Triple Salted Caramel Mini Cupcakes

I made these super delicious morsels for the RSPCA Cupcake Day at work, and I believe they were quite the hit. Well, I’m guessing they were, as there were none left at the end! If you follow my blog, you will know I am the number one lover of all things salted caramel, and these cupcakes did nothing to change my opinion. They were yum. Really yum.

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I’m happy I made the wise decision to make them minis, though. They were the perfect size. Not too big, and not too small. Just enough to pop them in your mouth all at once, to close your eyes and go to heaven for a few seconds. If I could have, I would have popped and definitely not stopped. I really am a shocker. As I sit here, I have a fresh tub of the biggest Nutella (one of my many other loves) you can get at the supermarket, right next to me, and a spoon clumsily hanging from my mouth. I may have slightly freaked out about the prospect of a worldwide Nutella shortage. Anyway, back on track…

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Salted Caramel Cupcakes: (from Gourmet Getaways) Makes approx. 60 mini cupcakes

  • 190g butter, chopped and softened
  • 150g white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup golden syrup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 170c. Line cupcakes trays with cases. In a large saucepan, combine butter, white chocolate, brown sugar and golden syrup, and place over a medium heat, stirring with a metal spoon until combined and melted, and the sugar is dissolved.

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Remove from the heat, add the milk, and let cool for 10 minutes. Stir through the flour and baking powder until combined. Add eggs, one at a time and stir until combined. Fill cupcakes evenly, and bake for approximately 18 minutes, or until a skewer comes out of the cakes clean. Cool in tins for 5-10 minutes, and let cool on wire racks.

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Caramel Maison: (this recipe is on page 245 of Adriano Zumbo’s cookbook)

  • 220g pouring (whipping) cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (I used 1 tsp vanilla bean paste)
  • 120g water (this is just under 1 cup)
  • 300g caster (white) sugar
  • 60g liquid glucose (available at most supermarkets)

Place the cream and vanilla in a small saucepan over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, and remove the vanilla bean if you are using one. In the meantime, place the water, sugar and glucose in a larger saucepan over a low-medium heat and cook until the glucose and sugar are fully dissolved, stirring occasionally. Zumbo says to use a clean pastry brush dipped in water to clean the sides of the saucepan in order to avoid crystalisation, however you can also just place the saucepan in really hot water with suds just after use and the sugar will melt off really easily. Increase the heat to medium, and cook the sugar mixture until it reaches a dark amber colour. This does take quite a while, and I was getting worried that mine would not work, but persistence is key here, it will eventually darken after 10-12 minutes. Very carefully stir the cream mixture into the sugar mixture slowly – be very careful because it spits and releases lot of heat. I found the best way to do this was with a spoon with a very long handle, as you want to keep your face as far away from the saucepan whilst it is spitting. If you don’t have a spoon with a super long handle, just add the cream really slowly and try to stir as best you can! Keep stirring as much as you can until the caramel settles down, then stir until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl, let it cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

Caramel Buttercream: (this recipe is on page 42 of Zumbo’s cookbook)

  • 150g unsalted butter, chopped and softened
  • caramel maison (prepared earlier. Leave 2 tbs for the sauce to drizzle on top of cupcakes)
  • approx. 2 tsp sea salt

Place the butter in a bowl, and beat until light and fluffy. Warm the caramel maison in the microwave until it reaches a pouring consistency (mine needed 1 min, 20 seconds on high as it was in the fridge overnight), however, just warm it in stages to prevent burning the caramel. With the beater running slowly, add the caramel maison to the butter and continue mixing until thick. Once I had added about half of my caramel, I got a bit worried because it looked like it was curdling, however as I kept adding the caramel, it began to thicken up. Once you have added all of the caramel, fold in the salt. I did not measure my salt, as I used a shaker. So if you too are using a shaker, you can salt to taste.

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Assembly:

Place your preferred piping nozzle in your piping bag, and fill with caramel buttercream. Pipe swirls/rounds onto cupcakes. For the sauce, take the 2 tbs of caramel maison left, warm in microwave until it is an almost liquid like consistency. Pour into a sauce bottle or similar, and drizzle over each cupcake. To store, place cupcakes in airtight containers, and leave at room temperature, in a dry area.

