Almond Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Opposites attract. Sweet almond cupcakes with a salty, caramel buttercream…
I almost have no words, but that wouldn’t help you so I’ll make myself explain. These cupcakes are mind bogglingly delicious. The cake is light, moist and beautifully pure. The frosting is rich, complex with a caramel infusion and the salt (Fleur de Sel, French sea salt) brings out something that you would otherwise find missing. I’m not sure what that is, but you’ll just be thankful the salt is there.
If you think caramel is a daunting task…it isn’t. Consisting of water, sugar and cream, it takes minutes to make. The issue people have is they burn it – which is easy to do, but if that happens, try again.
After all those minutes of caramel preparation, you will find yourself with a perfect combination of salty and sweet. The cupcakes may have a bland, beige color, but their flavor is intricate and craveable. You’ll be happy you made a batch that might last you a week. You’ll be even more happy you perfected the caramel in order to make more batches.
Ingredients:
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 3/4 cup sifted cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

for the frosting:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

How To:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line (12) muffin cups or mini cupcake pans with paper liners.

Separate eggs, placing yolks in one bowl and the whites in another. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap and allow eggs to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until soft. Add 3/4 cup of the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 2 to 3 minutes). Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl making sure everything is incorporated. Add vanilla and almond extracts; beat until combined.

With the mixer on a low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Set aside.

To prepare the egg whites, beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Add the cream of tartar. Increase speed to high and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. This is when the eggs really hold a shape, like a bird’s beak.

With a rubber spatula, gently fold a little of the whites in the batter. Then fold in the remaining whites just until combined. Over-mixing will cause the batter to deflate, which you definitely want to avoid.

Pour or scoop the batter into cupcake pans until they are 2/3 full. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in pans for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans and let cool on a wire rack.

Combine water and sugar for frosting in a small saucepan, swirling to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, watching closely. Continue cooking without stirring, until mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes. It will turn this color VERY fast, so as soon as you see this color remove it from the stovetop. It can burn if you leave it for even seconds too long. Slowly and carefully add in cream as mixture will bubble and steam up (and can burn you).  Stir with a wooden spoon until completely smooth; add salt. You may need to place it back on the stove over low heat to ensure sugar and cream are combined (and that sugar is not just hardened in the bottom). Set aside until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes. Add vanilla and stir.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat butter on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar. Mix until completely incorporated. Add caramel. Beat frosting on low to combine, then increase to medium-high and beat until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes. Immediately frost cooled cupcakes with piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Garnish each cupcake with a small pinch of Fleur de Sel. Refrigerate until ready to use, taking out about 30 minutes before eating.

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Margarita Cupcakes

Happy Birthday to me! Since I can’t have alcohol at the moment, the next best thing is cupcakes. And cupcakes that mimic margaritas? I’ll take 5, thank you.

Margarita cupcakes are the perfect sweet thing to go with a Mexican fiesta or a warm (humid) summer day. They are cool and refreshing, bright and happy. I’ve never met a cupcake that wasn’t happy.

If you are thinking the margarita flavor and cupcakes do not go together, just try this recipe. I was skeptical, but they are so delicious. You have the option of adding tequila, and either way, they are just a great cupcake.

Ingredients:

for the cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 1 1/2 limes, juiced
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

for the frosting:

  • 1 cups sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • Pinch fleur de sel (coarse salt, you don’t have to use specific fleur de sel)
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream (or you can use tequila here)

How To:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line 2 mini cupcake pans or 1 regular size cupcake pan with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Beat in the lime zest, lime juice and vanilla; scrape down sides of bowl and mix.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in 2 additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat until just incorporated.

Pour batter into cupcake pans, filling each about 2/3 full.  Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the sugar, egg whites, and salt in a the bowl of a stand mixer (or a glass heatproof bowl) set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking pretty much constantly, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees on a candy thermometer and the sugar has dissolved.

Transfer bowl to the stand mixer and attach the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. Stir in the lime juice and heavy whipping cream (or tequila) and mix thoroughly.  The frosting will look curdled, but continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth, about 5 minutes more (it will come together!!).

Frost cooled cupcakes with piping bag and large round tip, and garnish with candied lime or lemon slices or fresh lime (and perhaps a sprinkle of fleur de sel). Refrigerate cupcakes, taking out 1 hour before you plan to eat them. Buttercream can stay at room temperature, but I prefer to keep mine cold until I want to put them out.

Malt Cupcakes

One of my favorite things: chocolate malts. Not shakes, malts. They are different and have that “it” factor. Something chocolate shakes inherently lack. This recipe takes everything malts are, puts it in a cupcake and adds malted milk ball candies (like Whoppers). I don’t think I need to say anything more. I can just write the recipe now.

But…I will explain: the batter is fluffy. There is candy throughout. The frosting has the malt goodness too. And on top? No, not a cherry, a malted milk ball.

