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Hot Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Cream and Salted Caramel

Most of the texting between my sister and me involves links to recipes.  I guess we both got really into food this past year, which is definitely not a bad thing.  One of the first things I think she texted me was a photo of the December 2009/January 2010 cover of Fine Cooking magazine.  On it was a massive chocolate layer cake topped with cocoa-dusted homemade marshmallows.

Specifically, this one (photo by Fine Cooking, obviously):

Can you blame her?

A year later (last month), she texted me the link to Savory Sweet Life‘s recipe for Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate.  Uh, YUM.  It became clear to me that I needed to join these two recipes.  Hot chocolate in cake form seems like it would be best in individual sizes (cup…cakes), right?  Silly Fine Cooking. 

pouring the chocolate into the cocoa

I kept meaning to make these belatedly for my sister’s birthday which was in September, but my family never did celebrate it due to some other happenings.  (Sorry, Jill! :()  But since these are so wintery, I decided to make them for Christmas!  My sister hugged me when she found out what they were.  :)

cupcake batter scooping batter frosting out of the fridge whipped frosting

If you are looking for something to make for that New Year’s Eve party you’re going to (hey, Party of One is an even better excuse!), I think you should make these.  They’re rich, yet light (is that possible?), and not overly sweet.  As you can imagine, they are of course super chocolaty.  The salt isn’t in the caramel sauce – I had it on the side for people to sprinkle on top.  My prediction is that everyone will want to give you a smooch when the ball drops.

frosting the cupcakes

Hot Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Cream and Salted Caramel
adapted from Fine Cooking

Since the original recipe is for a three layer cake, I halved it and quartered the frosting.  This gave me 17 cupcakes, but I probably could have gotten 18 if I hadn’t filled the pan holes so high.  As you’ll see in the directions, you don’t need a mixer for the cupcakes, but you do for the frosting.  This recipe looks like a lot of work, but it really isn’t: I’m just long-winded.  I made the cupcakes and frosting the night before, and the caramel sauce can be made even further ahead!

Cupcakes
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons canola oil (I used extra-mild olive oil)
2 1/4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (NOT dutch-processed)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature (I made my own)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Frosting
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons Lyle’s Golden Syrup (I think you could sub honey or corn syrup for this)
pinch of kosher salt

Toppings
whipped cream – I recommend making your own and adding sugar and vanilla to taste
caramel sauce – you can buy this, but I made Savory Sweet Life’s recipe
coarse salt – I used fleur de sel

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350F with the racks in the upper and lower thirds.  Place paper liners in muffin pans (aim for 18).

In a saucepan, combine butter, oil, chopped chocolate, and water.  Heat over medium heat until melted.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and cocoa powder.  Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the flour/sugar/cocoa mixture and whisk until combined.  Whisk in the eggs individually, then the buttermilk, vanilla, baking soda, and salt.

Pour the batter into the cupcake liners until they’re about 2/3 full (mine were more like 3/4).  I used a large ice cream/muffin scoop for this, which makes things so much easier and cleaner.  Bake for about 12 minutes, then rotate the pans.  I think I ended up baking mine for about 10 more minutes, but am not quite sure because I kept adding minutes in small intervals (and it was super late :P).  Just keep an eye on them.  When a toothpick comes out clean, remove them and let the pans cool on racks.  When the cupcakes are cool enough to handle, remove them from the pans and cool completely.  Store in an airtight container until ready to frost.

Make the frosting: In a small saucepan, stir the cream, butter, and vanilla over low heat until the butter is melted.  Add the chopped chocolate and whisk until it has also melted.  Whisk in the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt, making sure that the cocoa powder dissolves completely.  Pour into a small container and freeze until firm (about 2 hours) or refrigerate overnight.

Assemble the cupcakes: Remove frosting from the freezer or refrigerator.  The original recipe says to transfer the frosting into the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, then to beat with the whisk attachment at medium-high for about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.  I did all of this with a basic hand-held mixer (I was at my aunt and uncle’s house). :)

Using a butter knife or small icing spatula, spread a thinnish layer of frosting on the cupcakes.  (Remember that whipped cream and caramel are also going on there, so you don’t want it to be too thick.)

Depending on your method of choice, swirl, dollop, or spray whipped cream on top of the frosted cupcakes.  I put it in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, but that’s not necessary.

Finally, I heated up the caramel sauce until is was drizzle-able, then spooned it over the tops.  If you want to be really fancy, you could put it into one of those squirt bottles and go to town with it.  I suggest serving the salt next to the cupcakes in case not everyone is into the sweet/salty combo.  You should try to  convert those who are not. ;)

awaiting whipped cream/caramel action
Hot Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Cream and Salted Caramel

My grandma kept telling me they were the best chocolate cupcakes she’d ever had.  She’s 85.  Huzzah!  (I’ve never actually said that…)

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