This week I did a festive chocolate cupcake with caramel buttercream and caramel swirl topping, with a little spiderweb style.
The caramel sauce turned out quite tasty. I followed a food network recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. It was nice because it didn't require candy thermometers.
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 1/3 cup water
• 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
• 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Mix the water and sugar in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a medium brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Watch it carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. Stand back to avoid splattering, and gradually add the cream and vanilla extract. Simmer until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Serve warm, or add another 1/4 cup of heavy cream and serve room temperature.
Just a note, don't try and make a smaller batch. I did the other week, and it became an overheated mess of stringy caramel and chunks. Not very appealing. Other than that, the 1/4 cup of cream after it's been removed from the heat is also important for keeping it from crystalizing too much.
Ok, so I took my Devil's food cake recipe and experimented with a couple of the cupcakes by putting a dollop of the caramel sauce in the middle of them before baking. Results varied. Most of the cupcakes reacted by getting a gaping hole in the center/bottom of the cupcake and leaving a crispy sugar crust on the wrapper where it decided to go when baked. From what I heard, it did make those cupcakes extra moist, but am not sure it was worth it due to the fact it left some parts hard to eat or... empty.
So, I just kept the rest of it straight-forward and made an easy caramel buttercream with the sauce.
1 cup butter, room temperature
approximately 4 cups of powdered sugar
1/4 C + caramel sauce
Beat butter until smooth and add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until frosting is thick and almost crumbly. Add caramel sauce a little bit at time until you reach the desired consistency. I did add a little cream (you could use milk) to help smooth it out a bit too.
Warning, it's very sweet. I'm sure this would go well as a cream cheese frosting too, to cut down on the sugar content a bit.
After I piped the buttercream on the cupcakes, I took a pastry bag with a small round attachment and filled it with the remaining caramel sauce, swirling it on top of the cupcakes. Then with a toothpick, I pulled the frosting and caramel down in little spiderweb like trails from the center of each cupcake, achieving the desired effect.