Straws not necessary, just big bites.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup malted milk powder (original flavor, Carnation makes this)
  • 3/4 cup malted milk balls, crushed (they crush easily if frozen)
for the frosting
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons malted milk powder
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened baking cocoa (such as Hershey’s)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • whole malted milk balls for garnish

How To:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flours and malt powder; set aside. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until well incorporated.

Add 1/3 of flour mixture to butter-sugar mixture. Add 1/3 of the milk and the teaspoon vanilla. Add flour mix then milk two more times in same pattern, just beating until mixed. Do not overbeat. Stir in crushed malted milk ball candies. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes in pan, then place cupcakes on a wire rack.

For the frosting, beat butter, sugar, malted milk powder, unsweetened baking cocoa, and milk on medium speed with an electric mixer. Frosting should be smooth and spreadable. You can add more milk (1 teaspoon at a time) if you want a smoother consistency. Frost cupcakes and top with one malted milk ball.

Coconut Cupcakes with Candied Mango

I was taken on a mini vacation courtesy of Coconut Cupcakes with Candied Mango. I’d really like to go back and all I need to do is whip up another batch. No bathing suit required; in fact, its frowned upon.

The batter is light and fluffy and the frosting follows suit. Candied mango is something better than the icing on the cake. It is a little tropical boost on days when it’s not quite spring and it’s definitely not summer.

The taste of coconuts, rum and vanilla will transport you to a beach (if you’re not already on one). I hear steel drums when I bite into one…

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup rum (optional, instead you can use an additional 1/4 cup light coconut milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (can also use a vanilla bean if you want the vanilla flecks)

for the Coconut Buttercream Frosting and Candied Mango:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 sticks unsalted butter (1 pound), softened, but still cool
  • 1/4 cup cream of coconut or 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk with 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup finely diced dried mango
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar

How To:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 (1/2 cup-12 capacity) muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine the flours and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by 1/3 of the milk. Repeat process twice, without over beating mixture. You just want the ingredients incorporated. Scrape down the batter in the bowl and make sure batter is blended. Using an ice cream scoop or a small ladle, spoon the batter into cupcake liners, to about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in tins for 10 minutes. Remove the cupcakes and cool completely on a wire rack.

For the Buttercream Frosting: Combine whites, sugar, and salt in bowl of standing mixer. Set the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water  (about 1 1/2 inches deep). Whisk until mixture is opaque and warm to the touch. It should register between 120-130 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 2 minutes.

Using a potholder, transfer the bowl to the mixer stand. Fix whisk attachment and beat mixture on high speed until whites are glossy and sticky, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, cut each stick of butter into 6 pieces. Reduce speed to medium-high and beat in butter 1 piece at a time. If mixture is curdling a little, don’t worry. It will be fine once you add the next ingredients. Add cream of coconut/sweetened condensed milk and coconut and vanilla extracts. Stop mixer to scrape down sides. Continue to beat at medium-high speed until frosting is fluffy, about 1 minute.

Put your pastry bag (fitted with any tip you like, or do what I did and cut a hole after you fill it) into a tall glass and fold top over the sides of the glass. This is so you can put the frosting in without also holding the bag. Fill bag with frosting and tie top. You can also spread frosting on the cupcakes with a knife or frosting spatula.

For the candied mango: combine diced dried mango with 2 tablespoons raw sugar in a plastic bag. Make sure mango pieces are coated with sugar crystals.
Pipe frosting onto cupcakes and sprinkle with the candied mango. Enjoy!
I was taken on a mini vacation courtesy of these Coconut Cupcakes. I’d really like to go back there, and all I need to do is whip up another batch. No bathing suit required, in fact, its frowned upon.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Happy March everyone! I’m here to celebrate with cupcakes – the very best vanilla cupcake recipe, all buttery and sweet with chocolate buttercream made using cocoa, which gives it the best flavor.  It’s almost milk chocolatey but just a bit richer. And what’s better than a cupcake? A cupcake with a flower on it.

Hopefully we will be seeing some real flowers soon. But for now, the sugary kind will do. For instructions on how to make lovely icing flowers, I recommend this video. There are so many instruction videos on buttercream roses on youtube. You can become a pro in no time.
I really have to stress the deliciousness of the chocolate buttercream frosting. It’s amazing to the point where you will wonder how you are ever going to frost all the cupcakes you’ve made without licking the bowl clean. Just keep in mind the thought that frosting “makes me so sick if I eat too much.” Hopefully that will keep you in line…who are we kidding. Just enjoy it.
Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Ingredients:
for the vanilla cupcakes:
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds only or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract  

for the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk

How To:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Line two muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Continue to beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Add the flour in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla, ending with the milk. Do not overbeat. Scrape down the batter in the bowl with a rubber spatula, making sure all batter is incorporated. Carefully spoon battter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3 full. Bake for about 20–25 minutes- insert a  cake tester, and if it comes out clean cupcakes are done. Do not overbake! Cool the cupcakes in the muffin tins for 10 minutes. Remove and let cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack before frosting. 

