Caramel Frappuccino Cupcakes

For Labor Day, my roommate invited me to a BBQ and asked if I wanted to participate in a cupcake competition.  I never say no to a challenge!  I’ve seen a bunch of recipes on Pinterest that I’ve wanted to try, but the one that caught my attention this time was the Caramel Frappuccino cupcakes.  Unfortunately, this was a strange competition that didn’t have a designated winner, but mine were the first to run out so I’m going to go ahead and assume that I win.

Caramel Frappuccino Cupcakes
adapted from Smells Like Home
(makes 24 cupcakes)

1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
1/3 cup very hot water
3 cups cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 cup (12 tbsp.) salted butter, at room temperature (it’s what I had on hand; can also use unsalted butter and add 1/2 tsp of salt)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup strongly brewed coffee, warm or at room temperature
2 tbsp caramel topping (I was tight on time, but you could also make your own)

for the whipped cream:
2 1/2 cups cold whipping cream
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 12 cup muffin pans with cupcake liners; set aside.
  2. Spread 1/2 cup of the sugar out in an even layer in the bottom of a small saucepan. Heat the pan to medium and when the sides of the sugar begin to liquify, start slowly stirring the sugar together until all of the sugar has melted and only liquid remains. (Lower the heat to low if the sugar or liquid sugar begins to brown too quickly. If the sugar clumps, turn the heat to low and let it melt – try not to stir it so it has a chance to heat up slowly.) Once the liquid reaches a deep amber color (you can check this by dropping a little onto a white plate), remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour in the hot water while whisking quickly to incorporate the water into the sugar. Once the caramel mixture is completely smooth, set it aside to cool.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder until well-combined; set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and the remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar together at medium-high until they are light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until they incorporate fully before adding the next, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla extract. Stir in the caramel. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with two equal additions of the coffee, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Allow the ingredients to just incorporate into the batter before adding the next. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are fully mixed in. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the center cupcakes comes out mostly clean, with just a few tiny crumbs clinging to it. Let the pans cool on wire racks for 5 minutes then remove the cupcakes and let them completely cool on the racks before frosting.
  6. To make the frosting: Pour the whipping cream into a chilled bowl and use an electric mixer with the whisk attachment to beat at medium-high speed until soft peaks are formed. Sprinkle in the powdered sugar and continue to beat the cream until stiff peaks form when you pull the cream up with the whisk. Beat in the vanilla extract until just incorporated. Be careful not to over beat the cream or it will be clumpy when you pipe it.
  7. Using a large star tip fitted inside a plastic zipper bag (or pastry bag if you’re fancy), pipe the whipped cream frosting onto the cupcakes. If the frosting becomes too soft (which can happen if you handle the bag too much), transfer the frosted cupcakes to the refrigerator for a few minutes until the frosting sets up a little. Using a small squeeze bottle or a spoon, drizzle the caramel sauce on top of the whipped cream frosting and serve. The cupcakes can be stored at room temperature for a couple of days (because the sugar stabilizes the cream) but the frosting will soften considerably so keeping them in the fridge (covered) is probably a better idea.

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