Sunday, May 3, 2009

salted caramel cupcakes: a guest blog.

I know that some of you, people who have been reading since Summer & I first got this thing going, are probably jonesing for something sweet. Since I took over the blog, it's been pretty much devoid of confectionary treats, mostly because I don't eat much sugar, but more importantly, I don't really bake. It's hilarious, people are always asking me questions about baking that I can't answer- I'm just a photographer, guys! An enthusiast for sweets, at best. But, the other day I was chatting with one of my mom buddies, designerIvonne Carley, and she mentioned she was making SALTED CARAMEL CUPCAKES. I got the sweet tooth just looking at them. She lives in San Diego, so I didn't get a chance to taste one of these beauties, but she's sharing the recipe she used and these lovely photographs that she took. (You might remember Ivonne from her sugar skull post.)

photograph by Ivonne Carley

Ivonne writes:

"I have never been a "baker". The truth is, I have always been a "from the box" kind of girl, 'cause I am always afraid I am gonna jack it all up. Baking is like gardening. It takes a lot of components to make something successful and- well, I suck at gardening. There is no bigger blow to the ego than failing in the kitchen, so I always bought the box and package stuff, 'cause success was important. The problem is I am a cake snob, I love me some baked goods and things from a box just never scratch that itch in a good way.

Lately I have been finding myself riding the ever-trendy cupcake train. Cupcakes are the new black in the baking world, and who can pass up the cute and tasty dudes all wrapped up in a little paper cup? I know I can't. On a mission for something better than The Box®, I have been trolling around for recipes online because I said I to myself, "You know Ivonne, this from-the-box shit is amateur! You need to make these babies from scratch." Then I found this recipe on The Brooklyn Kitchen: Beer Geek Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel. Chocolate? Beer? Carmel? SALT? I am not a beer lover (editor's note: I AM!!!) but I will never pass up on the chance to throw it in food. Heaven.

This recipe is a little labor-intensive, and a tad more complicated than just "mix and stir," but the end result is fantastic and worth the extra hoop jumping. I made a couple modifications to it and still had no problems.

1 cup flavorful dark beer - I used Young's Double Chocolate Stout for mine (ed's note: I'd probably go for the Laguniatas Imperial Stout, or- to keep things local, the Deschutes Obsidian Stout, a personal fave.)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa - I found a very good one at Whole Foods by a French company called Valrhona
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder - I used instant coffee cause honestly, I couldn't find the espresso whatnot. (ed's note again, haha- "espresso" is simply a method of preparing coffee, so any instant coffee should work just fine, or even some finely ground, high quality beans, if you have a grinder at home.)
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

The mixture will look more like brownie batter and will be pretty thick. I managed to make about 23 cupcakes with this batch but I like mine to have a dome on them, I am sure I could have squeezed out a couple more if i didn't want them to rise past the brim of the cup. One thing the recipe doesn't mention is that you bake them at 350ºf.

I made these for a birthday party and did everything the night before, decorating the day of the party so the frosting would hold up. I always jack up the frosting and it comes out too runny. This recipe is spot on for some really tasty frosting. Really, it's a bowl licker for sure. I found 4 cups of confectioners sugar was more than enough to get it nice and firm. Sifting the sugar in made all the difference from my last frosting-making debacle which ended up a runny-ass mess.

Frost, drizzle with some of the carmel, add some coarse sea salt on the top. I found these toffee covered espresso bits dipped in dark chocolate at Trader Joes and they make a cute little garnish.

The "from the box" girl in me is gooing herself over the fact I was able to make these babies from scratch. Not to toot my own horn but they rock.

I cannot take credit for this awesome recipe by any means, and it's a long one so if you are interested in the sweet & salty goodness, check out their site for the whole thing."

photograph by Ivonne Carley

Another note from the editor- in my new favorite book, Nina Planck details why cake mixes from a box are so effin' bad for you. In short, powdered eggs are an atrocity and can damage your body. I found it fascinating, because- like Ivonne, I've always gone for the powdered mix whenever I need a cake or whatever. I don't eat many cakes in the first place, so whenever it's a birthday or something, I just buy something cheap and throw it together. Since I've been reading this book, (studying it like a bible, more like) I've been inspired to stop being so damn lazy and actually put some love into my baking, so next time I have to make a bake (I'm guessing in September, for my son's birthday, haha) I'll definitely be going the "from scratch" route. In the meantime, enjoy this small offering of a sweet treat. Back to savory goodness tomorrow, when my husband makes a giant pan of enchiladas using homemade enchilada sauce. (WHAT?! To me, that's like making ketchup- I'm blown away that you can actually DO it, I don't know why.)


bunnee said...


life according to celia... said...

i'll take a dozen. please.

Brighid said...

This looks so delicious! I'm not into sugar either, but Beer! Chocolate! Coffee! All the best pleasures!

Ramya Kiran said...

Gorgeous! Loved your clicks. These sound delicious :)

zoe said...

I love the salt and sweet combo!

Katy said...

Mmm, those sound sooo goood!

eileen said...

salted caramel is awesome, but I must say, I'm more excited about finding out about enchilada sauce tomorrow! (Starts thinking about tacos.)

pepperdove said...

These look fan-freakin-tastic! mmmmmmm

Technically espresso is BOTH a method of preparing coffee and a (dark) roast of coffee, so espresso powder isn't as strange of a request as it might seem. You can get it at Starbucks in Seattle and Chicago.

Alicia Lynn Carrier said...

pepperdove, thanks for your comment! i've been a barista for over 6 years, so i do know a little bit about coffee, haha! a lot of roasters will declare a dark roast to be an 'espresso' bean, but there's nothing special about it that makes it espresso. espresso simply refers to the method of brewing- using an espresso machine, just like drip coffee, french press, or a melitta cone. you can use the same beans to prepare coffee using any brewing method, it doesn't make them 'espresso' beans. a lot of my customers will ask me what kind of coffee they should get to make espresso at home, and i always tell them to buy what they like. for instance, my cafe, we use a medium roast blend for our espresso.

i could go on, but i'll stop rambling. once you get a coffee nerd going, it's hard to shut them up.

Rebekka said...

That is my new favorite book, as well. Love it so, SOOOO much. And love these cupcakes. Gotta have them.

teryll said...

these look divine. i have to print out this recipe.

Thom Glick said...

My friend Sara Brown (Plum Pudding on Etsy) made these cupcakes and brought them into work last week. Super delicious!

Sunday said...

There is a common brand of "espresso powder" that can be widely found (I've seen it at Target, even) called Medaglia D'oro. It's in a bright Italian-flag jar with a green lid. And it does taste different than instant coffee, I think, but that being said: not after you mix it in with a lot of other ingredients. But it is called "instant espresso coffee" on the jar, and is often what recipes are referring to.

Amanda said...

I think I've found my new recipe for chocolate cupcakes; this one's a definite keeper!

The frosting was fabulous, but I was most impressed by how moist and flavourful the cakes were, even the following morning. Thanks for sharing! :)

Dean P. Tailor said...

NOW you're talking! Beer, chocolate, coffee, what's not to like!

An absolute must try.