Some things just don't work out as you plan for do they? I was hoping to make a lovely birthday cake for my sister on Friday evening, but ended up with a sleepless night the night before and fell short in my cake making. Luckily my mom is a pretty fantastic baker so there was no shortage of birthday cheer. Still though, I was excited to make the cake I had envisioned so I decided to make it anyway just to see how it would come out, but make cup cakes instead and give them away.
Over Christmas, my mom had found salted caramels that she knew my sister had been hankering for. These things were incredibly addictive- gooey caramel encased in a chocolate shell, sprinkled with sea salt. The flavor combination was incredible, with every taste bud jumping to life with these. They were delicious. I wanted to re-create this idea my making chocolate cake with a salted caramel sauce.
I found a recipe from Cooking Light for the cake portion that described the cake as being moist and with a very deep chocolate flavor. It sounded perfect to be the backbone of my dessert. The recipe was incredibly easy to follow, and luckily I had most of the ingredients already on hand, aside from the buttermilk. They asked for fat free buttermilk in the recipe- I just couldn't find it- so instead I went with regular old, packaged, dried buttermilk. The basic steps of the recipe were to combine the dry ingredients (I included the package of butter milk in with the dry), blend the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract together, and then slowly add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk in alternating fashion. First a little flour mix, then buttermilk, then flour- and so on. Now since the package of buttermilk said to add the actual dried buttermilk to the dry ingredients, and then add the appropriate amount of water to the recipe when requested- I alternated flour mix and water in to my mixer. The finished batter was a bit thinner than I had anticipated, but it handled well when I poured it into my cupcake tins. These baked for just about 30-35 minutes at 350 and I pulled them out of the oven. They had not risen as much as a "normal" box mix cupcake does, but I hoped that this would simply mean that they might be a bit denser.
While those cooled, I turned my attention to the salted caramel sauce. As I have not made Caramel sauce before, I adhered strictly to the directions that I found on Food & Wine. The recipe was easy enough, and I can definitely see myself playing a bit more with it once I get comfortable with the process. It was a simple process of combining sugar, water and corn syrup in a pot, and allowing it to boil until it turned a nice amber color. Unfortunately my pots and pans are rather dark in color, so it wasn't as easy as I would have liked to watch the color
progression. From the photos above- I should have taken it the caramel off the heat 30 seconds later than the second photo- I left it a minute. Once removed from the heat I quickly added the butter, cream and salt and whisked as quickly as possible. Note to those who try this- the steam from the pan is HOT- wear a glove or something when whisking- it was slightly painful! But after just a few moments of whisking I had a beautiful caramel sauce -piping hot but ready for drizzling once it cooled.
After quite possibly the longest 45 minutes of my life- I deemed the caramel cool (sure) and selected a cupcake to try. I peeled the wrapper off of my cake, set it on a nice white plate and had FAR too much fun drizzling caramel over the top! It had beautiful consistency- smooth and the perfect thickness so it would drizzle without glopping or disappearing.
The combination was absolutely amazing. The cupcakes were wonderful, deep rich flavor, incredibly moist but without being heavy. They had a nice spring to them, and were absolutely delicious on their own. The caramel was just the ultimate in decadence. The salt hadn't melted completely so it wasn't AS salty as I had hoped, but it was sweet and wonderful with a very small hint of salt. I realize that I had let it go just a touch long and there was a bit of a odd background flavor that appeared occasionally. Overall though, this was a perfect pairing.
I managed to send these off to work with John this morning and the reviews have been great. I'm definitely looking forward to making these again!