Let me repeat that for you: Salted Caramel-Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate-Fudge Filling. There. Has it settled in yet? Yes, they are as good as they sound. My daughter let the concept stew around in her brain for a while before asking for these for her tenth birthday. That’s right. Tenth birthday. I was pretty shocked that she would request such a “grown-up” flavor. In past years, she was content with cookies and cream or hot fudge sundae flavors. (Recipes for which are coming soon!) I guess my foodie sensibilities have been rubbing off on her.
She was also very specific about filling the chocolate cupcakes with more chocolate. Hey, a birthday comes around once a year. I might as well go all out, right? I saw these little gems as a wonderful challenge, seeing as I’d made salted caramel before, but I’d never incorporated it into a frosting. I was also afraid the chocolate cupcake with the chocolate filling and the caramel frosting together would be richy-rich overkill. The finished product is indeed rich, but it works in this instance, especially since, as soon as you feel you’ve had enough, your gorgeous little cupcake is gone. A perfect one-serving package. But make no mistake: she is only ten. For as elegant and pretty as these cupcakes are, they still had to be properly adorned in Star Wars attire, thank you very much!
Here are a couple of cool pictures that show the different stages of the cupcake makin’. This picture shows perfectly cored cupcakes.
Here are the little gems filled with the glorious chocolate-fudge filling. Yum!
Here we have the insanely good caramel sauce and the famous Maldon flakes that send it over the moon!
A few notes about this recipe: I understand lots of people don’t use shortening anymore. I understand it’s not the healthiest thing in the world. But unfortunately, nothing else gives the desired effect that shortening gives in a frosting. There is no other way to get a properly stabilized buttercream unless you forego the butter altogether and use that non-dairy fake stuff in a carton…and I am NOT going there! That’s obviously not even buttercream. (By the way, you’d be surprised how many of your favorite bakeries use this stuff.) I only use this shortening in my kitchen. It has the same purpose as a traditional shortening, but it’s organic, and it’s about as pure as a solid shortening can get. The only thing in it is organic pressed palm oil. We’re not talking nutrition perfection, but I don’t use it often, so I figure it’s not a big deal if I’m only using it a few times a year. Right? Right. Glad that’s settled.
A few words about salt. I use Maldon Sea Salt Flakes for the salted-caramel part of this recipe only. I find kosher or sea salt is sufficient in the cupcake batter, the buttercream base, and the chocolate-fudge filling. Maldon salt is special, and you don’t want to use it in every layer of a dish. The salt flavor is intensified because it’s very pure and unprocessed. Also, if you’re trying to measure salt in a recipe, it’s much easier to measure a finer grain kosher salt to get a more uniform flavor every time. Trust me, if you use the Maldon salt in the salted-caramel, you will appreciate its effect on the dish. It is like nothing you’ve ever tasted!
To get a uniform cut in the center of your cupcakes, use something like this cupcake corer. It will be much easier on you, and it makes a very clean cut. These little gadgets aren’t expensive, either.
You’ve seen me use Nielsen Massey Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste before. I love this stuff. It’s vanilla extract and vanilla bean caviar all in one bottle. It imparts a wonderful flavor in baked goods. If a recipe calls for vanilla extract, use the same amount of vanilla bean paste.
I’ve made a lot of cupcakes in my time. The first thing I noticed is that it’s imperative to have a nice, heavy cupcake pan to insure even heating and to avoid burning on the bottoms of the cupcakes. Also, I never, ever use nonstick cake or cupcake pans. I’ve never met a professional chef or baker who does. I find the darker material makes the food brown way too quickly. That is not a good thing! I provided a link to a 12-cup pan, but I usually use 24-cup pans. Chicago Metallic has these in both sizes, so buy according to your oven size.
These are not everyday cupcakes. Save this recipe for a special occasion. It’s worth the wait.