pumpkin cupcake w/ salted caramel buttercream*

It seems like salted caramel is the new "thing". It is everywhere. I have always thought it sounded good, but really didn't get the big deal. Then I made it for this buttercream. Man oh man, this stuff is GOOD. I was skeptical about the buttercream, since I really am not a huge fan, but this buttercream is pretty tasty. I am still not the biggest fan of the texture, but the salted caramel flavor is really so amazing!

So, I found this recipe on Pinterest - of course - and tried to follow it word for word. But this was my problem. The cupcakes turned out fabulously. Really - so good! Then I got to the frosting. I tried to make the "salted caramel" twice, then gave up. In the recipe it says to let the sugar and water boil until it reaches a deep amber color. The first time I tried to wing it, while not really 100% sure what a deep amber color looked like. When I added my cream to mix in once it had reached what I thought was deep amber, the caramel got hard as a rock and the cream did not mix in at all. So I knew I cooked it too long. So I tried again. This time, however, I decided to Google what deep amber looks like. That was as much help as trying to get my puppy help me bake. Please, I beg you, Google what deep amber looks like. It is about as clear as mud. So I decided I would just let it be a bit lighter than my first attempt and was really feeling good about it this time. I added my cream, and again - hard as a rock. This is when I gave up. At least on that caramel recipe.

I decided to look up another recipe for a salted caramel buttercream, but I wanted one that used a candy thermometer so that there was no color guessing, no texture guessing. I wanted crystal clear directions. After looking over a few recipes, I still couldn't find one that used a candy thermometer. However, I decided to just pick one and try it.

These were my directions. Simmer until thickened; about 3-4 minutes. Ugh. How thickened would they like it to be? I had no idea. I attempted to guess for awhile, at least to what my idea of what the thickness should be, which was way longer than 3-4 minutes I might add, until I had a genius idea. I have made caramel a time or two and decided that I would just use a candy thermometer anyway. I figured if I let it get to about 230 degrees, just under soft ball stage, that it would work great because it would still be pourable, yet still have a firmness to it. So that is what I did, and it WORKED! Yay. You can try and guess if you would like, and if it works my hat goes off to you. I need much more clear directions, because I am just simply not that cool.

Pumpkin Cupcakes w/ Salted Caramel Buttercream
cupcake recipe from Made In Mel's Kitchen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the  brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Beat on medium speed until well combined.  Add dry ingredients, and mix on low until smooth. Fold in pumpkin puree.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Makes ~ 18 cupcakes.

Salted Caramel Buttercream
frosting recipe from Allrecipes.com

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream, or as needed
1 pinch salt
3/4 cup salted butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
To make caramel, Place the brown sugar, 1/2 cup margarine, corn syrup, and vanilla into a large saucepan over medium heat, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes; remove from heat and allow to cool to warm (not hot) temperature. Add the cream, a little at a time, until the caramel has the consistency of honey. Mix in the pinch of salt, and allow to cool to room temperature.

Beat the salted butter with confectioners' sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture is fluffy; slowly add and beat in the caramel, a tablespoon at a time, beating until the frosting is smooth.

*Note - I doubled the frosting recipe in order for frost the cupcakes nice and swirly as you can see*



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