I decided to make them into cupcakes so I could easily bring them to work for my first day back in 14 months. I figured bringing in treats would increase the odds of people being happy to see me. So I halved the cake recipe, made 18 cupcakes with it, made a full batch of caramel and a full batch of frosting. It's a very good thing I halved the recipe, because these were the best cupcakes I've made in a long while. And if 18 more cupcakes were laying around, I would have eaten them all.
Apple Caramel Cupcakes
recipe adapted from Baked Explorations
makes 18 cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Sift dry ingredients together. Set aside
3/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
In the bowl of standmixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar, and beat until light and fluffy, about another 3 minutes. Add the egg and mix until combined.
2 cups applesauce
Add 1/3 of the flour to the butter mixture, then half the applesauce, another 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the applesauce, then the rest of the flour, mixing between each addition until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix on low speed for a few seconds.
Scoop 1/4 cup of the batter in each of the cupcake liners. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops spring back, and a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.
While cupcakes are baking, make the caramel sauce. I made the frosting using the Classic Caramel Sauce recipe on page 191 of the Baked book, but I prefer this recipe, and will use it next time I make this cake. I found the recipe from the Baked book too buttery for my taste, and the instructions were not as clear as I obviously need them to be. My caramel came out way too pale, and a tad too thin. The last time I made this recipe though, perfection. So I recommend this one.
Makes about 1 cup of caramel
1 cup (8 oz.) sugar
1/2 cup (4 fluid oz./ 120 ml.) water
1 cup (8 fluid oz./ 240 ml.) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water on medium-high heat. Boil until the water completely evaporates and the sugar caramelizes to a dark mahogany color.
Working quickly, add the cream to the darkened caramel. It will bubble and pop vigorously, so add only as much cream as you can without overflowing the pot.
Return the pot to the stove on low heat and whisk gently to break up any hardened sugar. Add any remaining cream and continue stirring. Gradually, the hard sugar will dissolve and the caramel sauce will continue to darken. When the caramel has darkened to the point you want it, remove it from the heat. Add the salt and stir to combine.
I had a bit of trouble with my frosting, but nothing that couldn't be fixed. I think my butter was way too soft, because after adding it to the cooled sugar mixture, the frosting was soupy and would not whip up. I stuck it in the fridge for a good while, and was not expecting much when I started whipping it again. I ignored it for a couple of minutes, and when I came back to it, I was pleasantly surprised to see how fluffy it was. I couldn't really taste the caramel, even though I added more than what the recipe called for, but I'm sure it's because I didn't let my sugar caramelize properly, and the caramel syrup was weak. Still, hands down, the best frosting I have ever made.
The texture was just right. It was not too sweet, it didn't taste like butter. Awesome!
recipe source: Baked Explorations
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10-15 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat with the paddle attachment until cool. Reduce speed to low, and add:
1 1/2 cups softened butter, cubed
1 tsp pure vanilla
Mix until thoroughly incorporated, the increase speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
1/3 cup caramel sauce
Continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, chill in the refrigerator until it can be beat to proper consistency.
Pipe frosting on the cupcakes, and drizzle with added caramel if desired.
I bought a 1M piping tip just for these, so I had fun practicing the only two techniques I know, basically. I had been using cheapo giant tips, but was never able to get good results, so I'm very happy with how these turned out! And it was interesting to see which ones went first with my coworkers... By mid-morning on the second day, only one cupcake with the smaller amount of frosting remained. And it was quickly gobbled up. This frosting rocks! Pile it on!