Anyone besides me always slightly mesmerized by caramel drizzles? I remember watching a caramel macchiato being made at Starbucks when I was little, and wanting to get a job make fancy coffee drinks when I was older - just so that I could drizzle caramel over the whipped cream on top. ;)
I ended up going into nursing and never got that job at Starbucks, but I got my caramel drizzle practice making these cupcakes!
They’re a pretty straightforward vanilla cupcake base that I added a little bit of caramel sauce to - I learned the hard way that you can’t do that with cake layers because it makes them too soft and crumbly, but that’s much less of an issue with a cupcake ;) I cored the cupcakes and filled them with a half/half mix of frosting and caramel sauce, and then topped them with vanilla frosting, a caramel sauce drizzle, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a caramel square. I’ll have to master the art of making my own caramel squares someday, these came from my local grocery store. I made my own caramel sauce though, largely because all the sauces available at stores near me are too thin and light to work well as a drizzle.
Two preparation notes - the drizzle did run a little bit by the next day, and the coarse-ground sea salt that I didn’t think would melt into the caramel sauce...... did. If you want these cupcakes to look like the pictures, you’ll probably have to decorate them the day you want to serve them, or at least wait to add the caramel and salt until close to serving time. None of the caramel ran off of the cupcakes though, and the taste of the sea salt was still there, so they still looked and tasted amazing.....they just didn’t look 100% like the previous day’s pictures by the next day ;)
Okay, I think that’s the last of the editors notes - recipe time!!
To be honest, I have yet to find a white cupcake recipe that I'm really in love with. They've all been too dense and buttery for my liking - I feel like a white cupcake especially should be moist but light. If you find a scratch recipe you love, send it my way.....but in the meantime, I'm running with my boxed-mix ;)
1 boxed white cake mix
1/2 c vegetable oil (or amount called for on box)
3/4 c water
1/4 c caramel sauce
1/2 c caramel sauce
1/2 c frosting (see below)
1 package (8oz) cream cheese
1 stick (8T) butter
6-7 c powdered sugar
2-4 T milk (to desired consistency)
1 t clear vanilla
2 T caramel sauce
24 Caramel squares
1 c caramel sauce (buy or make your own)
1-2 T coarse sea salt
*Note: If you're making your own caramel sauce, you'll probably want to start with that step to make sure your sauce has enough time to cool.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line cupcake pans with paper wrappers.
Combine oil, egg whites, water, and caramel sauce in a bowl, and blend in packaged cake mix. (Essentially you're making a boxed mix but replacing 1/4 c of the water with caramel sauce. Feel free to follow the box's recipe if it doesn't match mine.) Beat for about 2 minutes, until well blended. Divide into cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3 full.
Bake for time specified on box; mine took about 13-15 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks.
Meanwhile, make your frosting and filling. To make the frosting, beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk and caramel sauce until frosting reaches desired taste, color, and consistency. Reserve 1/2 c frosting to fill your cupcakes; set the rest aside.
To make your cupcake filling, combine 1/2 c frosting with 1/2 c caramel sauce. Stir until marbled - it doesn't have to be completely mixed - and transfer to a piping bag or zip-lock bag. Set aside.
Once your cupcakes have cooled, you're ready to core them. There are a few ways you can do this....you can buy a cupcake corer, you can try using the non-business-end of a large piping tip, or....you can do what I do and cut a cone-shaped core out with a plastic knife. Up to you ;) I haven't the foggiest idea why cupcake crumbs don't stick to plastic knives like they do regular knives, but the plastic knife's been working too well for me to feel the need to invest in any fancy corers ;)
Pipe your reserved filling into your cored cupcakes - it doesn't have to look pretty, so I often use a zip-lock bag for this part. ;)
Pipe reserved frosting in large swirls onto your cupcakes (or however you feel like icing them). ;) Top each one with a caramel square. Transfer caramel sauce to a piping bag with a thin tip or a zip-lock with a small hole cut in the corner, and drizzle each cupcake generously with caramel sauce. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bam - done!! ;)
Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge - best within 2-3 days. :)