Your fingers are destined to be sticky.
You need to come to terms with the fact that there will be frosting on your nose.
There’s an 87.5% chance you will have moist, chocolatey crumbs on your cheeks.
And probably down your shirt.
A dribble of caramel on your chin? I’m sorry – it’s totally unavoidable.
But, hoo boy, will it be worth it.
Dark chocolate cake. Creamy caramel filling. And gooey, billowing marshmallow frosting.
In short, I captured happiness and embodied it in a cupcake.
I call them “caramallow” cupcakes.
The magic starts with scrumptious cocoa-buttermilk cupcakes – the ones your ears are tired of hearing me wax poetic about.
They’re so easy – no creaming butter and sugar, just dry ingredients beaten together with wet ingredients. Practically fail-proof, and so, SO impossibly good.
The batter is very runny – I find the easiest method to portion it out is to transfer it from the mixing bowl into a large measuring cup with a spout.
Don’t fill them more than 2/3 or they will overflow in the oven.
While the cupcakes are cooling, you make a caramel.
Simply stir a cup of sugar in a saucepan on medium heat and watch the magic happen: the crystals melt into liquid, which bubble and darken until transformed into a deeply flavourful amber syrup.
In go some cream and butter, et voila! Thick, sticky caramel. And there’s enough leftover to re-warm for ice cream sundaes another day…
Of course if making caramel frightens you (and it’s fair to be intimidated by spattering, molten sugar), you can always use store-bought dulce de leche.
The (literal) icing on the cake is a 7-minute frosting – which is soft meringue whipped in a double boiler into marshmallow-y submission.
It’s like eating a cloud. I just want to stick my face in that bowl and motorboat.
To “fill” the cupcakes, you first pipe frosting around the perimeter (I use an extra large closed star frosting tip). You then flood the centre with a scant teaspoon of caramel, and then finish piping the frosting on top.
I find this much easier than filling a cupcake by scooping out a well with a paring knife. And just as good!
For Chocolate Cupcakes
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated white sugar
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk or substitute by putting 1 tbsp white vinegar in a cup then filling the rest up with milk; let stand 5 minutes until thickened
- 1/2 cup butter melted
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup hot coffee or 2 tsp instant coffee in 1 cup boiling water
For Caramel Filling
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup 6 tbsp softened butter
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For Marshmallow Frosting
- 5 large egg whites room temperature (not pasteurized, they aren't stable enough)
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners; set aside.
- In the large bowl of a standing mixer, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla extract and beat until smooth (about 3 minutes). Remove bowl from mixer and stir in hot coffee with a rubber spatula. Batter will be very runny.
- Remove bowl from mixer, and pour batter into a large liquid measuring cup with a spout. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups, filling each no more than two-thirds full (or else batter will rise over and make a big mess - not bigger cupcakes). Bake 20-24 minutes, or until cupcakes feel slightly springy when you gently press their centres. Transfer cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely.
- Place sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk often as the sugar starts to stick to the bottom, clump up, and then eventually melt. Continue only until the syrup comes to a boil, then stop. You can swirl the pan every now and then, but no more whisk.
- Watch very closely as the syrup will go from clear to golden brown very quickly. As soon as it turns amber, remove saucepan from the heat. Working quickly and averting your face, whisk in the cream - holding whisk at arm's length as the caramel will bubble up aggressively. Whisk in butter, salt and vanilla. Set aside to cool. The whole process from sugar to caramel takes only about 5 minutes on my stove.
- Combine egg whites, sugar, water, cream of tartar and salt in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl set overtop of a saucepan of simmering water. Using an electric mixer, beat on high for about 7 minutes - until it is shiny, voluminous and will hold nice peaks.
- Remove from heat and beat in vanilla extract. Cool at least 5 minutes before using.
- Transfer frosting to pastry bag fitted with a large tip (I used an open star tip). Pipe frosting around the outer circumference of each cupcake.
- Use two small spoons (one spoon to scoop, one to scrape off other spoon) to transfer a scant teaspoon of caramel into the centres.
- Finish piping frosting onto cupcakes, first retracing your first circle, and moving inwards and up, creating a swirl effect.