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Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes

Updated: May 28, 2020

How the world has changed in the last few weeks and months. Streets, malls, parks, and supermarket shelves have been emptier than usual. Places where once throngs of people would gather for food and entertainment are now much less bustling. No longer do I hear the boisterous, bubbly chatter of students in classrooms nor the rush of footsteps along the corridors of school, for schools have been closed. Work, religious services, meetings and meet-ups have now taken to online platforms. The world seems to have gone quiet, yet at the same time not really as a myriad of voices - positive and negative - continuously buzz about the one thing that has turned everything upside down: Covid-19.

In one way or another, I think we are trying to adapt to a new normal. Even for myself, it is quite something to be working from home as a teacher, and not being able to have much human interaction apart from my own immediate family. Until now, I still don't know whether to say that this work-from-home arrangement is good or bad. I definitely see the pros and cons. One thing is for sure, I recognise how privileged I am to be sitting here in the comfort of my home, so really, I am counting my blessings.

One of the things I am grateful for is the ability and time to bake and cook. Since working from home for the past 10 days, I have been able to find a bit more time to be in the kitchen and also to practise food photography. That's not to say that I have not been busy, because believe me when I say that teaching from home is a whole other ball game, but being home makes baking that much more accessible.

Last weekend, I made these salted caramel chocolate cupcakes. Nothing fancy here; it is just a simple, almost classic cupcake flavour. Making cupcakes often brings me back to my early days of baking, and especially to my pre-university days when I would spend hours perfecting my vanilla and chocolate cupcake recipes. All that time invested into making cupcakes paid off because I ended up with cupcake recipes that I can be proud of. I hope you would like them too, of course!

A Note on Making Salted Caramel Sauce

There are two methods for making caramel sauce: the wet method and the dry method.

For the wet method, water and sugar and stirred together over a medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar dissolves, do not stir the sugar mixture. If you stir it, the sugar will crystalise and you will have a mess on your hands. Rather, you let it cook until it caramelises and the colour turns a deep amber. Occasionally, you might use a wet pastry brush to brush the sides of the pan to ensure that sugar crystals stuck there would dissolve too. Once the sugar has caramelised and turned a deep amber colour, that is when you take the pan off the heat and stir in warm heavy cream, softened room temperature butter, and then sea salt.

For me, I used the dry method rather than the wet method because that is what I prefer. For the dry method, cook the sugar directly in the pan over medium-low heat. The pan should be completely dry before you add the sugar. Unlike the wet caramel method, you do stir the sugar occasionally once the sugar starts to clump and the sugar at the edges start to melt, so as to ensure that the sugar melts evenly. The sugars will clump; this is normal, so don't panic. Just stir occasionally to ensure even melting and caramelisation. Once all of the sugar has caramelised and turned a deep amber colour, take the pan off the heat and stir in warm heavy cream, softened room temperature butter and sea salt.

Making caramel can appear intimidating at first, but it is actually a simple process. Once you get the hang of it, you will never need to buy store-bought caramel sauce ever again!

I don't know how long this Covid-19 season would continue on for. However, I hope that by making these cupcakes, you would find some respite and joy in these times. Wherever you are, hang in there. We'll get through this!


Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes 14 cupcakes


For the salted caramel sauce

  • 200g sugar

  • 125 g (125 ml or 1/2 cup) heavy cream, heated up until warm

  • 90g unsalted butter

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 

  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, optional but recommended

For the salted caramel ermine buttercream

  • 26 g all-purpose flour

  • 113 g white granulated sugar

  • A pinch of salt

  • 188 g (about 3/4 cup) whole milk

  • 170 g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • One third of the salted caramel sauce

For the chocolate cupcakes

  • 150 g light brown sugar

  • 50 g granulated sugar

  • 50 g dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted

  • 130 g all-purpose flour, sifted

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt

  • 56 g (60 ml or 1/4 cup) vegetable oil

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 125 g buttermilk or full-fall Greek yogurt

  • 125 g (125 ml or 1/2 cup) hot coffee (I stir 125 ml of boiled water and 1 teaspoon coffee granules together)


To make the pudding base for the ermine buttercream:

  1. In a pot or saucepan, stir together sugar, flour, salt and milk. Stir the saucepan over medium-low heat. The sugar, flour and salt will dissolve.

