chocolate salted caramel cupcakes with vanilla bean buttercream frosting
via 20 something cupcakes and picky cook
makes 12 cupcakes
for the cupcakes:
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon salt
1 large eggs
6 tbsp buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 tbsp cup warm water
for the filling:
2 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 1/2 teaspoons flaked sea salt, preferably Fleur de Sel
for the frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. Sift together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract, and the water; beat until smooth and combined.
Spoon the batter into liners about two-thirds full. Bake approximately 15-17 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Transfer tins to wire racks and allow to cool for 10 minutes; turn cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Then using a paring knife, cut a cone-shaped piece (about 1/2 inch deep) from the center of each cupcake and throw away the pieces. Make the salted caramel.
Heat sugar with the water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until syrup is clear; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan and stop stirring.
Cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and just reaches 360°F. Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in sea salt.
Let cool for about 15 minutes; if caramel begins to harden reheat gently until pourable. Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons warm caramel into each hollowed-out cupcake. The caramel will slightly sink into the cupcake – just add a bit more. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over filling.
For the frosting, beat butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add confectioners’ sugar; beat to combine, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
Add vanilla bean seeds and vanilla extract, and beat to combine. Slowly add milk and continue beating on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes.
Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 1 month in air tight containers.