it's okay to play with your food

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cupcakes and Cocktails Part 1

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

My friend Gabe is a mixologist... a scientist of sorts, but his beakers are martini glasses and his chemical solutions are tasty liquors. He hosts regular martini parties at his home and his selection of alcohol is impressive. The question is not, "Do you want a vodka or gin martini?" Rather, he asks, "What type of gin do you prefer? Hendricks, Tanqueray, Bluecoat, organic, etc..." Not to mention the myriad specialty liqueurs he keeps on hand: creme de violette, ginger, the list continues.

And he makes his own maraschino cherries.

So for his last official cocktail party, I decided I would bring along something to show my gratitude for his amazing hospitality. I had just found the now defunct blog, Cupcake Bakeshop. While Chockylit is no longer posting new recipes, she has kept her archives online. It was there that I found a recipe for Old Fashioned Chocolate Cupcakes and another one for Salted Caramel Frosting.

Salted caramel is the new balsamic vinegar. Once seen as an exotic culinary item, it can now be found amidst the offerings at Wal-Mart or Starbucks, firmly grounded in mainstream consumption (or so says the New York Times.).

Salt added to most things, and certainly sweet things, adds an extra dimension of flavor. When added well, it doesn't just add saltyness, but can bring out some of the essential aspects of the dish. One of these days I will learn just how it manages to accomplish that. In the meantime, I'm just going to eat a lot of it.

Thanks Eleanor for being such a great photographer!

Mixing the cream with the hot sugar to make

Modeling my cupcake apron

Salted caramel pre-frosting

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cupcakes from

24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup cocoa powdered

2 tablespoons instant espresso powder (from kp: I omitted this)

1-1/2 cups milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 30 seconds after each addition.

3. Measure the flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, and espresso powder into a medium sized bowl and whisk to combine.

4. Measure the milk and vanilla into a measuring thing.

5. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.

6. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 3/4’s full. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Salted Caramel from
from kp: The frosting recipe calls for one cup of caramel. I actually had to make two batches of the caramel to get that amount.

4 tablespoons water

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt, kosher or sea

1. Combine the water, sugar, and the corn syrup in a deep saucepan and cook over medium heat.

2. Stir together with a wooden spoon until the sugar is incorporated.

3. Cover the saucepan and let it cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.

4. After 3 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.

5. Do not stir from this point on, but it is important to carefully shake the pan so that one area of the caramel doesn’t burn.

6. Continue to cook until the caramel turns an even amber color then remove from the heat and let stand for about 30 seconds.

7. *** This is the dangerous part *** Pour the heavy cream into the mixture. Wear oven mitts, stand away from the pan, and be careful. The mixture will bubble up significantly.

8. Stir the mixture, again being careful. Add the butter, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until combined.

9. Measure 1 cup into a Pyrex measuring cup. Stirring occasionally, allow to cool until thick like molasses and warm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Note: There was a small bit of extra caramel that I poured onto a small plate that I covered in aluminum foil and greased with vegetable oil. I transferred the plate to the freezer for about 30 minutes. I chopped the caramel quickly into squares (its starts to get soft) and topped each cupcake with a square.

Salted Caramel Frosting from
from kp: I only used 2 cups of powdered sugar. That changed the consistency, I'm sure, but it was definitely sweet enough. I think 5-6 cups would be serious overkill.

2 sticks butter

8 ounces or 1 package of Philly cream cheese

5 to 6 cups powdered sugar

1 cup salted caramel

1. Bring butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours.

2. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.

3. Sift 3 cups of powdered sugar into the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat to combine.

4. Add 1 cup of the salted caramel and beat to combine.

5. Sift 2-3 cups of powder sugar, in 1 cup increments and beating between each, until you arrive at the thickness and sweetness you desire. I used 6 cups. The frosting wasn’t super thick, but it was starting to get pretty sweet.


1. Frost cooled cupcakes with a generous amount of frosting.

2. Sprinkle each cupcake with sea or kosher salt. I ground some rock sea salt onto each.

3. Top with a caramel candy, homemade or otherwise.

from kp: I saved some of the caramel and put it in the freezer to harden, per Chockylit's suggestion. It didn't get quite hard enough, but I was able to decorate the cupcakes with a small spoonful of the soft caramel.

And as a pairing with this cupcake, might I suggest the following cocktail: Aviation.

gin, crème de violette, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice
garnished with a maraschino cherry and lemon rind


Alice said...

mmm... Cupcakes... Me like!

Anonymous said...

You're entirely welcome! They were delicious cupcakes. What do you think the next food fad will be, after salted caramel?


kitchenplay said...

Mmmm... I don't know... lavender is popping up in more unexpected places lately but that almost seems passe now... i'll be on the lookout and let you know!