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Poached Pear and Salted Caramel Macarons

After four months of no baking, it feels good to be back! I can’t believe it’s been THAT long, nearly half a year of no butter and sugar action, which is a just a bit wrong, really. When I stepped back into the kitchen and begun measuring my ingredients out, it all came flooding back. It was reassuring to know that I hadn’t completely lost my touch, and the macaron recipe I use has remained engraved in my brain – it’s the only recipe I know off by heart, no surprise. I had been planning  these macarons for about a week to mark the beginning of my Christmas baking schedule, which is very hectic – again, no surprise, as I always become over ambitious with these things, trying to do waaaaay too much in so little time. Whilst this flavour is not quintessentially Christmass-y, it is extremely delicious. Anything involving salted caramel is. I poached the pears in vanilla and cinnamon, so I guess that means I can claim it as a Christmas flavour?

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I loved the fresh hit of the pear in the midst of the creamy caramel, however I think it made the shells  bit soggy unfortunately. Next time, I would maybe try making my own pear jelly and have little cubes in the middle. They were delicious nonetheless. The green Christmas trees on the shells were incidental actually. I just thought it would be nice to add a little green touch to represent the pear, but I’m happy with the result!

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Macarons:

This recipe is Adriano Zumbo’s, and was published a couple of years ago in the Herald Sun. You will definitely need kitchen scales to make macarons.

  • 135g almond meal
  • 135g icing sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 45g egg whites
  • 50g egg whites
  • 40g water
  • Colouring gel, green

Spray four oven trays with cooking oil spray around the edges, and line with baking paper and set aside. Place almond meal and icing sugar in a large bowl, and sift together 3 times. Set aside, along with the 45g egg whites. Put 50g egg whites in a separate bowl. Heat caster sugar and water in a small saucepan, over a low-medium heat, until the sugar completely dissolves (if it slightly burns my tongue, it’s done!). If you do not want to burn your tongue, Zumbo suggests investing in a candy thermometer and heating the syrup until it reaches 118 degrees C (244 degrees F). If the syrup becomes thick and powdery in appearance, you will need to start again. This is because the sugar has been heated too much, too quickly, and instead of dissolving, it has cooked.

Begin beating the 50g egg whites with one hand, and with the other, stream the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl to create an italian meringue. Beat until stiff peaks form, the meringue should be thick and very glossy. If you want to add flavouring/colouring, now’s your moment. So add the colouring now. Just lightly beat them into the meringue. Pour meringue into the almond meal, icing sugar and 45g egg whites mixture and mix roughly to combine. When combined, fold mixture together (one single stroke) until there are no air bubbles left. Make a spread across the top of the mixture, and it should disappear in about 20 seconds. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. (If you don’t have a piping bag set, most supermarkets sell plastic ones, they are Multix brand, in an orange box and contain 5 piping bags with a few different nozzles, plus they’re only about $3. You should be able to find them in the baking aisle). Dip a skewer into green colouring gel, and wipe up one side of the piping bag, creating a straight line. Lock the bag by spinning the top around 4 times. Pipe 3-4cm rounds on the oven trays prepared earlier. Tap the bottom of the trays on the kitchen bench and let them sit for about half an hour, or until mixture is dry to the touch. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 145c (135c fan forced).

Place in oven and bake for 16-20 minutes. Check macarons at 16 minutes, and to test if they are cooked, pull a macaron off the baking paper. If it is stuck, keep cooking and checking regularly. Cool on trays for 5 minutes, then peel off and place on a wire rack. The mixture should make about 12 -15 large macarons, and about 25 smaller macarons. Macarons keep really well (about 5 days in the fridge) and some say that the longer they are refrigerated, the more the flavour is likely to develop. Macarons taste best when they are stored in the fridge, then brought down to room temperature to eat.

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Caramel Maison: (from p. 242 of Adriano Zumbo’s book, Zumbo):

•220g pouring (whipping) cream (35% fat)
•1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (I used 1 tsp vanilla bean paste)
•120g water (this is just under 1 cup)
•300g caster (white) sugar
•60g liquid glucose (available at most supermarkets)

Place the cream and vanilla in a small saucepan over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Then, remove from the heat, and remove the vanilla bean if you are using one. In the meantime, place the water, sugar and glucose in a larger saucepan over a low-medium heat and cook until the glucose and sugar are fully dissolved, stirring occasionally. Zumbo’s says to use a clean pastry brush dipped in water to clean the sides of the saucepan in order to avoid crystalisation, however you can also just place the saucepan in really hot water with suds just after use and the sugar will melt off really easily. Increase the heat to medium, and cook the sugar mixture until it reaches a dark amber colour. This does take quite a while, and I was getting worried that mine would not work, but persistence is key here, it will eventually darken after 6-7 minutes. Very carefully stir the cream mixture into the sugar mixture slowly – be very careful because it spits and releases lot of heat. I found the best way to do this was with a spoon with a very long handle, as you want to keep your face as far away from the saucepan whilst it is spitting. If you don’t have a spoon with a super long handle, just add the cream really slowly and try to stir as best you can! Keep stirring as much as you can until the caramel settles down, then stir until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl, let it cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

