Caramel Frosting and Chocolate Cupcakes

Yesterday (or very early this morning) my pants ripped, as I was sitting down to frost cupcakes. I'm fairly certain the two were not related (it was just one of those silly days), but the cupcakes did make it better.

The cupcakes themselves decided to be a bit stubborn. I oiled the cups, as always, and they are non-stick to begin with. Yet they stuck to those pans as though they knew what fate awaited them when they finally came out - smothering in caramel frosting and a quick demise.
So the cupcakes were my usual chocolate sourdough cake. I've played with it a little bit here and there, adding mint extract was fun, but this time I just went with regular chocolate. I've been wanting to find some sort of chocolate-almond frosting for these. No idea why. It just sounds like fun. And so I went searching, and didn't actually find a chocolate frosting with almonds (I may wind up just making chocolate frosting sometime...and adding almonds). But I DID come across a browned butter caramel frosting with chocolate-almond crunch. I decided against crushing the almonds in the end and just put a piece on top of each cupcake. The leftovers may very well wind up in my breakfast oatmeal over the next few days, as a nice addition to my müsli.
A lot of the recipes for caramel anything I've seen start with "unwrap your caramel candies and melt them"...if I ever get my hands on caramel candies I eat them, only rarely did they survive long enough to be put in baked goods. And in that case, I bought double as many as the recipe called for. They were barely enough, in the end.
This frosting, however, is not that. It is made of things that you probably have in your kitchen and pantry already. It has you melt and brown the butter, then caramelise the sugar in it. It's supposed to be spread on the cupcakes while slightly warm still, but I went off dancing after the "Pour into bowl and let it cool til it won't burn you" stage, so it got a little too much time to cool. I didn't think to adjust and add a little less powdered sugar, so it was pretty thick. If I had pressed it into a pan and put it in the fridge overnight, I think it could have passed as caramel fudge. As it was, it was easy to roll into balls and play with. Spreading it on the cupcakes got a little messy as a result, warmer frosting would have resulted in prettier spreading (or that's my excuse today), but after trying some of the frosting I don't think we were really looking at presentation that much.
This frosting I hope to make use of again and again. As frosting. As fudge. Dipped in chocolate or spread all over shortbread. I'm sure I'll find something.
As it turned out, I didn't have the chocolate chips the recipe called for, so instead, I melted three ounces of semisweet baking chocolate (because that is what I did have) and coated half a cup of almonds in those then four ounces of white baking chocolate in the other half cup, spread those out on wax paper, and sprinkled them with some sea salt, then put the whole thing in the fridge to cool. By the time I got back the chocolate had hardened again and they were easy to break into bits to put on top.
In the end it all worked out, I managed to pry out all but a few stubborn cupcakes, the frosting more than made up for the frustration, and I got cupcakes for breakfast!

All part of a balanced diet

Tiny cupcakes dry out quickly, so I covered them overnight.

So, for anyone that is interested, here are the recipes:

Sourdough chocolate cake
Mix together:
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
Cover, and let this sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours.

Mix together:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup natural cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
Then mix in, one at a time:
2 large eggs

Now add to this the sourdough mixture from before - it will take a while, but eventually it happens, I use a spatula to do the mixing for this.
Then pour it into your pan of choice, and bake at 350°F until a tester comes out clean or with only slightly moist crumbs. Cupcakes usually take 10-15 minutes for me. Makes 24 cupcakes or some size of cake.

Caramel Frosting:
Melt 3/4 cup butter in a medium sized saucepan and let it brown on low to medium heat. Add 1 cup brown sugar and let it cook for two minutes once it starts boiling. Then take the pan off the heat and stir in 1/4 cup milk, put it back on the stove and bring it back to a boil. Now take it off the heat again, pour it into a mixing bowl and let it cool until it's lukewarm. Then beat in 4 cups of confectioners sugar and use to frost.

Chocolate-Almond bits:
Melt 3 ounces of bittersweet baking chocolate, stir in 1/2 cup sliced almonds, spread on waxed paper.
Melt 4 ounces of white baking chocolate, stir in 1/2 cup sliced almonds, spread on waxed paper.
Sprinkle both with coarse sea salt, put in the fridge and wait until they are cool, then break into bits and use however you please.


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