Gifts from the Kitchen, Salted Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

I almost always make mini cupcakes instead of full sized ones.  Little one or two bite wonders have universal appeal and satisfy a sweet craving without being over indulgent.  They are great for gift giving, packed tightly in a cute box they will travel well.  I love to serve these at parties too.  Even after a big dinner, there is always room for a “bite” of dessert.

These little tempting bites are topped with a thin layer of chocolate glaze, then instead of a piped icing I put an icing “scoop” on top, drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with sea salt.

My favorite cupcake tools are these medium and small scoops, like mini ice cream scoops.  I use the medium scoop for the batter and the small one is great for a scoop of icing when you don’t want to pipe.  It works best with a stiff icing.  I got my scoops from Pampered Chef, but I’ve seen them at Publix and Bed Bath & Beyond.  They are great for cookie dough and appetizers too.

So, you know the drill, I made the batter…

Using my medium scoop I put the batter in paper lined mini muffin tins

and when they were done I lined these little beauties up to cool and made the chocolate glaze.

Sounds fancy doesn’t it! No biggie, just melt some chocolate chips in the microwave and stir in a little cream.  Then just dip the tops in it.

Next make the icing while the chocolate sets up.  Once the icing is mixed, gently swirl in the caramel.

Using the small scoop [or frost with a knife, or pipe with a pastry bag] scoop up some icing and flatten it slightly  against the side of the bowl so when you set the scoop on the cupcake it will sit like a scoop of ice cream and not roll off.

Then drizzle the tops with a little more caramel and sprinkle with sea salt.

Super Boy and NG [nicest guy, my son-in-law] will be pretty excited!  These look like little mini ice cream cones and they are ooey gooey good.

Here’s the recipe:

SALTED CARAMEL CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES    for a printable version click here

adapted from Southern Living
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup stevia sweetener [or 1/2 cup granulated sugar]
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract*
1 tsp Princess Cake & Cookie Bakery Emulsion**
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla and Bakery Emulsion.
Combine flour and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beating until blended. Spoon batter by rounded tablespoonfuls into paper lined mini muffin tins. Makes 48

Bake at 350° for 13 to 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 5 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 30 minutes).
Chocolate Glaze
Microwave 8 oz. chopped semisweet chocolate and 1/4 cup whipping cream in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 minute, stirring at 30-second intervals. Whisk until smooth. Dip tops of cupcakes in chocolate mixture, and let stand until chocolate is set (about 30 minutes). Pipe or spread Salted Caramel Buttercream onto cupcakes. Garnish with sea salt flakes and caramels, cut into quarters.
Salted Caramel Buttercream
Prepare Buttercream by combining 1 stick softened butter, 1 box Confectioner’s sugar, 3 Tbsp. milk, 1/4 tsp. kosher salt.  Melt 15 caramels with 1 Tbsp. milk in a small microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 minute or until smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals. Fold caramel mixture into buttercream, creating swirls. (Do not completely blend.)

*Buy the best Vanilla extract you can, not the grocery store or generic brand.  This makes a huge difference in taste!

**Princess Cookie and Bakery Emulsion is available through King Arthur Baking Products [kingarthurflour.com]  The emulsion is a flavor enhancer for baked goods.  You can read about it on their website.

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