Salted caramel. People go nuts about it these days, yet all it really is is caramel with salt flakes added to it. Devilishly simple yet that’s all it takes to make something a standout and for people to cock their heads to one side and go ‘mmmmmm’.
I made these cupcakes for my last day of work a week ago, and they were an absolute hit. I’ve made the recipe up myself, collecting various recipes for the vanilla butter cake and the vanilla buttercream frosting, however used my own recipe for the salted caramel filling, which I first used in my Salted Caramel & Chocolate Tarts.
It’s a fairly time consuming recipe, having to bake the cupcakes, let them cool, make the caramel, let that cool, cut open the cupcakes, pipe the caramel, lid the cupcakes, make the frosting, pipe the frosting. It took me a good four hours over one morning and early afternoon to complete, although I was taking my time with everything and doing it all in a very leisurely manner. Of course, feel free to cheat by using packet cake mix for this which comes with a packet of ready-made icing, however after baking for so long I find that those things taste like soap.
This made me 24 babycakes and six cupcakes, so be prepared and have an extra tin on standby.
For the vanilla butter cake, you will need:
- 1 + 1/2C (225g) self-raising flour;
- 1/2C (75g) plain flour;
- 1C (220g) caster sugar;
- 150g butter, cubed, at room temperature;
- 155 ml milk;
- 3 eggs, at room temperature;
- 1 + 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste.
Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celcius and place cases in your muffin tin/s.
Place the self-raising flour, plain flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and use an electric beater to beat on low speed for 30 seconds or until just combined. Increase the speed to high and beat for a further 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is thick and all the butter is incorporated.
Because I was making babycakes, I found it neater to pipe the mixture into the cases as I often end up with a quarter of the mixture missing the muffin holes, but do what you like.
Here it gets a little bit tricky. My babycakes took about 40 minutes in the oven at 140 degrees, but if you’re making regular-sized muffins, of course they will take longer. You have the temperature low so that you’re cakes don’t form mini Mount Vesuvius domes on top, which will make it very hard to pipe buttercream on later. Check on the oven every 10 minutes or so (without opening the door) and pay attention to your sense of smell. Cakes are done when a skewer inserted into their centre come out clean. Don’t worry about tanning them golden brown – you’re covering them with icing anyway.
Leave your cakes to cool, and when they’re warmish, use a paring knife to hollow out a hole, about half of the cake’s depth. Keep these cake tops, don’t eat them!
To make your salted caramel, you will need:
- 3/4C caster sugar;
- 2/3C (170ml) thickened cream;
- 80g butter, chopped;
- Maldon sea salt flakes.
Place the sugar in a small, dry frying pan over a medium to high heat and allow to melt for five to six minutes. After some time, you will notice the edges begin to brown and become golden. You can slowly incorporate the un-caramelised sugar into the caramel.
Keep stirring and the caramel will eventually melt back down as the cream heats up. Make sure you keep stirring so that the caramel doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn, and if it begins to froth up, remove it temporarily from the heat.
Once all the caramel has dissolved, pour the hot caramel over the chopped butter in a small bowl.
Allow to cool before adding the salt flakes. I usually add about a teaspoon to the amount that is made here.
To make your vanilla butter cream, you will need:
- 110g shortening (copha – find it in the supermarket in the butter aisle);
- 110g butter;
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste;
- 4C icing sugar, sifted;
- 2 tablespoons of milk.
Soften the shortening in the microwave on short 10 second bursts on High. You want it soft and pliant, but not liquid. Don’t microwave the butter with the copha to soften it, as the two of them have different melting points and if you do so your butter will be liquid and the copha still hard as a brick. It’s best to soften the two seperately. When softening your butter do it at room temperature otherwise your buttercream will have no body and be a runny mess.
Once the copha and butter is softened, cream them together in a mixer and add the vanilla.
Gradually add the sifted icing sugar, one cup at a time, beating on a medium speed. Scrape the sides often.
Once all the sugar is added, the mixture will be quite dry. Gradually add the milk and continue beating at a medium speed until the buttercream is light and fluffy.
Now, to assemble!
Fill your hollowed-out cupcakes with a spoonful of the cooled salted caramel. The cakes do absorb a little of the caramel, so you will notice it sink.
So this is why you kept the lids. You did keep them, right?
Now using a star piping tip or a drop flower tip, fill a piping bag halfway and pipe your icing onto the tops of the cakes whether in a sundae-style swirl from out going in, or a rose design from in going out. I did half with one and half with the other, as the sundae-style has more icing and not everyone likes that. Don’t overfill the piping bag, and hold the piping bag directly over the top of the cupcake at 90 degrees, letting the buttercream ‘fall’ into shape. It takes some practise!
The day before I had also made some sugar roses out of rolled pink fondant and Tylose powder, and used a cheap soap mould I bought off eBay to turn them out. But really, just buy a couple of packets of sugar flowers from the supermarket, they’re readily available now and if you don’t make these things often it’s not worth getting the whole cake-decorating kit.
And of course, something like this with a secret inside needs an innards shot. Here we go!
A guy at my work who I’ve never talked to before proclaimed them to be ‘the best thing he’s ever tasted’. I was well and truly chuffed about that!
Enjoy, m’dears… have a beautiful weekend xx