Sunday, April 8, 2012

Chocolate Caramel Easter Cupcakes

Happy Easter everybody! I hope your long weekend is going well! I know I'm sneakin' this one under the gun- it seems to be my style. Every other blog I follow often has holiday postings up a couple weeks before the actual holiday... I don't think I'm that organized. Not only that... but I want to serve Easter cupcakes at Easter! Not 2 weeks before Easter. At least that's what I tell myself.
Anyways, I'd like to apologize in advance for this long entry. There is going to be an outrageous amount of photos from what I normally post. I can't help it- these cupcakes are just so dang cute!! They're one of my favorites I've made so far, both for appearance and taste. Sometimes I get so excited by the things that I make, I just want to look at them all day. I know, you're probably thinking 'now that's a little odd', but I've decided to embrace my freakish side. Yesterday I brought these cupcakes to work in a cute white box and they looked downright professional! They were sitting on my desk before having been given away and I caught myself being distracted from my casenotes by the cupcakes. I texted Sean and said there must be something wrong with me.

But seriously, how can you not think these are the cutest things EVER?? Easter colors with little ducks, bunnies and flowers on top! AND on this super cute cupcake stand that I recently made! It's not perfect... if seen up close there are a lot of flaws that the spray paint didn't cover... but for pictures it works!

Now, I feel that it is my duty to be honest so that hopefully some of you can learn from my mistakes. The title of this post was originally Chocolate Caramel Easter Surprise Cupcakes. The surprise? That was a fail. Not completely, but pretty much. I'm sure many of you have seen pictures of cupcakes that are filled with things, such as Reece's peanut butter cups or chocolate creme eggs, etc. These cupcakes were 'filled' with chocolate caramel Easter eggs. I sliced one in half hoping to get the perfect picture of an intact egg... but there was nothing there! Maybe that was my surprise, the egg disappeared!! I'm not sure what happened; while I didn't follow a recipe I had read before that you need to freeze the item to prevent it from melting and plop it in the middle, so that's what I did. The eggs were somewhere in there... hardened and stuck to the bottom of the liner.
Perhaps one of you can fill me in on what I did wrong, I would love to know so I can do it in the future!

See, lots of pictures! I'd like to quickly say that this chocolate cake recipe is phenomenal. Incredibly moist, deliciously chocolaty... the texture reminds me of a perfect red velvet cake. Needless to say, this will now be my go-to chocolate cake recipe. And the buttercream? You all know Italian buttercream is my favorite! OK, on to what you've all been waiting for!

Yield: 24 cupcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup hot coffee (I used Irish Cream flavour)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
24 chocolate caramel Easter eggs, IF you know how to use them properly, which I apparently do not

For the frosting:
1½ cups sugar, divided (3/4 each)
2 oz. water (4 tbsp)
4 large egg whites, at cool room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tsp lemon juice
3 sticks (1½ cups) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1/3 cup caramel sauce (homemade or store-bought)
*Note: This frosting makes enough for 20-24 cupcakes depending on how heavy you frost. For 24 cupcakes, it's a bit of a squeeze for me.

For the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line pan with cupcake liners. Note: Pale colored liners do not show up on chocolate cupcakes.

Brew a strong cup of coffee. Mix the coffee in with the cocoa powder until dissolved. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Mix in the oil, milk, sour cream, and the coffee/cocoa mixture. Beat until just combined. Add in the eggs and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes until thoroughly combined. Divide the batter between the liners evenly.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until when a toothpick is inserted, it comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then moves the cupcakes onto a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

For the icing: Over medium heat, bring water and ¾ of the sugar to a boil. Cook until the sugar syrup reaches 248 degrees F.

Once your water and sugar is starting to boil, fit your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. On medium speed, whip egg whites, salt and lemon juice until foamy. Add the reserved sugar and beat to medium-stiff peaks. Try to time this so the sugar and the whites are ready at the same time.

When the sugar has reached 248 degrees, F and the whites are at medium-stiff peaks, with the mixer on medium-high, carefully pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream down the inside of the bowl. This will prevent the syrup from hitting the whisk and getting spun around the sides of the bowl instead of into your frosting. It will also cool the syrup just a bit so you don’t risk curdling your whites. Whip until cool, about 5-10 minutes.

Feel the mixing bowl, it should feel somewhat cool. If it doesn't, cool the mixture down by either putting the bowl in the refrigerator for a few minutes before continuing to whip or by rubbing the outside of the bowl with a bag of frozen peas, fruit, whatever you have on hand, while continuing to whip the mixture. Once the bowl is cool, add the butter, 2 tbsp at a time. Whip until each piece is completely incorporated before adding another piece. The icing might start to look a little curdled, or conversely, feel like soft marshmallow fluff, but it should come together nicely by the time you have added all the butter. Once the icing has changed consistency, add in the caramel sauce and whip until combined. The caramel sauce may need to be warmed slightly so it's at a pourable consistency.

Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip with the frosting. Decorate cupcakes as desired. I used 4 different tips, partly because I wanted them all to be different and partly because I didn't want to have to remove the tip to put in a new bag every time, as I don't have 4 of the same tip.
Note: I found that the buttercream icing would not accept  Wilton gel coloring. The gel would stay on the surface and no dissolve, perhaps because the icing is eggs, sugar and butter. I had to use liquid food coloring, and even then it took awhile to mix in. Some of the fluffiness of the icing was lost with all the mixing, but it still turned out fine. It turns out that Americolor gel coloring works just fine.

Source: cupcakes adapted from Karen at, icing from The Reluctant Gourmet

See?!?!?! How FRICKEN ADORABLE! Have a wonderful Easter!

P.S. I love to hear questions and comments, so please feel free!

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