Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Hi. I almost bled to death making this treat. No, really. Yes. I cut myself on the dark-chocolate-cocoa-powder can and I mean I TOOK A GIANT CHUNK OUT OF MY FINGER. Darn you, sharp inner portion of can opening!! I’m calling Trader Joes to report their fatal design flaw. Anyway, I was extremely adult about it (as I usually am in situations involving blood) – it was 7am on a Saturday morning and first off I screamed like I was being bludgeoned to death in my very own kitchen, and then cried out for my husband to helpme-helpme-helpme-omg-I’m-dying-please-helpme. Oh! And then when he came flying into the room, Doots at his heels, I basically huddled over the sink, hiding my finger from him and wheezing all hyperventalationy that “it’s my fiiiiiiiiiinger, no don’t touch me it’s really bad aaaaaaaaaaaah”. And then, THEN, after much fretting and theatric hand-flapping, I finally allowed him to escort me to the bathroom (I WAS SO WOOZY Y’ALL BUT I MADE IT JUST LIKE A BIG GIRL). Peter held my good hand and got his face very close to mine, nattering some soothing toddler nonsense at me, while Scott sterilized and bandaged me up. Yep, thank goodness for my level-headed boys otherwise I would have bled out onto the kitchen laminate flooring.*

*Only a very slight exaggeration. Tiny. Well, okay maybe I’m kind of a baby. But! In my defense,my dear sister Tinnie totally recoiled in horror when I peeled back the oozing, bloody bandage to show her my GAPING WOUND later that day. So it was more than your run of the mill kitchen injury. I totally should have taken a picture to send to Beah too.**

** Also it would be wise to note: if you ever find yourself in a situation where you are bleeding it is probably best to not seek my help. And yes you are also right: Scottie has the patience of a saint.

Okay but oh hey! Back to those cupcakes, yeah? So needless to say they had a little less dark cocoa powder than the recipe called for, because I figured no one wanted me to add anything further after The Incident. I put a glove over my bad hand to keep from getting grossness in The Wound and sucked it up and finished those cupcakes. Now, if you recall: the insult to injury is that I could not taste these cupcakes. I gave up sweets for Lent. I got the recipe from the Baked cookbook, a very reliable tome and according to their description, this cake “has won many awards and many hearts. Dark chocolate cake infused with a salty caramel, caramel chocolate ganache, and topped with fleur de sel”. And considering they sell this (8-inch) cake for $50 a pop at their bakery, I’m guessing it’s pretty darn good. All my coworkers seemed to like them, anyway.

So: Bake! Eat! And for God’s sake, be very careful handling that can of cocoa powder!


Sweet and Salty Cake (Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate Cupcakes)
(adapted from Baked, 2008)

For the Cupcakes:
3/4 c. dark cocoa powder
1 1/4 c. hot water
2/3 c. sour cream
2 2/3 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. vegetable shortening
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Line your cupcake tins with paper liners, or whip out your silicon bakers and place on a cookie sheet.

In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa, hot water and sour cream. Mix well and set aside to cool. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside as well.

Beat the butter and shortening about five minutes on medium speed until they are combined and ribbon-like. Add the sugars and beat another five minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Finally, add the vanilla and mix for 30 seconds.

Next add the flour mixture alternating with the cocoa mixture starting and ending with the flour mixture.

Divide the batter between cups – fill each about 3/4 full. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

For the Salted Caramel:
1/2 c. heavy cream (35% whipping cream)
1 tsp. sea salt
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1/4 c. sour cream

In a small sauce pan combine the heavy cream and the salt. Very slowly bring to a simmer until the salt is dissolved then remove from the heat.

In a medium sauce pan combine the water, sugar and corn syrup. Stir together carefully making sure not to splash up the sides of your pan. Cook over high heat until your candy thermometer reads 350 F or until the mixture is a dark amber color. This should take about 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool 1 minute.

Add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Whisk in the sour cream. Let the caramel come to room temperature then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the cake.

For the Whipped Caramel Ganache Frosting:
1 lb. dark chocolate chopped (at least 60-70% cacao)
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 c. unsalted butter cut into 1/2″ pieces

Put the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and set aside. In a small sauce pan slowly bring the cream to a simmer.

Meanwhile, keeping a close eye on your cream so it doesn’t burn, in a medium saucepan combine the water, sugar and corn syrup. Once again, stir to combine carefully making sure not to splash any up the sides of your pretty, shiny pan (which will no longer be shiny if you splash up the sides). Cook over high heat until your candy thermometer reads 350F. It should take about 6-8 minutes. Remove the caramel from the heat and let it cool one minute.

Add the cream to the caramel and stir it until it’s well combined, about two minutes. Then pour the caramel over the chopped chocolate. Let the mixture sit for a minute or two then starting at the center of the bowl, working your way out to the edges slowly stir the mixture together until the chocolate is fully melted. Let the mixture cool for a while then transfer it to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with your paddle attachment.

Mix on low speed until the bowl is cool to touch. Once cool, increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the butter. Once it’s all added beat on high speed until fluffy.

To Assemble the cupcakes:
Using a melon baller or spoon, scoop out about 1 Tbsp. from the center of each cupcake. Drop a dollop of the salted caramel into each small hole. Frost the cupcakes with your ganache frosting (I piped mine out with a pastry bag), then sprinkle the stop with sea salt. Mustaches are optional.



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  1. I am going to suggest for future recipes involving dark cocoa powder, you make a trip to Penzeys. They sell theirs in resealable plastic bags. No chance of injury there 🙂

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