Oh. My. God. These cupcakes just gave me a pretty good insight into what heaven is like. (And I made it gluten free too!)
I fell in love with salted caramel when I was in the south of France. In Avignon, this little icecream shop in the Old Town centre sold Fleur de Sel Caramel icecream - I tried it as a dare, but from the moment I first tasted it, I knew it was true love - the little pops of saltiness that were then overwhelmed with a sweetness and creaminess.... *sigh* Unfortunately, that particular flavour profile is rather hard to come across where I live - until, that is, I discovered this recipe on How to Eat a Cupcake.
I made a pretty literal translation of it - I didn't adjust the volumes of flour - but I did adapt the icing ever so slightly. (Can I just say, if you haven't seen the HTEAC blog so far, do check it out - this girl can seriously make a cupcake!) I did, however, cook it for 20 minutes more than necessary, because (despite the fact that the cakes had shrunk and pulled away from the cupcake tin) the skewer just would not come out clean. I realised though, that for GF flour in a mud cake, this doesn't matter so much. That being said, they were actually really nice a little bit over cooked - the crunchy top contrasted beautifully with the Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
A quick comment on the recipe - you may not think it is typical lazy cook style. There are a lot of processes and bits of equipment involved - however, in terms of the rate of return on investment (i.e. enjoyment as compared to time and effort input) it definitely rates up there!
So: Salted Caramel Cupcakes - From HTEAC via this recipe
SALTED CARAMEL CUPCAKES
MAKES 12 CUPCAKES
1 1/4 cups all-purpose gf flour
3/4 tsp gf baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
125 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
CARAMEL SWIRL BUTTERCREAM
MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
180 g unsalted butter, cut into cubes (at room temperature)
measuring jug + spoons
wire cooling rack
muffin tin and pattypans
For the cupcakes:
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 180°C. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the sugars and butter together until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in 2 additions, beating on low speed until just combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20-22 minutes (Mine were done at 40 minutes). Let the cupcakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.
For the toppings:
In a heavy-bottomed, high-sided saucepan, cook the sugar over medium-high heat until it begins to melt around the edges, about 5 minutes. Stirring with a clean wooden spoon, continue to cook until the sugar is melted and has turned golden amber, about 3 minutes longer.
Carefully pour the cream down the side of the pan in a slow, steady stream (it will bubble and spatter), stirring constantly until completely smooth. Stir in the salt. Pour the caramel into a small heatproof bowl and let cool completely before using. (The caramel can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week; bring to room temperature before using.)
In a large, clean heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over (but not touching) simmering water in a saucepan and heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is very warm to the touch. Remove the bowl from the saucepan. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg white mixture until it is fluffy, cooled to room temperature, and holds stiff peaks (the mixture should not look dry), about 6 minutes.
With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the salt and the butter, a few pieces at a time, beating well after each addition. If the icing appears to separate or is very liquid after all the butter is added, continue to beat on high speed until it is smooth and creamy, 3-5 minutes more. Add the caramel drizzle (I only added about 1/2 cup) and beat until combined (or almost combined for a swirling effect), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. My drizzle was a little too warm when I added it; the result of which was my buttercream went runny. Beating on high for 5 minutes fixed that problem! It meant it didn't swirl though...
Put a spoonful of the leftover drizzle in the centre of each cake. Ice the cupcakes with the buttercream and drizzle another spoonful of the caramel over the top. (The frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before finishing.) Top each cupcake with a pinch of sea salt, and serve.
Yeah, so they're not very pretty... but dammit they tasted AMAZING!