Caramel Buttercream: (this recipe is on page 42 of Zumbo’s cookbook)

•150g unsalted butter, chopped and softened
•300g caramel maison
•4.5g sea salt flakes

Place the butter in a bowl, and beat until light and fluffy. Warm the caramel maison in the microwave until it reaches a pouring consistency (mine needed 1 min, 20 seconds on high as it was in the fridge overnight), however, just warm it in stages to prevent burning the caramel. With the beater running slowly, add the caramel maison to the butter and continue mixing until thick. Once I had added about half of my caramel, I got a bit worried because it looked like it was curdling, however as I kept adding the caramel, it began to thicken up. So don’t freak out until you have added all of the caramel to the butter. Once you have added all of the caramel, fold in the salt. I did not measure my salt, as I used a shaker. So if you too are using a shaker, just salt to taste.

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Poached Pears: (recipe adapted from Taste.com.au)

  •         2 packham pears
  •        3 cups cold water
  •        1 cup caster (white) sugar
  •         ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or ½ vanilla bean with seeds scraped
  •        1 cinnamon stick
  •        Lemon juice

Peel pears from the stem down, and coat in lemon juice. Place all ingredients in a medium sized saucepan and simmer over a medium heat for around 20 minutes, or until pear is soft. You can test the pear with a fork, however do not make too many holes as they can become waterlogged. Once pear is cooked through, place in fridge for approximately 30 minutes to cool completely. Once cooled, cut into small bite sized pieces.

Assembly:

Pair up likely macaron shells. Scoop caramel into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Pipe a small circle on one shell, place a piece of pear on the caramel, and pipe another small circle over the top of the pear. Sandwich together, and place in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to eat, bring macarons down to room temperature.

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Snickers Peanut Butter Cupcakes

This, for me, is indulgent cupcake heaven. You may have noticed that I am quite an avid peanut butter fan, and combined with chocolate and peanut caramel, well…what can I say? Obviously, these morsels of pure deliciousness are extremely rich and decadent, so I tried to make them a bit smaller than a standard sized cupcake!
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I was thinking of making a salted peanut caramel to fIll the cupcake, but I thought with the peanut butter ganache it would just be a little too difficult to stomach, but delicious nonetheless. So, I opted for a small piece of Snickers in the middle. This surprise went down very well with my colleagues 🙂
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The cupcakes I used are my usual trusted chocolate cupcake recipe which I have used in posts such as the Easter Egg Nest Chocolate Cupcakes, and you can find it here. This time, I halved the recipe, and it made about 15 medium sized cupcakes.
The peanut butter ganache is a Donna Hay recipe which I have used a number of times, and I could go on and on forever and ever about how amazing it is 😉 You can find the recipe in the Peanut Butter Macarons post.
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To make the cupcakes, you will need a 12 piece fun size packet of Snickers. After spooning the cupcake mixture into the cases, place half a small Snickers bar into the mixture and push it down into the batter. To top the cupcakes, fill a piping bag with a wide round nozzle and pipe swirls on top of the cupcakes. Slice the remaining Snickers bars into small pieces, and place a piece on the top of each cupcake. To store, place in an airtight container and leave at room temperature – don’t put them in the fridge! They will last a good 3 days in the container, although I have a sneaking suspicion not many of these babies will be around for 3 days 🙂
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Chocolate and Caramel Cake with Salted Caramel and Choc-Orange Pisatchio Macarons

Whilst this cake/macaron combo turned out relatively well in the end, it wasn’t what I originally set out to do. It was my Dad and Nanna’s birthdays and I envisioned this amazing sky high macaron tower as the centrepiece of the dinner table. Unfortunately, that was not to be L I began assembling the tower, and all was going well until I got about half way up, and they all started falling off. Boo L What to do with 30 half butchered macarons? Time for Plan B!

I didn’t actually make the cake part myself – Mum did! It’s a pretty simple and really nice chocolate cake, and we just jazzed it up a bit. So we made some salted caramel to smother inbetween the cake, and some chocolate ganache to cover the whole cake with.

As my Musk Layer Cake looked great with the macarons standing on top, I decided to do the same with this one. Although I had so many macarons that I fully covered the top of the cake, as well as the sides. I had a bit of trouble making the macarons stick to the ganache, hence the millions of skewers in the photos. If I was doing this again, I would probably make the ganache the day before to make sure it is really thick.

