Sunday, September 11, 2011

Back to School Cupcakes!

Caramel Apple Cupcakes
 There is no doubt in my mind that Fall is my favorite season.  You have the start of football where sitting on your couch, drinking beer in sweats becomes a perfectly legitimate Sunday and/or Saturday activity.   You have the great fall foliage and the amazing flavors of pumpkin and apple are everywhere.  And you also have the first day of school!  Yes, I am one of those nerds that absolutely LOVES the first day of school!  And when I think school, I naturally think of apples.   So I decided that my back to school cupcakes needed to be apple based, and thats how the caramel apple cupcakes were born. 

One thing that I had going in my favor was the fact that there was a massive amount of rain in Virginia and a ton of flooding.  Therefore I didn't have to go to school Friday so I had all the time in the world to work on my cupcakes.  I don't think they would have been anywhere near as good if I hadn't had all the time I did.    Plus I had some great supervisors

My supervisors, Willa Weasley and Dusty Punkin


They started with an apple cupcake recipe. I decided that because I have my awesome batter tool, and it looked like a simple recipe, I wasn't going use my mixer.  Well as I started to add the flour to the butter, I got very nervous as the batter was REALLY thick.  Like cookie dough thick.  I immediately put it in the kitchen aide to try to see if that would do anything.  Nope.   Luckily, as I added the apples I watched the mixture get moist.   I added the apples one at a time to avoid the inevitable browning of apples exposed to the air and watched as the batter turned to a perfect consistency.   

The icing I used called for Vanilla Bean Paste, which i couldn't find... and when I say I couldn't find, I mean I didn't really look hard for.   So i subsituted a substantial amount of vanilla extract and I think it ended up being the perfect complement to the cupcakes.   And rumor has it that my boyfriend's niece licked all the icing off the cupcakes I gave his family... so it must have been good!

The most impressive part of this adventure was the fact that I made my own caramel.   I have never tried to make it before, and had read how tough it was.  So i was really concerned.  But I guess because I had so much time on my hands and I was relaxed, it really wasn't that hard.   First I dissolved sugar in water and brought it to a boil.
 Then I brought it up to 340 degrees when it became a dark, rich caramel color.  And it didn't burn!

The scariest part was after this (and why there is no pictures).  I removed it from the heat and added cream and vanilla.  It got CRAZY bubbly and was ridiculously scary.  But i just kept stirring and eventually it became smooth.   


I left it for about three hours and it was a beautiful, sticky mess.  I was honestly really proud of this :)

After putting it all together, I totally think its one of the best cupcakes I've ever made.  It definitely will become a part of my fall repertoire.

Recipes

Apples Cupcakes
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 apples, cored, peeled, and chopped (I used 2 Granny Smith and 2 Fuji)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 regular size cupcake pans with cupcake liners
  2. In a large bowl using an electric mixer on low speed, combine the sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla until blended. 
  3. In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing on low until blended. 
  4. Stir in the apples.
  5. Fill the cupcake liners three-quarters full with batter and bake until the cupcakes spring back when touched with your finger, 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Let cool in the pans for a few minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
 Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 (8-ounce) bar cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • milk (if needed)
  1. Blend butter and cream cheese together in a mixer
  2. Add in powdered sugar one cup at a time 
  3. Add in vanilla and then milk if you need it for consistency.
Caramel Sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Mix the water and sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Do not stir.
  2. Increase the heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm chestnut brown (about 350 degrees F), about 5 to 7 minutes, gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture. Be careful – the mixture is extremely hot! 
  3. Turn off the heat. Stand back to avoid splattering and slowly add the cream and vanilla. The cream will bubble violently and the caramel will solidify. 
  4. Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. It will thicken as it sits.


Cupcakes and Icing adapted from Food Network 
Carmel Sauce from Ina Garten


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