Salted Caramel Mini Cupcakes

More birthday cakes! We had two birthdays at my work this weekend, so of course my weekly baking had to be some sort of cake. Layer cakes are a little too impractical for work, so I went with my trusty Magnolia Bakery cupcakes instead. And I had a request for salted caramel from the birthday girl, so naturally that went into the icing.

eight

I’ve mentioned before that I always seem to make mini cupcakes. I’m usually baking for so many people that I just can’t make enough of the normal ones. For most cupcakes, I’d make them full-size if I could. But for these ones, I think they’re best small. First because they’re quite sweet, and second because the icing-to-cupcake ratio is so much better for mini cakes than for full-size ones. And the icing for these is crazy delicious.

buttercream

These are a bit of a process. Not a hard process, really, but there are a few different components involved. I’ve broken it down into three steps for you because that seemed easiest to me. So first, the cake.

batter

Vanilla Cupcakes
(Adapted from Magnolia Bakery)

1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 3/4 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 Celsius). Line a mini muffin tin with mini cupcake papers (alternatively, butter and flour the tin instead).

2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

5. Mix in the dry ingredients and the milk and vanilla in thirds, alternating the two and beating well after each addition. So add a third of the dry ingredients, mix, then a third of the milk and vanilla, mix, another third of the dry ingredients, etc.

6. When all the ingredients are combined, spoon the batter into the cupcake papers, filling them about 3/4 of the way. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 12-14 minutes. If you decide to make full-sized cupcakes, this will take closer to 20 minutes.

7. Cool in tins for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Note: this recipe makes a ton of batter. I ended up with just over 60 mini cakes, so if you make minis I’d recommend halving the recipe. For big cupcakes you should be okay.

While the cupcakes cool, get started on the salted caramel icing. For this, you will need a good deal of salted caramel sauce:

Simple Salted Caramel Sauce

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

Note: caramel is a fiddly endeavor at best, so the best advice I can give you is to make sure all your ingredients are ready before you put anything on the stove. That way the minute your caramel is done cooking, you can add everything and take it off the heat as quickly as possible. Which means no burnt caramel.

ready

1. Combine sugar and water in a medium-sized heavy saucepan. Make sure the pan is very clean and dry. I like to add a squeeze of lemon because I find it keeps my caramel from crystalizing on me. You’ll also want to have a pastry brush handy to brush any stray sugar from the sides. A couple sugar crystals on the side can make the whole thing crystalize.

2. Cook the water and sugar over medium heat without stirring until the mixture is a nice amber color. Every recipe I’ve ever seen says this takes about 7-8 minutes; I have never managed it in less than 15.

amber

3. As soon as the sugar mixture is done cooking, remove from heat and add the cream, butter, and salt all together. Be careful because the caramel will bubble up when you do this and you don’t want to burn yourself. Stir the whole mixture continuously until the butter is melted, then pour into another container to cool. I always use a big Pyrex measuring cup.

4. Let the caramel sauce cool completely before using. If it’s at all warm your icing will melt everywhere. Side note: this is also great as-is in hot chocolate, on ice cream, by the spoonful…

saucy

Salted Caramel Buttercream

1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 full batch (1 1/3-1 1/2 cups) salted caramel sauce, room temperature or colder
pinch salt (to taste)

1. In a large bowl, beat the butter until very light and fluffy. The cake you can do by hand if need be, but for this you’re really going to want an electric mixer.

2. Add the powdered sugar and beat until thoroughly combined. Add the vanilla and beat again.

3. Pour in the salted caramel sauce and beat until completely mixed in. If you think it could use a bit of salt, add a pinch here and mix again. Otherwise, you’re good to go.

4. Pipe or spread generously onto cooled cupcakes.

cupcake

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