Monday, October 29, 2012

Practically Sinful Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Today was one of those perfect fall days. You know, the kind where you have the patio door wide open.. the rich October sunlight pouring through, the sound of the wind rustling the leaves along the sidewalk.. The sweet smell of baked goods seeping out of my kitchen & probably taunting my neighbors.. & Two toddlers.. Screaming in eachother's faces. So endearing.

No, but really. It was an absolutely beautiful day. It was a little bittersweet, thinking of all the friends I have on the East Coast. I hope Sandy goes easy on them. After Jake got off work & picked up Gabe from school, we went to a little park way up on a hill, overlooking the river & surrounded by big, beautiful trees. I pushed the girls on the swings for a good hour & they still weren't sick of it when it was time to leave. I can't help but smile when I watch them each tilt their heads back & look up at the trees, leaves & the sky in wonder. & I could sit & listen to Gabe's imaginative play all day long. He was a pirate on this particular occasion. I probably mutter the words, "These kids are driving me crazy," more times than I care to admit every single day. But I can't tell you guys enough how amazing my kids are, how much they inspire me or the overwhelming joy I get just by watching them be themselves. It's just too much sometimes. This afternoon was, figuratively & literally, a breath of fresh air after my busy morning.

I'm an adult, I promise.
I was like a mad scientist all morning & into the early afternoon. Experimenting, baking, concocting (I think I've used that word two blog posts in a row.. Is that normal?)... & The fruits of my labors were completely & utterly amazing. It's no secret that I have a very real addiction to any food item that labels itself as "salted caramel." It's a real problem & I am pretty sure that I need to seek help immediately never (on a quick side-note, please tell me you guys have tried this?! IT IS SO GOOD). I feel like I am forever searching for the most amazing, most perfect, most moist & fluffy chocolate cake ever. I am pretty sure my search is over. I cannot believe how good this cake is. There are a lot of ingredients, but I swear to you, it's so worth it. & What better to pair a rich, decadent chocolate with other than a salted caramel buttercream? NOTHING, THAT'S WHAT. It has everything. Silky, homemade caramel sauce (don't be intimidated- it really was a piece of cake to make), a little bit of salt for that perfect flavor combination & it all comes together in a simple butter/sugar buttercream mixture. But this icing is anything but simple. Brace yourselves.

 Practically Sinful Chocolate Cupcakes

3oz semi-sweet baker's chocolate
1 1/2 cups hot coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup Suisse Mocha mix
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (if you don't have any, make your own by adding 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 1/2 cups of milk)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit & line cupcake tins with paper liners.

2. Finely chop up the baker's chocolate & place in a small bowl. Pour in the hot coffee & stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted & mixture is smooth.

3. In a large bowl & using a wire whisk, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa, Mocha mix, baking soda, baking powder & salt. Set aside.

4. In a larger bowl, beat eggs until slightly thickened & light-yellow in color (if you're using a hand mixer, it'll take about 5 minutes). Slowly add in oil, buttermilk, vanilla extract & chocolate/coffee mixture & beat until well-combined.

5. Slowly beat in sugar mixture until batter is smooth & without big lumps (but don't over-beat!).

6. Fill cupcake liners (I always find that using a 1/4c measuring cup distributes the perfect amount of batter) & bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean.

7. Cool completely before frosting!

Salted Caramel Buttercream

(adapted from gimme some oven)

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups confectioner's sugar
Caramel sauce (recipe below)

1. Cream together butter & salt until light & fluffy.

2. Gradually add in powdered sugar & beat until mixed well (about 2-3 minutes)

3. Add in the caramel sauce & beat until well combined & the fluffiness factor is to your liking! I like super duper fluffy icing that I can pipe a mile high onto my cupcakes. Just sayin'.

IF you don't want to make your own caramel sauce-- do not fret. You can just as easily use any other caramel topping to add into your buttercream! Start with 1/2 cup & see where that gets you. ;)

Caramel Sauce

1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons water
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum extract (optional- if you don't have any, just use an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract! I like rum extract because it has a really rich, deep flavor that I love.)

1. In a large, heavy saucepan, swirl together the sugar & water. Heat on medium-high until boiling. DO NOT STIR! Let boil until it turns deep, amber brown. For me, it took about 7-8 minutes. As soon as the color turns that amber color, remove from heat immediately. It burns fast!

2. VERY slowly add in the heavy whipping cream & extracts while stirring with a wooden spoon. When you add in the whipping cream, it will bubble-- so be careful! Stir until smooth.

3. Let cool for about 25-30 minutes or until the caramel is cool to the touch.

Frost those babies any way you'd like. Drizzle some caramel sauce over them & sprinkle a little sea salt on top, too, if it so pleases you. I know it does me.

Until next time! ;)


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