Dessert

Sweet and Salty Cupcakes

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You might get sick of me waxing poetic about Baked, my favorite new cookbook. When I was flipping through the book I saw Sweet and Salty. There is something addictive about sweet and salty. Even Starbucks has a new hot chocolate drink that features caramel and salt. I have resisted even tasting it. It is just better that way.

I was supposed to bring something to celebrate one of our staff’s birthday so when I was out of red food coloring for the Red Velvet cupcakes, I decided to give this one a test but in cupcake form. The picture above does not do them justice. That was my makeshift photo shoot on a desk in bad lighting.

It is a more complicated recipe with several steps but they could be done ahead and then put together the day of your event.

The recipe for Caramel almost did me in and I wore a bandage on my thumb for days recovering from a burn. Cooking on my little electric stove prevents challenges controlling the temperature and I think that was the issue. I would not be taken out by burn caramel so three times later I achieved the right taste, if not the right color.

The cupcakes were quite decadent, delicious and extremely tempting. Sweet and Salty Cupcakes
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Makes one 8-inch 3-layer cake

3/4 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup sour cream
2 2/3 cups cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla
1/2 cup Caramel with Salt
Whipped Caramel Ganache Icing
Fleur de sel, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans. Line each pan with a parchment paper round, butter parchment paper and flour; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa, 1 1/4 cups hot water, and sour cream; set aside to cool, about 10 minutes.

3. In another large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together until smooth and it appears to create strings inside the bowl, about 7 minutes. Add both sugars and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 7 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until well incorporated. Add vanilla, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and mix again for 30 seconds. Add flour mixture alternating with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

cupcake batter

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5. Divide batter evenly among the three prepared pans. Bake until cake is just firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 18 to 24 minutes. Let cool completely.

6. Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan. Place the first layer on the cake plate. Using about 1/4 cup of the caramel, spread a thin layer on the cake, allowing some of the caramel to soak into the cake. Follow the caramel layer with a layer of about 1 cup of the ganache icing. Place the second layer on top and repeat process with another layer of caramel followed by a layer of ganache icing. Place the remaining layer on top of the second layer bottom side up. Spread entire cake with remaining ganache icing. Sprinkle with fleur de sel.

cupcakes with syrup

Caramel with Salt

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 cup sour cream

1. Combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

sugar and syrup

caramel
2. Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, mix together cream and salt. Bring cream to a boil and cook until salt has dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. When the caramel mixture has reached 350 degrees, remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 minute. Carefully add the hot cream to the caramel; stir to combine. Whisk in sour cream. Cool, and store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

Whipped Caramel Ganache Frosting

1 pound dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 pound (4 sticks) butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, softened but still cool

1. Combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

2. In another small saucepan add cream and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. When the caramel mixture has reached 350 degrees, remove from heat and allow to rest for 1 minute. Add the hot cream to the caramel; stir to combine. Let cool 5 minutes. Place chocolate in the bowl of an electric mixer and pour caramel sauce over chocolate. Let sit 1 minute before stirring from the center until chocolate is melted.

chocolate melting

4. Attach bowl to electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Add butter and increase speed to medium-high until mixture is well combined, thickened, and slightly whipped, about 2 minutes.

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