Recently I have been having a huge craving for a cupcake. Now, you would think it would be pretty easy to get a cupcake in this town, what with them being ‘the’ sweet treat (well, maybe the macaron has taken over now). In any event, there are plenty of gorgeous little cupcake places in the city but for some reason, there is a dearth of gorgeous little gluten free cupcakes. My internet trawling found that plenty of places will make you a GF cupcake (if you order 24) and one dedicated cupcake shop did in fact stock GF cupcakes, but only one day a week(!?) and only vanilla. No fun. After I got cross about this I decided I needed to make one myself. I am wheat free so decided to make spelt cupcakes. If you have a GF friend please don’t make these for them – spelt contains gluten.
As a side note I will mention that while I often bake, I rarely make cupcakes. This is probably because the last batch I made exploded in the oven for no apparent reason. This was pretty stressful when we were already late for an event that I had promised to bring them to. I rarely have disasters in the kitchen (though you can read about one here) so I was a bit frightened to try again.
I found a great looking recipe for salted caramel cupcakes (yes, I am on the salted caramel bandwagon), followed the instructions exactly (although I used spelt flour) popped them in the oven and…
On the plus side, these were an experimental batch (I didn’t need to take them to someone) and I had only made a half batch. I managed to salvage some of the cake and turned it into a sweet treat:
So obviously my sweet craving was satisfied but I still wanted to make a good cupcake. I figured that my failure was probably due to my substitution of regular flour for spelt. I decided to have a second go at making these and for some unknown reason, I also offered to bring a batch along to a party for Saskia and Mr M’s cousin A (Happy Birthday!!). No pressure or anything.
First step is to mix flour, baking powder and salt. I figured that the problem with the previous batch was firstly that they rose too much and secondly that the mixture was too liquid, as they sank after they had risen (making a huge mess of the pans in the process). I reduced the quantity of baking powder and upped the quantity of spelt flour by 20% (to account for the fact that spelt holds less liquid than regular flour).
Next beat sugar (both brown sugar and castor sugar) and butter until light and fluffy:
Add eggs and vanilla. Then add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with milk, until just combined:
I decided to make mini ones as this is a bit better for a party (especially where lots of other sweet things were on offer).
They went into the oven for about 10 minutes. I alternated between pacing and peering through the door this entire time. But it all worked out perfectly:
I was so pleased with myself, look how perfect this little guy is:
I left these to cool completely before tackling the frosting.
The recipe for the frosting seemed unnecessarily complex to me, but I followed it regardless.
First step was to make a caramel sauce, which involved caramelising the sugar, adding cream, trying not to get burnt by splattering caramel and whisking feverishly until it combined. A little stressful but it came up well in the end:
Next step was to make the frosting itself. Firstly, combine eggwhites and sugar in a double boiler and heat until it reaches 70C/160F. Transfer to a mixer and beat until cool and stiff peaks have formed:
Then add a lot of butter until smooth and creamy:
Next, add some of the caramel and beat it until combined. Here I came into some problems. I added the recommended amount of caramel, tasted it and decided it wasn’t ‘caramelly enough’. I added more caramel at which point it tasted great but was way too runny to use as a frosting. I mucked around for a while, trying to beat it until it thickened but no luck. I ended up taking to the butter, adding another whopping great amount of the stuff until it started to get to the proper consistency:
I then filled a piping bag with the buttercream and frosted my little cakes. Here is a close up:
I was very pleased with my cupcakes. The cupcake itself was a subtle caramel, with good texture. The frosting was rich but each cupcake only had a little on top. I popped these in the fridge before transporting them to the party, which was about an hour away. The frosting held together that whole time so I was very happy with that as well. They were very popular and I’ll definitely make these again!
- This recipe makes a lot of caramel (much more than you need for the frosting). I would reduce the quantities probably by half.
- I also ended up with a huge amount of frosting (probably all that extra butter). I would reduce it by a third next time (ie. use 2 eggwhites not 3).
- This made about 44 mini cupcakes (the original recipe is for 12 large cupcakes – though I added extra flour so that accounts for the discrepancy).
- I have converted the recipe to metric.
200g spelt flour (or 170g normal flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder (or 3/4 tsp baking powder if using normal flour)
1/4 tsp salt
200g firmly packed dark brown sugar
90g granulated sugar
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
120ml whole milk
300ml heavy cream
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
160g unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, at room temperature (I needed more than this to make my frosting come together – probably an extra 80g)
For the cupcakes:
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 180C/350F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan or 24 mini pan with paper or foil liners.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the sugars and butter together until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in 2 additions, beating on low speed until just combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18 mins for large, 10 mins for mini. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.
For the frosting:
In a heavy-bottomed, high-sided saucepan, cook the sugar over medium-high heat until it begins to melt around the edges, about 5 minutes. Stirring with a clean wooden spoon, continue to cook until the sugar is melted and has turned golden amber, about 3 minutes longer.
Carefully pour the cream down the side of the pan in a slow, steady stream (it will bubble and spatter), stirring constantly until completely smooth. Stir in the salt. Pour the caramel into a small heatproof bowl and let cool completely before using. (The caramel can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week; bring to room temperature before using.)
In a large, clean heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over (but not touching) simmering water in a saucepan and heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is very warm to the touch (about 70C/160F on an instant-read thermometer), about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the saucepan. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg white mixture until it is fluffy, cooled to room temperature, and holds stiff peaks (the mixture should not look dry), about 6 minutes.
With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the salt and the butter, a few pieces at a time, beating well after each addition. If the frosting appears to separate or is very liquid after all the butter is added, continue to beat on high speed until it is smooth and creamy, 3-5 minutes more. Add the caramel drizzle (I only added about 1/2 cup) and beat until combined (or almost combined for a swirling effect), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Frost the cupcakes with the buttercream. (The frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before finishing.)