For the frosting, cream the butter on low to medium speed in a medium bowl. Combine the sugar and cocoa and add to butter. Whip until combined. Starting with about 2 tablespoons, add milk to butter mixture slowly, until you reach desired spreading consistency.  Add by tablespoons. Spread onto cooled cupcakes. You can also use a pastry bag to frost cupcakes.

Chocolate Cupcakes With Creamy Hazelnut Frosting

It’s been years now that I’ve spent researching chocolate cake recipes. I know, what a hard task, you say. I am not a chocolate person by nature, so this whole research thing proved a bit difficult and required many taste testers.

And it only took years because I can’t make chocolate cake every day for consecutive weeks. I couldn’t, that is, until I happened upon this recipe.

Recently an occasion arised (it was the superbowl) and I found myself all for the dark stuff (chocolate). I needed dark cupcakes in gold foil wrappers with little fleur de lis, not because I am a full saints fan but because I went to a saints party. Apparently these cupcakes are not only delicious, but also magical as the saints went on to win.

Chocolate cake needs to be moist and devilishly dark and rich.

It needs to be topped with a creamy frosting. If you love nutella then you will love the frosting I used. Who doesn’t want a winning cupcake?

Chocolate Cupcakes with Creamy Hazelnut Frosting

Ingredients:

for the cupcakes:

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the frosting:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2  teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup nutella or other hazelnut spread

How To:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.

Sift together cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Combine sugar and oil. Add eggs, one at a time. Add warm water, buttermilk, and vanilla and mix until smooth. Slowly add dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl, mixing batter until combined.

Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

To make frosting, combine butter, 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, almond extract, milk and nutella in a medium bowl and mix with a hand mixer, slowly adding the rest of the confectioners’ sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Spread onto cooled cupcakes. Makes about 24 cupcakes, enough to share with friends…

Lemon Cupcakes

 

How many people out there want to leave their house? [silence]

I am under the impression its cold, rainy, snowy or some mix of the three everywhere right now causing many of us to want to hibernate. Hibernation makes me think of cupcakes. I wanted something bright and yellow and cheery to make my lazy drabby day improve and so I decided to bake lemon cupcakes- always cheery. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy lemons on a winter day seeing as how lemonade sounds ridiculous. But lemon-y cake with homemade lemon curd infused frosting and a little dollop of the lip-puckering stuff…that sounds delicious. And exactly what can turn a dismal day around.

The first step is the curd, which is somthing creamy, sweet, and citrusy. Just like clementine curd its very versatile – you need not feel you aren’t going to use it for other things. It’s not difficult to make, but can also be found in the stores where you find jelly and jam. The cupcakes are simple. I make them a smidgen more difficult by making a graham cracker bottom layer.  Please please please try baking them before making another cake by box mix. There is no reason to unless you want funfetti cake, which I have yet to figure out a homemade version of. Frosting is as easy as making a cake so I’m not going to go there. Get out your mixer and oven mitts. 

Lemon Cupcakes

for the curd

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • pinch salt

How To:

In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks and eggs.

In a saucepan, combine butter,sugar, juice, zest and salt. Cook on medium-high for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened. Whisking eggs vigourously, add a small amount of the butter-lemon mixture. Add remaining butter-lemon mixutre in small increments until combined. Return to saucepan and reduce heat to low. Whisk until thickened and coats back of spoon. Transfer to a bowl or tupperware making sure curd is covered tightly. Refrigerate overnight. 

for the cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (smash graham crackers in a ziploc – voila, crumbs!)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablspoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • zest of 3 lemons, grated finely
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon curd
  • 6 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

How To:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with paper liners.

Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Stir until well combined, then press about 1 tablespoon on the bottom of each cupcake liner.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the lemon juice, lemon curd, buttermilk and vanilla. Add the flour and the buttermilk alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Pour batter into cupcake tins, about 2/3 full. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.

for the frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons lemon curd
  • 3 to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • lemon curd for garnish

How To:

Combine butter, 1 1/2 cups of the confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla and lemon curd and mix on low speed gradually moving up to medium speed. Add confectioners’ sugar by 1/2 cups until spreading consistency is reached. Frost each cupcake and place a small dollop – about a teaspoon of lemon curd atop. Pucker up!

* You can also save the lemon curd until the cupcakes are done, and place curd into a piping bag. With a small/medium round tip attachement, insert tip into baked (cooled) cupcake and squeeze about 1 teaspoon into cupcake. Repeat with remaining cupcakes, then frost.