Thursday, October 18, 2012

Apple Cider Cupcakes with Caramel Filling and Spiced Rum Frosting

Last February I made Eric an apple cider birthday cake. However, apple cider was not in-season so I used powdered apple cider mix. The cake turned out delicious, but I just knew it'd be better with real apple cider so I have impatiently been waiting for the fall drink to come back into season. But instead of a cake, I made them into cupcakes. Every time Eric hears the word cupcake he tells me that I should make those cupcakes again, the one with the chocolate ganache filling. He's referring to my St. Paddy's Day cupcakes. He loves cupcakes with filling. So I gave the apple cider cupcakes a caramel buttercream filling and topped them with a spiced rum buttercream frosting. It was a lot of buttercream, so next time I will use caramel sauce as filling. The spiced rum butter cream was the perfect pairing for this cupcake. I have to say, the cake is so much better with real apple cider.

Apple Cider Cupcakes
You can make this cake two ways. The easiest way is to just substitute out the water in a spice cake mix for apple cider. Or you can use the doctored cake mix recipe listed below:

1 spice cake mix
1 3-ounce package instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, pour into cupcake pans that are greased or lined with cupcake wrappers. Bake according to package directions. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

Caramel Sauce
I made my own caramel sauce to use in the buttercream frosting. I didn't feel like getting my candy thermometer out so I tested out this new recipe where you make caramel sauce in the microwave. It actually works. But . . . you don't have control over the color of the caramel sauce like you do when you make it on the stove top. In other words, my caramel sauce wasn't rich enough for my taste. Next time I make caramel buttercream, I'm going to make my caramel sauce on the stove top. But I will keep this microwave caramel sauce in my back pocket because it really is convenient to have. You could also use store bought caramel sauce.

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
1/8 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium glass bowl, mix the sugar, corn syrup, and lemon juice together. Microwave the caramel until it just barely has an amber color, 5-8 minutes. If you microwave it for too long, you can burn the sugar. Allow the caramel to sit for about 5 minutes. As it does, you'll see the caramel continue to darken. I microwaved mine for 5 minutes, waited 5 minutes, and got this result:

Next time I may try to microwave it for longer to see if I can get a more intense color and flavor. Keep in mind that all microwaves cook differently.

While waiting for the caramel to darken, heat the whipping cream and vanilla extract in a small sauce pan. You don't need to bring it to a boil, just warm it so it doesn't cause the caramel to seize up.

Add the cream to the caramel a few tablespoons at a time. Beware that the sauce will bubble as you do this. Stir.

Once the cream is incorporated, stir in the butter until it's melted and well combined. Allow to cool, pour into a jar, and store in the fridge.

Basic Buttercream Frosting
You will use this buttercream frosting for the base of both the caramel filling and the spiced rum frosting.


3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk, half and half, or whipping cream

Place the the butter into a large bowl and cream with a hand mixer or standing mixer. Add vanilla and mix. Add 1 cup of sugar and blend on low speed until well incorporated. Then add another cup of sugar and beat until well blended. By now your buttercream is getting thick. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons milk and mix. Blend in the the final cup of sugar. To get light, smooth buttercream you need to blend the buttercream for 15 to 20 minutes on low. This is when I really wish I had a standing mixer. Doing it with a hand mixer is tedious but worth it in the end. 

Caramel Buttercream
Even though I wouldn't use this caramel buttercream as filling for apple cider cupcakes again, I will definitely use the caramel buttercream again.

Place about a third of your prepared buttercream into a medium bowl. Add the caramel sauce a few tablespoons at a time, blending it into the buttercream, until you reach the desired flavor. I had to use all the caramel sauce I made (about 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups--sorry, I forgot to measure it out) to give the buttercream a caramel flavor. However, I think if I used a different caramel sauce or made the sauce darker, I could have used less.

Spiced Rum Buttercream
You can make the spiced rum buttercream as strong or weak as you'd like. I used 4 tablespoons of Captain Morgan and my frosting had quite the kick to it. 2 tablespoons of rum should do nicely for a less boozy frosting. Just add the spiced rum to the buttercream and blend.

When your cupcakes are completely cooled, use a 1/2 tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop out the center of the cupcakes. Reserve the centers for another use. Spoon or pipe the caramel buttercream (or caramel sauce) into the cupcake. Frost the top with the spiced rum buttercream.

Now I know these cupcakes look like a ton of work, but they're really not that bad. Tomorrow, I will tell you what you can do with the scooped out cupcake middles.

These cupcakes were a huge hit with everyone.



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