Chocolate Turtle Cupcakes

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Something happens to you in your late twenties.  Hangovers become the most unbearable thing in the world, anyone younger than you becomes more and more obviously so, and you start having the adult conversations your parents used to have that had made them sound once impossibly old.  Like, when did I hit the age where all my friends are starting to have kids.  This is a thing now?  Yeesh.  The only possible anecdote I could think of this past weekend as I contemplated my fate was chocolate… and caramel.  Lots of it.

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A very good friend of mine has a baby shower coming up, and I offered to bake the dessert(s) for it.  She mentioned her love of cupcakes, and I have been scouring the internet for options worthy of baby shower-ness.   I figure no one appreciates over-the-top desserts quite like a pregnant person (I’m assuming here) and when I found that chocolate, salted caramel and gobs of chopped pecans come together quite like one of your favorite holiday dessert I just knew.  You guys, the salted caramel in this is e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.

Two things:

  1. A tip for you.  If you forget to pull out your butter the night before so it’s room temp for baking (like I do 90% of the time) cutting it up and putting it in a bowl first thing as you begin baking nearly always brings it to room temp in time…well, at least in the summer.
  2. Please, please comment on what you’d like to see right here on this little blog for Fall/Christmas.  Nothing gives me greater joy than inspiration, flavor requests or dessert ideas.

*recipe inspired by The Cake Blog

Makes 14-16 cupcakes

Ingredients

For the Chocolate Cupcakes:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons milk

Salted Caramel Sauce
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
3/4 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large egg whites
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans
½ cup above caramel sauce

Garnish
Chopped pecans
Caramel sauce

Instructions

For the Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
  2. Beat butter and sugar until light in color and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beating just until blended.
  4. Combine vanilla, water and cocoa powder in a separate bowl and whisk until smooth. Mixture will be thick.
  5. Add chocolate mixture to batter and mix until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure everything is well combined.
  6. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
  7. Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk to the batter. Begin by adding half of the dry mix, then mix well. Add the milk and mix well, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until smooth.
  8. Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs.
  9. Allow cupcakes to cool about 2-3 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

For the Caramel

  1. Place the sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons water in a heavy-bottomed small or medium sauce pan.  Stir to combine
  2. Heat over high heat, occasionally swirling the pan, until it turns a golden amber color, 8-10 minutes.  The sugar mixture will begin to rapidly boil before slowing down and darkening in color.  Remove the saucepan from the heat once the correct color is reached and the bubbles start to subside.
  3. Slowly and carefully whisk in the cream
  4. The mixture will foam u and sputter, so stand clear and keep stirring
  5. Add the butter and continue to stir until melted.  Add the salt and vanilla and stir to combine.  Pour the caramel into a heat-safe container and let it cool until it reaches the desired consistency or refrigerate until it is ready to use.  It will thicken as it cools.

For the Salted Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream

1.     Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Gently whisk until combined.
2.     Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and place over medium heat.
3.     Place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler.
4.     Whisking occasionally, heat the egg mixture until it registers between 155 to 160 degrees on a candy thermometer or until it no longer feels ‘grainy’ between your fingers.
5.     Once hot, carefully return the mixing bowl to the electric mixer.
6.     Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg mixture on high until stiff, glossy peaks and the outside of the mixing bowl returns to room temperature.
7.     Turn down the mixer to medium-low, and add in the butter, a few tablespoons at a time.
8.     Once the butter is incorporated, stop the mixer and swap the whisk for the paddle attachment.
9.     With the mixer on medium, add the caramel sauce and beat the frosting until silky smooth.
10. Mix in chopped pecans

Assemble

  1. Pipe buttercream using a round tip onto cupcakes
  2. Using a spoon, drizzle leftover salted caramel on cupcake
  3. Garnish with chopped pecans
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