  Filling 48 little muffin cups is a different story, that was actually the most time intensive part of making these.  But it's easy work and worth it.  (Side note: there is plenty of frosting and I've had leftovers both times.  Which is great for s'mores or eating with chocolate graham crackers!)

If the bar for how good something is "Would you make/do it again?" these pass with flying colors.

Dark Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with a Salted Caramel Buttercream
yield: 48 mini cupcakes
-1 cup + 3TB milk (divided)-3.5 dark chocolate, chopped* (I used Ghirardelli 72% dark, found at Target)
-½ cup dark cocoa powder
-½ cup canola oil
-½ cup sugar
-½ cup packed brown sugar
-1 egg, room temperature if possible
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-¾ tsp baking powder
-½ tsp baking soda
-½ tsp salt

-1 cup packed brown sugar
-8 TB (1 stick) butter
-½ cup + 2TB heavy cream
-½ tsp vanilla extract
-3 cups powdered sugar
-kosher or sea salt for sprinkling

1) Preheat the oven to 350° and line 48 muffin cups.
2) In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup of milk and the chopped chocolate, stirring until the chocolate is melted.
3) Increase the speed to medium-high and add the cocoa powder, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to bubble.  Remove from heat and whisk until smooth.  Set aside.
4) In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
5) In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the canola oil with the sugars and beat for about 1 minute, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  The mixture should be very well combined. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well.
6) Turn the mixer to low-medium speed and slowly add the flour mixture.  Scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
7) Turn the mixer up to medium and add the melted chocolate mixture until combined.  Slowly add the 3 TB of milk and mix just until combined.
8) Divide the batter between the 48 muffin cups, making each about ¾ way full.
9) Bake for 15 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let cool completely.

1) Combine the brown sugar, butter, and ½ cup of the heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until the butter is melted and all ingredients are combined.
2) Increase the heat to high and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly.  Continue to boil, while stirring, for two minutes and then remove from heat, continuing to stir occasionally until it has cooled (a few minutes).  Let this cool completely before moving on.**
3) With the caramel base completely cooled, stir in the vanilla.
4) Pour the caramel into the bowl of a stand mixer and slowly add the powdered sugar with low speed.  Once all the sugar has been added, add the last 2 TB of heavy cream and beat on medium-high until the cream has been incorporated (a few minutes).
5) Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with sea salt.

*I keep mine in the freezer and then just hit the whole bar with a hammer a few times to break it up.  This is a great job to pass onto kids!
**I literally wait a few hours before continuing.  Go for a run, shower, have a snack, eat lunch...but probably just an hour or so would suffice.   

Source: Sugar Spun Run

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