brown sugar | caramel | cupcakes | desserts | filling | frosting | recipe | unique

“Ah, brown sugar, how come you taste so good?”

September 7, 2010

The Rolling Stones definitely had it right (although their “brown sugar” meant something a little different than mine, admittedly). Caramel always reminds me of brown sugar. I don’t know why, considering most caramel is made with plain white granulated sugar. It just does. I love brown sugar. I put light brown sugar in my Teavana tea when I run out of German rock sugar. And of course, I love caramel. Caramel filled chocolate, caramels, caramel sauce on vanilla ice cream, all of that; it’s delicious. However…

Salted caramel is a bandwagon I never jumped on. About a year and a half/two years ago, the foodie world was nuts for salted caramel anything (except Jay, who obviously missed out on this fad because he asked me “Why would you salt caramel?” Haha, I love men). But me, I kinda stayed away from it. Not because I don’t like it- the opposite is true. Like I said above, I love caramel anything, and I’m kind of a salt fanatic, so that combination is just perfect to me. Truth be told, I stayed away from it because it just seemed like there was an over-saturation of salted caramel-y goodness on the web. But now that it’s died down somewhat, I feel better about making some salted caramel cupcakes. The cupcake recipe is from Cupcakes by Shelly Kaldunski, and I’ve made one of her recipes before with much success. The frosting is a total departure for me… it’s a new way of making frosting that I found at Our Best Bites. The recipes for both are below, and my comments on both are below the recipes.

You may remember those liners from my birthday cupcakes. I had a bunch leftover and decided to use them. Again, I got them from sweet estelle’s baking supply on Etsy.

I also think brown sugar is appropriate for me to be using now, since I just dyed my hair brown. Yep, bye-bye, blonde. Remember when I said my hair was breaking at the end of my peanut butter ice cream post? Yeah. So I went dark brown. It looks pretty snazzy. I snapped this picture before leaving to go to a wedding the week before last, so far it’s the only picture I have of the new dark coif so you’re just gonna have to make due with this until I get a better one.


Get together these items:

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup whole milk

Then do this with them:

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. 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.
  3. 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, 20-22 minutes. 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.


First, get this:

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk (whole milk is best)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (NOT margarine!)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon caramel extract

And then yer gon’ do this:

  1. Whisk together the flour and the milk. Heat in a small sauce pan on medium heat.
  2. Whisk continuously until it starts to thicken. Let it cook, while stirring, until you can start to see the bottom of the pan. It should still be liquid-ish though. It’s okay if you have lumps, because we’re gonna strain those out right now. Place the mixture in a mesh strainer and stir with a rubber spatula to push it through.
  3. You should end up with a nice, smooth mixture. It’s almost like pudding before it’s set.
  4. Put this mixture in the fridge and let it cool completely, it’s fine if it stays in there long enough to get chilly, you just don’t want it warm at all. When it is chilled, you can move on to the following step.
  5. It an electric stand mixer, beat the butter and the sugar for a minute or two until well combined and fluffy. You’ll want to use the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, not the flat paddle. Then while beating, add in the thickened milk mixture and the vanilla. Beat to combine and then scrape down the sides. Don’t be scared. It’s going to look like a goopy mess and kind of lumpy and separated.
  6. But you just wait. It’s gonna blow your mind in a few minutes. Beat on med-high for 7-8 minutes. Yes, that long. I know it seems like forever, but that’s when the magic happens!
  7. After 7-8 minutes it will have transformed from that sloppy mess into something gorgeous, fluffy, and incredibly light and silky.

Silkiest frosting ever…

Dark brown sugar is important to get the caramel flavor in the cupcake.

If you don’t have caramel extract for the frosting, Sara says using a mix of ½ white sugar and ½ brown will give a caramel flavor (meaning ¼ cup each). I used Watkins caramel extract myself, and good lawd it was yummy. This is some good frosting. Seriously. OH MY GOD. I can’t even say enough about it. Delicious. It might turn out to be a staple around here. It is tricky though- don’t cook the white sauce too long or you’ll end up with a mix too thick. I’m not lying when I say that it’s amazing. It takes a bit longer than the traditional buttercream, but less time than Swiss or Italian meringue. And the texture is light and fluffy and smooth, very reminiscent of a meringue-based frosting, not thick or too sweet. It’s a bit tempermental (you shouldn’t use anything but name-brand, 100% real butter, really, she swears it makes a difference… I used Breakstones and had no problems, but people on Sara’s blog commented saying that using Wal-Mart brand butter made it too greasy & other store brands just didn’t work at all) but worth it, trust me. Using vanilla extract or lemon extract or coconut extract is also an option, and there’s a chocolate version of it as well. It’s really good. Who’da thunk it? Frosting made from basically a bechamel sauce is not only light, but almost whipped cream-y.

These would probably be heavenly sprinkled with Himalayan pink salt. But all I had at 10 p.m. when I got the baking bug was plain ol’ Kosher salt, and they were divine. I avoided drizzling these with caramel because I thought, “How much caramel flavor can one cupcake tolerate?” and I decided that would’ve been too much. Or you could top them with caramel candies. But even for me, a caramel lover, I felt this was enough caramel flavor, between the frosting and cupcake itself. Speaking of the cupcakes, I wasn’t hugely thrilled with the texture. The taste was great, but I found that the top formed a bit too much of a “crust” for my liking. Oh well. Still, the entire package was delicious.

Also, you may have noticed that my pictures now have a watermark on them stating that they’re copyrighted to me. I really didn’t want to start doing this, mainly because it’s more work for me to have to add that on to every picture I post. But it seems as though in light of recent events, it might be a good idea. So from now on, all the baked goods and food items I create will have that logo watermark. I won’t bother to do it with pictures of my garden, etc, because I don’t think anyone will steal those anyway. But I’ve sorta had it with people taking my cupcake photos and passing them off as their own. *cough cough*Sharon Lou Ann Swann Stallings*cough cough*

Stay tuned to the blog this week everyone… because I’m getting ready for Cupcake Rehab’s third birthday giveaway! On September 12th, this blog turns three. And to celebrate, I’m sponsoring a giveaway of a bunch of really awesome cupcake-related stuff. So come back on the 12th and enter to win!

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  1. Well I have found my next ‘must make’ recipe! These look divine! Anything salty and sweet is a FTW in my book 🙂
    Happy early Birthday Cupcake Rehab Blog… It’s my birthday as well although I definitely will have the number 3 in my year, it’s not a single digit like you 😉

  2. Don’t know what I did wrong since I followed your instructions word for word but the fronting never graduated from a lumpy, congealed mess 🙁 I usually never have a problem… it smells delicious though lol

  3. Yeah, if Land o’Lakes is considered good quality. It was either that or Irish butter which I was hesitant to use… maybe I’m just not fated to make this frosting lol

  4. Yes, I’ve used Land O Lakes. Hmm. That’s odd. It’s always worked for me! Although one time I did cook the flour/milk a bit too long and it got a bit thicker than it should’ve, and so I ended up having to “whip” the frosting for about 15 minutes before it even resembled anything delicious.

  5. I will persevere lol I’ll get another brand of butter and give it a go again… Until then it’s all sorts of Pumpkin Treats coming out of my kitchen 🙂

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