CARAMEL POPCORN CUPCAKES

I think cupcakes with mountain-high frosting is glorious. However, the sight of those beauties always alarms my guys who scrape off most of the frosting and leave a beautiful mess on their plates (seems I’m the only one who eats cupcakes for the frosting). So I thought: how about mountain-high caramel popcorn cupcakes? The verdict: no caramel corn left on their plates!

Caramel Popcorn Cupcakes 2   Caramel Popcorn Cupcakes

CUPCAKES:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated white sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup milk

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

FROSTING:

12 Kraft individually wrapped caramels, wrappers removed (buy 1-14 oz bag and use balance for caramel corn below)

6 tbsp butter

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/4 cup half-and-half

CARAMEL POPCORN:

8 cups popcorn (I used 1 bag of microwave kettle corn)

38 (or so) Kraft individually-wrapped caramels, wrappers removed

2 tbsp water

1) CUPCAKES: Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2) In large bowl, using electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes; add eggs, vanilla, and milk and beat until combined; beat in baking powder and salt; on low speed, gradually add flour and beat until just combined

3) Divide batter between 12 liners in muffin pan; bake 20-24 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean; remove from oven and set aside to cool

4) FROSTING: While cupcakes are baking, prepare double boiler on stove by pouring 1 cup of water in bottom of double boiler and bringing to a boil over medium-high heat; to top pan of double boiler, add 12 caramels and butter; stir often until just melted (7-8 minutes)

5) Gradually stir in confectioner’s sugar and half-and-half; when mixture is combined and smooth, remove from heat and let cool on counter 10 minutes; refrigerate 1 hour or more

6) Stir frosting to a smooth consistency and frost cupcakes; refrigerate

7) CARAMEL CORN: Pop popcorn, discard unpopped kernels (don’t want to chip a tooth); set popcorn aside

8) In large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add caramels and 2 tbsp water; stirring constantly, melt into a smooth caramel sauce; remove from heat and immediately pour popcorn into sauce; with plastic spoon, gently stir popcorn until well coated; remove cupcakes from refrigerator; lightly wet hands and, working quickly (and carefully if your skillet is hot), scoop a small handful of caramel-coated popcorn, pat into ball shape, and gently push down into frosting on cupcake; repeat with remaining cupcakes

9) Serve immediately or refrigerate for later (if your guys will let you)

Makes: 12 cupcakes

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 05/25/12.

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LEMON MERINGUE CUPCAKES

Senior looooves lemon meringue pie, as does Junior. And Junior too is coming along nicely, thank you. When the baking itch needed a scratch this afternoon, I decided to give my guys a form of lemon meringue pie that would fit into my pink-and-black zebra-striped cupcake liners. Pretty, hmm? Ah, but what about the taste? Divinely tart!

         Lemon Meringue Cupcakes  Lemon Meringue Cupcakes 2        Lemon Meringue Cupcakes 3

LEMON FILLING:

3 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)

3/4 cup granulated white sugar

3 tbsp all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

3 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp lemon zest, loosely packed

1/2 cup water

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

CUPCAKES:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

3 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

MERINGUE:

3 reserved egg whites

pinch of salt

1/4 cup sugar

1) LEMON FILLING: In small saucepan over low heat, whisk egg yolks, sugar, flour, and salt; whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest, water, and melted butter; increase heat to medium and, whisking constantly, cook until lemon filling is smooth and thick, about 7 minutes; remove from heat and set aside

2) Preheat oven to 375 degrees

3) CUPCAKES: In medium bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs, lemon juice, baking powder, and salt; beat in flour until just combined

4) Divide cupcake batter between 12 cupcake liners in a muffin pan; bake 20 minutes until cupcake centers are firm; remove cupcakes from oven and cool 5-8 minutes (do not turn off oven)

5) Meanwhile, make meringue: beat reserved egg whites with salt until mixture begins to stiffen; add sugar and beat until meringue is stiff and forms pretty peaks (don’t overdo it)

6) With a sharp knife, remove center of each cupcake (about 1″ in diameter), leaving a layer of cupcake beneath cut out; discard cupcake core (or treat the weary baker to a tart little snack); fill cupcake centers with lemon filling

7) Divide dollops of meringue between cupcakes, spreading out to edges and gently tapping with back of spoon to form peaks; return cupcakes to oven and bake additional 5-6 minutes until meringue peaks are golden brown; remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes; refrigerate an hour or more before serving

Makes: 12 absolutely delicious cupcakes

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 05/12/12.