  2. Cook the mixture, stirring every so often, until the mixture starts to bubble and thicken. This would take about 3 to 5 minutes.

  3. Once the mixture has thickened to the consistency of a soft pudding, remove it from the heat.

  4. Press the pudding mixture through a sieve to get rid of any lumps. Set the pudding base aside to cool completely.

To make the salted caramel sauce:

  1. In a pot or saucepan that is complete dry, add the sugar in an even layer on bottom of pan. Give the pan a shake so that sugar spreads out into an even layer.

  2. On a low to medium heat, let the sugar melt and caramelise. The edges will caramelise first. Do not stir it yet.

  3. Once the sugar around the edges start to caramelise, use a heat-proof spatula to bring the melted and caramelised sugar at the edges into the middle of the pan. This is to encourage sugar to melt and caramelised evenly. If there are some lumps in the sugar (trust me, there will be lumps, but going), keep stirring over low to medium until it has dissolved. Do not increase the heat as the sugar might burn.

  4. Continue to stir until all the sugar has melted and caramelised. Watch the colour of the caramel. Once it has reached a dark amber colour, remove the caramel from the heat and carefully stir in the warm heavy cream. Keep stirring as you pour the cream until the cream is well-incorporated into the caramel. Then, stir in the butter as well. The mixture will bubble up; don't worry, it is normal.

  5. Return the caramel to the heat and stir until everything is well-combined and smooth. Stir in the sea salt until it dissolves in the caramel.

  6. You now have salted caramel sauce. Remove the caramel from the heat and set it aside to cool.

To make the cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line your cupcake tins with cupcake liners.

  2. In a large bowl, add white sugar and brown sugar. Sift cocoa powder, flour, baking soda and baking powder into the bowl. Then, add the salt. Whisk all the dry ingredients together until combined.

  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, egg, vanilla extract and buttermilk or greek yogurt.

  4. Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

  5. Stir in the hot coffee until everything is well-combined. Do not over-mix.

  6. Carefully pour the cupcake butter into a jug. Pour the batter into the cupcake liners filling them up about two-thirds full. Don't overfill the cupcake liners as these cupcakes rise quite a bit and would overflow if you fill the liners too full.

  7. Bake the cupcakes at 180°C for 13 to 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cupcakes comes out clean.

  8. Once they are done, remove the cupcakes from the cupcake tin and place them on a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble:

  1. Make the salted caramel buttercream. Take the cooled pudding mixture that you made earlier as well as 170 g of room temperature unsalted butter.

  2. In a large bowl, use a stand mixer or hand-held mixer to whip the room temperature unsalted butter on high speed until pale and fluffy. This would take about 3 to 5 minutes.

  3. Add spoonfuls of the pudding mixture into the butter, whipping as you go to incorporate the pudding mixture into the butter. Continue whipping and adding spoonfuls of pudding mixture until all the pudding mixture has been emulsified into the butter and until you get a silky, fluffy buttercream.

  4. Pour in one-third of the cooled salted caramel as well as 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Whip until well-combined. You now have salted caramel buttercream!

  5. Place the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with an open star nozzle.

  6. With the remaining salted caramel sauce, put it in a squeeze bottle or piping bag.

  7. Take the cooled chocolate cupcakes. To fill the cupcakes with salted caramel sauce, poke a deep hole in the middle of the cupcakes or use a corer to cut out a hole in the middle of the cupcakes. Fill the cupcakes with salted caramel sauce.

  8. Pipe the buttercream on top of the cupcakes in a swirl pattern, starting from the middle of the cupcakes and then motioning outward in a circle.

  9. Finish off the cupcakes by drizzling it with extra salted caramel sauce and decorating with cocoa nibs (this is optional, but I love cocoa nibs so I added them). Enjoy stuffing yourself with these delicious treats!


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