chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting

I was baking for two birthday boys this weekend, one with a gluten intolerance. I started with my favorite chocolate cake recipe which has much less flour than the typical recipe – I wanted there to be no discernible difference between the gluten-free and gluten-full versions. From there I decided on a salted caramel frosting – firstly because I have been dreaming of it since I tasted Trilly’s a few weeks ago – secondly given salted caramel is all the rage in San Francisco since B-Rite opened their creamery, it would surely be a crowd-pleaser and thirdly since I would end up with a masculine colored, latte-brown frosting, it would be perfect for a man’s birthday celebration.

As for the cake, I didn’t want to just do the gluten-free version. I did both side by side so I could compare the two. The gluten-free version did shrink a bit more and pulled from the sides of the paper. The biggest difference was this and the way they looked, but a side by side tasting showed very little difference between the two.

I deconstructed the frosting in my mind and thought I had a pretty good idea what the recipe was, but I called Trilly just to make sure I was on the right track. I was on the right track and got a couple of tips along the way. I went ahead and crafted a recipe. I can’t say if it came out exactly the same, but it did come out freaking tasty. Yum. I highly recommend the frosting. The caramel is very noticeable and the cream cheese adds just a bit of tang to balance the sweetness. The salt lies low flavor-wise and simply intensifies the richness of the caramel.

The cupcakes went over quite well. I recommend them if you are looking to satisfy a room full of adults.

26 regular-sized cupcakes / 350 degree oven

7 ounces (200 grams) Valrhona 85% cacao (or any bittersweet chocolate)
3 sticks (343 grams) butter
2-1/4 cups (445 grams) sugar
8 eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (90 grams) flour, all purpose
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (90 grams) flour, gluten-free
2 tablespoons (30 grams) + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, unsweetened
3/4 teaspoon + 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1. Chop the chocolate and transfer into the bowl of a standing mixer.
2. Add the butter to the chocolate and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate melts and the butter is combined.
3. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes.
4. Measure out the regular flour, 2 tablespoons cocoa, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon salt into a small bowl.
5. Measure out the gluten-free flour, 2 tablespoons cocoa, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and the xanthan gum into a different small bowl. Keep track of the gluten-free bowl and be extra sure to not get any regular flour in the mixture.
6. Transfer the cooled chocolate/butter mixture to the electric mixer and beat for 3 minutes.
7. Add one egg at a time, mixing for 10 seconds between each.
8. Scrape the bowl and separate into 2 batches by measuring out 2-3/4 cups of batter into a second bowl.
9. Sift the gluten-free flour into one bowl and mix to combine. Keep track of the gluten-free batch!
10. Sift the regular flour into the second bowl and mix to combine.
11. Scoop into cupcake cups only 2/3s full. I put parchment under the gluten-free cupcakes so I wouldn’t lose track of them. Bake all the cupcakes at 350 F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If you are using cupcake papers, use a different color for the gluten-free.

Note: If the oven is not hot enough than these cupcakes may over-flow. One way to be safe is to either fill 2/3’s full or another trick I use is to preheat to 375, then drop the heat to 350 once I put the cupcakes in. I also rotate the pans after 15 minutes of baking. It is safe to gently move them at that point and I find the lower back of my oven to be a bit cooler.

gluten-free baking
gluten-free baking

Salted Caramel

4 tablespoons water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, kosher or sea

1. Combine the water, sugar, and the corn syrup in a deep saucepan and cook over medium heat.
2. Stir together with a wooden spoon until the sugar is incorporated.
3. Cover the saucepan and let it cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
4. After 3 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.
5. Do not stir from this point on, but it is important to carefully shake the pan so that one area of the caramel doesn’t burn.
6. Continue to cook until the caramel turns an even amber color then remove from the heat and let stand for about 30 seconds.
7. *** This is the dangerous part *** Pour the heavy cream into the mixture. Wear oven mitts, stand away from the pan, and be careful. The mixture will bubble up significantly.
8. Stir the mixture, again being careful. Add the butter, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until combined.
9. Measure 1 cup into a Pyrex measuring cup. Stirring occasionally, allow to cool until thick like molasses and warm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Note: There was a small bit of extra caramel that I poured onto a small plate that I covered in aluminum foil and greased with vegetable oil. I transferred the plate to the freezer for about 30 minutes. I chopped the caramel quickly into squares (its starts to get soft) and topped each cupcake with a square.

Salted Caramel Frosting

2 sticks butter
8 ounces or 1 package of Philly cream cheese
5 to 6 cups powdered sugar
1 cup salted caramel

1. Bring butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours.
2. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.
3. Sift 3 cups of powdered sugar into the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat to combine.
4. Add 1 cup of the salted caramel and beat to combine.
5. Sift 2-3 cups of powder sugar, in 1 cup increments and beating between each, until you arrive at the thickness and sweetness you desire. I used 6 cups. The frosting wasn’t super thick, but it was starting to get pretty sweet.

1. Frost cooled cupcakes with a generous amount of frosting.
2. Sprinkle each cupcake with sea or kosher salt. I ground some rock sea salt onto each.
3. Top with a caramel candy, homemade or otherwise.

chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting

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