As you may have noticed by now I don’t bake very often. In fact, the last time I blogged about baking I pointed this very fact out. Although an enthusiastic cook, and a merry eater of all culinary genres, I just don’t ever feel the call to bake. However, that all changed when I saw Shauna’s (of Piece of Cake) blog on caramel cupcakes. These little beauties simply called to me. I resolved that the next time I had a reason (read: excuse) to cook some cupcakes I would whip up a batch of these. That reason came this weekend.
My best friend, Liberty, had her birthday this weekend and Sven and I were travelling up to the Big Smoke to celebrate with her. Well, I thought I might surprise her with some beautiful elegant cupcakes. I’d seen Shauna’s and didn’t see any reason why mine wouldn’t be the spitting image of them. I’m fairly competent at cooking afterall. Well as you’ve already seen the picture of my cupcakes you will by now have realised that all did not go as planned. My cupcakes came out more ‘shabby chic’ than ‘elegant sophistication’. Where on earth did I go wrong?
I personally blame my brother. The story goes: when we were little, Simon made every single mealtime an out-and-out war. By dessert, the war was over, the white flag raised and my parents defeated. They never had the energy for pud! The result was none of us ate dessert. For years and years the only pudding that would pass our lips was ice-cream. If you went into our freezer you would, without fail, find a tub of soft scoop Neapolitan ice-cream, with the vanilla untouched (goodness only knows why we bought Neapolitan if we only wanted strawberry and chocolate!). My poor parents couldn’t take us anywhere! Crumble? No. Triffle? No. Bread and butter pudding? Hell no.
This history without pudding has made me a sorry novice in baking. These little cupcakes defeated me, just as my parents too were defeated by pudding. It was presumptuous of me to try caramel icing so early in my baking career, like running before you can walk. Oh well, messy as they looked, they tasted damn good. Dream big, I say. Maybe one day I’ll be able to make caramel cupcakes as pretty as Shauna’s. But not today… Today my shabby little caramel crater cakes will just have to do. Happy birthday Libby. Just don’t look too close.
Adapted (and Europeanised) from Shauna’s recipe.
For the buttermilk vanilla cupcakes (makes 18 cupcakes or so):
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 140ml buttermilk, at room temperature
- 200g self-raising flour
- 200g caster sugar
- 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 115g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes.
For the caramel icing:
- 180g dark brown sugar
- 70g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 130g icing sugar.
Preheat the oven to 180°C and place a rack on the centre shelf. Line a muffin tin with cupcake cases. In a jug, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla and buttermilk and put to one side.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using an electric whisk on a low setting, gradually mix in the butter cubes until the butter is completely mixed with the dry ingredients (the texture will be almost like breadcrumbs). Whilst you continue to mix, slowly start to pour in the wet ingredients. When all the wet ingredients have been added, turn your electric whisk up and mix for a couple of minutes until the batter is light and fluffy.
Put a tablespoon of batter into each of the cupcake cases. Don’t be tempted to put too much batter in each case as the mixture will rise and your cupcakes will spill over the top of your cases. You want the batter to be a little over half way up the case. Bake the cakes in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly touched. Let them cool in the tray for 10 minutes or so, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
When the cupcakes have cooled completely, you can make the icing. Apparently, it’s important the cupcakes are completely cooled otherwise they tear when they are dipped in the icing. Put the dark brown sugar, butter and salt in a saucepan and melt them together, stirring often. Bring the mixture to the boil and add the milk and vanilla. Boil for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Then pour in the icing sugar and mix vigourously with a wooden spoon until the icing is thick and smooth. Quickly ice the cupcakes by dunking the tops in the icing, rolling them around slightly to coat the top evenly. Turn them over quickly so the icing evens out before setting (though it sets immediately so you have to be really really quick). Be really careful. You don’t want to get any of the caramel on your fingers because it is hotter than the sun (yes, I did get some on my finger, and yes it bloody hurt).
So hopefully now you can understand why my cupcakes look as pathetic as they do, but I really do promise that they tasted delicious. If you’ve got more baking nouse than me, maybe you can do better?!