Another week, another challenge from Willow Bird Baking!
This week, Julie challenged us to innovate cupcakes, using the current season as our inspiration. Being in the North-Eastern U.S., it's Fall. I mean, it's Fall all over the U.S., but here in the Northeast, the temperatures have dropped and the leaves have fallen from the trees, so Fall flavors are calling my name. The only problem (as usual with these challenges...) was narrowing it down to one flavor combination.
The requirements of this challenge were to create a cupcake consisting of a base (the cake), a filling, and a frosting. I have to tell you - when I watched the announcement, I was excited. I mean, it was like our own at-home version of Cupcake Wars! Only... you know... no crazy time limit or cameras following you around.
My first thought was s'mores - what's better than ghost stories around a campfire on a nice Fall evening? Then I thought pumpkin... pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake - tons of possibilities. But daddy, little miss and I discussed it over dinner and we decided on caramel apple. We only ever have caramel apples in October, usually from one of the farms at which we do our pumpkin picking. It was perfect.
While I had a pretty good idea as to what I wanted to use for both my base and my filling, I did a little bit of googling to see if I could find specific recipes for what was bouncing around in my head. And, as luck would have it, I found a recipe that, aside from the frosting, was almost exactly what I wanted.
The cake batter was delicious and light, with diced apples folded right in.
And the filling was exactly what I had been thinking - a butter/sugar/apple mixture cooked to caramel-y perfection (then thickened a bit with a cornstarch/milk slurry).
Once both the cupcakes and the filling had cooled, it was time to put everything together. Little miss helped me use my handy dandy cupcake corer.
And then we had a tray of hole-y cupcakes!
And then it was time for filling. And we got a bit worried. It tasted delicious, but the caramel, despite the slurry we'd added while it was cooking, was pretty thin, and we were concerned that it wouldn't work well as, well, a filling - that it would only leak through the cupcake, leaving a soggy cake with a pretty much empty hole. So we whipped some cream, folded the prepared filling into it, and - ta da! Caramel apple mousse as our filling!
The last component was the frosting, and I knew I wanted caramel. We recently borrowed the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion from the library, so that was the first place I looked. And, lo and behold, they had a recipe for caramel frosting! And it was simple! So that's the one I went with. It's not the fluffy-pipe-it-on kind of frosting, which is good, because that's not what I wanted. This was the perfect spread-it-on-to-cover-the-top kind of frosting that I wanted. And it tasted perfectly caramel-y, just like I'd wanted.
These made a perfect dessert for our weekend family dinner.
The cake was delicious and moist, the filling was light, and the frosting was the perfect complement.
These were a delicious taste of Fall!
Caramel Apple Cupcakes
(makes 12 cupcakes)
for the cupcakes:
(from java cupcake)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk (I used coconut milk, you could use apple juice too)
1/2 cup chopped apples
Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Line your cupcake pan with liners.
Cream together the butter and sugars.
One at a time, mix in the eggs. Add the vanilla then beat on high for 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together and then slowly add into the batter. Mix by hand about 5-6 strokes.
Add the milk and mix only until all the flour and milk are incorporated.
Gently fold in the apples. Do not over mix!
Bake for 17-19 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Leave in pan for 3-4 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Once cooled, use a cupcake-plunger or other tool to carefully cut a hole in the middle of each cupcake, being careful not to cut too deeply (the bottom of the cupcake needs to be strong enough for the cupcake to hold up once filled!).
for the filling:
(slightly adapted from java cupcake)
1 large apple, chopped
2 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk mixed with 1 heaping tablespoon corn starch
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks
In a medium pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
Add the apples, sugars and vanilla and stir. Cook until bubbling, about 5 minutes.
Add the milk/cornstarch mixture and bring to a bubble. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the mixture thickens.
Remove from heat and continue to stir for about 1 minute.
Set aside to cool.
Just before filling cupcakes, whip the cream and fold the caramel apple mixture into the whipped cream.
Using a piping bag (or plastic bag with the corner snipped), fill cupcakes.
for the frosting:
(recipe provided here is halved from what is in the book)
4 tablespoons (1/2 a stick) butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) milk (I used coconut milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar
Melt the butter in a medium sized heavy saucepan. Stir in the salt and brown sugar and heat the mixture to boiling, stirring constantly. Cook over low heat for two minutes, until the sugar is totally dissolved. Stir in the milk and return to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and cool to lukewarm. Stir in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the powdered sugar. Adjust consistency with a little more milk if necessary.
Spread frosting over the tops of the filled cupcakes.