Caramel-tastic cupcakes

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I am rather proud of myself as a cake and chocoholic of sticking to my guns on a no added sugar January. I have cut out sugar in my tea, no sugar on my porridge and not eaten cakes or biscuits or even had any alcohol, but one thing that was sure to make me crack was Sunday Bake club announcing caramel week!

If you haven’t come across Sunday Bake Club check out their blog. sundaybakingclub.wordpress.com It is a twitter club of lovely supportive bakers, the club ‘commanders’ set a theme each week, we all bake and tweet a picture on a Sunday. They then compile their top 10 favourites for us to vote on and a Golden Spoon, albeit virtual, is awarded to the most popular bake.

So back to caramel week, I discovered a fabulous caramel sauce recipe on Food-mouth.com blog last year and discovered the joys of sugar work too making some yummy blackberry caramel brownies

IMG_8987and a caramel chocolate fondant, http://youtu.be/QdEEtWjzZEM so ideas for how many ways I could play with caramel immediately started to whizz round my mind.

I wanted to bake with my daughter who loves to make cupcakes so that was my starting point and after much research the Caramel 4 ways cupcake was born! The cake has a caramel flavour by using dark brown sugar in the bake, the topping is made using a caramel flavoured sauce, they are filled with another caramel sauce and topped with caramel sugar hearts! That certainly fulfils the ‘caramel week’ brief in my book!

Make the sauce in advance, it keeps really well in the fridge or even portion it up for the freezer, fabulous on ice cream, for millionaires shortbread or even to make a few chewy caramels covered in chocolate.

Caramel Sauce

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200g granulated sugar

100g unsalted butter

125ml double cream

½ tsp sea salt flakes

Put the sugar into a large heavy bottomed non stick pan (I use a large frying pan) warm the sugar gently swirling it around the pan so all the granules warm evenly, but don’t stir it.

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Once the sugar starts to melt ensure an even covering on the base of the pan by gently shaking and turn the heat up to medium. Try to melt the sugar as evenly as you can by gently shaking and swirling the pan if the sugar is melting more in one spot than another. If the sugar is sticking to the edges of the pan use a wet brush to ease it into the mixture.

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Allow the sugar to turn brown and caramelise – if you use a sugar thermometer this is between 160-180C – but you don’t need one you will smell the characteristic caramel aroma and see the colour change.

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Turn down the heat and stir in lumps of butter until it has all melted and is largely combined, add the salt, the mixture will have thickened slightly at this stage. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the double cream stirring briskly to form a smooth thickened sauce. If the sauce seizes slightly return to a gentle heat and stir until the smooth consistency is achieved. Resist temptation and allow to cool before you taste it as it will be scalding hot! Put into a container to cool to room temperature. Store sealed in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

Caramel Hearts

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Does the thought of sugar work terrify you? It certainly di for me until I found this method – forget the water / sugar methods this is much easier. Give yourself an hour or two and have plenty of sugar to hand as it will possibly go wrong before it goes right, but once you have sussed it you will be trying all kinds of fancy things with sugar!

100g granulated sugar

Prepare by laying out non stick baking sheets or baking paper on a flat surface.

Put the sugar into a large heavy bottomed non stick pan (I use a large frying pan) warm the sugar gently swirling it around the pan so all the granules warm evenly, but don’t stir it. Once the sugar starts to melt ensure an even covering on the base of the pan by gently shaking and turn the heat up to medium. Try to melt the sugar as evenly as you can by gently shaking and swirling the pan if the sugar is melting more in one spot than another. Allow the sugar to turn brown and caramelise – if you use a sugar thermometer this is between 160-180C – but you don’t need one you will smell the characteristic caramel aroma and see the colour change.

Take the pan off the heat and using a teaspoon scoop up a little caramel and drizzle the desired shape onto the baking sheets/paper. I find the first one I do is a little runny then the next ones are a better consistency, you will need to go back every couple of shapes to re-coat your teaspoon. If the caramel starts to set in the pan slightly return it to a gentle heat to loosen it again to carry on with your shapes, just make sure you don’t leave it too long or it can burn.

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The shapes cool and set pretty quickly so they can be moved around to make space for more shapes once you have completed a sheet

To store them place between sheets of non stick baking parchment and store in a cool dry place.

Caramel cupcakes

200g SR flour

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

200g soft brown sugar

125g unsalted butter – softened

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

120ml buttermilk

Salted caramel topping

170ml evaporated milk

75g brown sugar

150/200g icing sugar

milk

To make the cupcakes, Preheat the oven to 175C ( fan )

Line a 12 cup muffin pan with 12 paper muffin cases.

In a large bowl combine the flour and bicarbonate of soda.

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In another bowl beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.

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Finally in another container whisk together the vanilla, buttermilk and eggs.

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When the sugar and butter and sugar mixture is lighter in texture and colour (about 5 minutes in an electric mixer), scrape down the sides and add ½ of the buttermilk mix with 1/3rd of the flour. Beat well to incorporate. Repeat with the remaining buttermilk and second 1/3rd of the flour and beat well to incorporate again. Remove from the mixer if using and fold in the remaining flour scraping down the mixture from all sides of the bowl.

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Share the mixture amongst the cases, they should be about ½ – 2/3 rd full.

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Bake for approx. 20mins until golden brown and bounce back when pressed lightly on top.

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Remove from tray and leave to cool before filling and icing – this will take around 1 hour.

While the cakes are cooling make the topping.

Place the evaporated milk and brown sugar in to a heavy based saucepan.

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Warm gently to dissolve the sugar then bring to the boil stirring continuously. Once the mixture starts to thicken reduce the heat and simmer gently for a further 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally until you get a lovely thickened dulce-leche consistency.

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Allow to cool on the worktop (not in the fridge) slightly for 5-10minutes. Then transfer to a stand mixer and beat in 100g icing sugar, add and further 50g of icing sugar at a time until a firm, peaking consistency is achieved, you can use a little milk to help achieve this. This is enough mixture for a light topping applied with a spatula, if you would like to pipe your topping make double the amount, although we found the cakes quite sweet and more topping may be a little too much sweetness in one cake!

To construct your cake remove a core plug using a cupcake corer or an apple corer.

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Warm through the caramel sauce in the microwave for a 30 seconds and using a teaspoon drizzle into the cavity. Put the tops back onto the cakes and swirl on the topping with a spatula. Finish off the decoration with the caramel heart

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