It was yummy, although this chocolate cake is quite light and more of a sponge cake. A richer, more of a mud style cake would also work really well, and this chocolate cupcake recipe from Taste.com is pretty awesome – just bake in a round tin instead of a cupcake tin.

Mum’s Chocolate Cake: (we doubled the recipe and made 2 cakes)

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 tbs cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 drops vanilla extract
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk

For the ganache:

  • 200g chocolate (we used half dark, half milk), chopped
  • 1 cup cream

For the caramel, boil can of condensed milk for 2 ½ – 3 hours. To make the ganache,  combine chocolate and cream in a saucepan until melted and smooth. Let it set in the fridge for 2-3 hours.

Preheat oven to 190c (180c fan forced). Grease and line a round or ring baking tin. Place cocoa, eggs, vanilla extract, flour, sugar and milk in a large bowl. Melt butter and pour over all the other ingredients. Beat for about three minutes, or until well combined. Pour mixture into tin, and bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in tin for 5 minutes and turn onto a wire rack.

Once the caramel is done, let the can cool down then pour contents into a bowl. Add 2/3 tsp salt flakes and stir to combine. With a round edged knife or spatula, spread a thick layer of caramel on top of one of the cakes, preferably while it is still warm.

Sandwich the other cake on top. Once ganache is set, gently cover the cake with a round edged knife, or a spatula. The ganache will probably drip a little bit down the sides of the cake.

Gently push the edge of macarons onto the edges and the outside of the cake. I had a few problems with my ganache being a bit too runny and the macarons falling off occasionally. However, as I said before, I think if you make the ganache a day ahead, it would be a lot thicker and you may not have that problem.

Macarons: (obviously I made 2 separate batches for this recipe)

This recipe is Adriano Zumbo’s, and was published a couple of years ago in the Herald Sun. You will definitely need kitchen scales to make macarons.

  • 135g almond meal
  • 135g icing sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 45g egg whites
  • 50g egg whites
  • 40g water
  • Food colouring and flavouring (optional) In the pistachio ones I used a tiny bit of Wilton’s colouring gel, and in the Salted Caramel, half a tsp of cocoa.

Preheat oven to 170c (160c fan forced). Line three oven trays with baking paper and set aside. Place almond meal and icing sugar in a large bowl, and sift together 4 times. Set aside, along with the 45g egg whites. Put 50g egg whites in a separate bowl. Heat caster sugar and water in a small saucepan until it is hot and syrupy (if it slightly burns my tongue, it’s done!). If white, powdery bubbles begin to form around the edges, start again!

Begin beating the 50g egg whites with one hand, and with the other, stream the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl to create an italian meringue. Beat until stiff peaks form, the meringue should be thick and very glossy. If you want to add colouring/flavouring, now’s your moment. Just lightly beat them into the meringue. Pour meringue into the almond meal, icing sugar and 45g egg whites mixture and mix roughly to combine. When combined, fold mixture together (one single stroke) until there are no air bubbles left. Make a spread across the top of the mixture, and it should disappear in about 20 seconds. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. (If you don’t have a piping bag set, most supermarkets sell plastic ones, they are Multix brand, in an orange box and contain 5 piping bags with a few different nozzles, plus they’re only about $5. You should be able to find them in the baking aisle). Lock the bag by spinning the top around 4 times. Pipe 4-5cm rounds on the oven trays prepared earlier(I usually make them smaller, about 3cm, but I thought bigger ones would look better on top of the cake). Gently tap the bottom of the trays and let them sit for about half an hour, or until mixture is dry to the touch.

Place in oven and bake for 8 minutes. Turn tray around in the oven and bake for another 7 minutes. To test, pull a macaron off the baking paper. If it is stuck, keep cooking and checking regularly. Cool on trays for 5 minutes, then peel off and place on a wire rack. The mixture should make about 12 large macarons, and about 25 smaller macarons.

Macaron fillings and toppings:

Choc-Orange and Pistachio – crush a teaspoon of pistachio nuts in the food processor or with a mortar and pestle and sprinkle on top just after macarons have been piped onto the baking trays. For the filling, combine 100g of good quality dark chocolate, ½ cup of cream and the zest of half of an orange in a saucepan until smooth. Let it set in the fridge for 2-3 hours. Fill macarons with a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle and pipe half a teaspoon on the macaron, sandwiching it with another.

Salted Caramel – Boil an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk for 2 ½ to 3 hours to make the caramel.When the can has cooled down, pour into a bowl and add 2/3 tsp of salt (sea salt flakes are best)and stir to combine. Spoon ½ teaspoon of caramel onto a macaron and sandwich with another.

So, whilst it wasn’t what I was hoping to do, it didn’t turn out too bad at all 🙂

Happy Baking!