Caramel-drenched vanilla-coconut cupcakes.

I’m getting pretty tired of all this damn snow. We’ve been hit with 8 storms since Christmas, and every one has been a substantial amount. As a matter of fact, yesterday (& the day before) I was digging out another 24″ of snow from the driveway. However, really, there’s not much to do about it except complain (which I loathe doing) … & bake. When the going gets tough, the tough get to bakin’! These are kind of an invention of my own. Sure there are probably other recipes out there for coconut caramel cupcakes, but I bet there are none like this!

I first found the boiling can method of making caramel with condensed milk on the internet by accident a while back. I was fascinated, and couldn’t wait to try it. Apparently, it’s an old fashioned yet popular method of making caramel. So obviously, my curiosity was piqued. But I wanted to make something really good to go with it. I also needed to plan it ahead of time, which is something I rarely do. I’m the kinda gal who bakes on a whim, sometimes even at 2 a.m. After much deliberating & searching, I decided to go back & alter a recipe from the April 2009 issue of Bon Appétit. The original recipe is for vanilla bean-coconut cupcakes, but I decided to make them using vanilla sugar & vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans.

Mmm… look at the caramel dripping…

….

Like I said this takes some planning. They’re a bit time consuming, and they involve quite a few steps, so it’s best to start the night before. First, boil your can of condensed milk. Make sure you keep an eye on it & keep the water level high over the top of the can- otherwise believe me it will explode. While it’s boiling, take a vanilla bean and put it in a tupperware filled with the amount of sugar needed in the recipe. Then once the 3-4 hours is up (I let it boil for about 5 minutes short of 4 hours), turn off the heat and let it cool overnight (longer is fine). The next day, remove it from the water and set it aside. Remove the vanilla bean from the sugar and set it aside, reduce the coconut milk, then let it cool. Make your cupcakes, using the sugar & reduced coconut milk. When they’re still hot but yet only when the can itself is cooled, open the can & spoon (or spread) the caramel over the tops. Easy peasy. Result?

Full cupcake recipe supposedly makes 18, according to them. I halved it & got 16. Either my cupcake tins are really small, or I live in a parallel universe.

VANILLA-COCONUT CUPCAKES (adapted from a Bon Appétit recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups vanilla sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup reduced coconut milk (see below), room temperature
  • ½ cup sweetened flake coconut (optional)

Directions:

  1. Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line eighteen -cup muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth.
  2. Add vanilla sugar; beat on medium-high speed until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in remaining egg. Add half of flour mixture; mix on low speed just until blended.
  3. Add 1 cup reduced coconut milk; mix just until blended. Add remaining flour mixture; mix on low speed just until blended. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling them halfway to three-quarters full.
  4. Bake cupcakes until tops spring back when gently touched and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes in pans to rack; cool 10 minutes. Carefully remove cupcakes from pans and cool completely on rack, unless you’re using the caramel.. then let them sit 5 minutes in the pans then carefully remove them to a rack or silpat & top with caramel. This way the caramel runs & spreads itself on the hot cupcakes.

VANILLA SUGAR

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2-3 vanilla beans (it’s okay if they’ve been opened & scraped out already, they still have vanilla flavor)

Directions:

  1. Place sugar in a tupperware with a well-sealing lid. Put the beans in. Shake container to “bury” beans.
  2. Keep overnight (or longer) in a cool, dry place. Use when needed, but be sure to remove the beans.

BOILED-CAN CONDENSED MILK METHOD CARAMEL

Ingredients:

  • 1 12-14 ounce can condensed milk
  • very deep, large pot

Directions:

  1. Fill pot with water. Remove the label from the can. Place can in pot, making sure it’s totally covered with water AT ALL TIMES. Check often to be sure the water level stays high.
  2. Boil for 3-4 hours. Allow to cool in water overnight. Open only when totally cool, and enjoy!

See? Easy. None of the steps are complicated, they’re all incredibly simple, they just take a while to “settle” so to speak. I’ve heard conflicting reports. Some say the caramel stays soft, it will not harden the longer you boil it. Once it reaches it’s caramel point, it’s done. Others say the longer you boil it the harder it gets. It looks like I’ll be trying this again to get to the bottom if that mystery. As I said, I let it boil for not quite 4 hours and it was soft, but it wasn’t drippy (not until I put it on the hot cupcakes, anyway). It won’t make caramel candies, but it would be a good filling for chocolate candies if you make that sort of thing. It’s excellent on these cupcakes, it would also be great as a filling inside the cupcakes, or as the middle frosting layer of a two-layer cake. I would honestly never make caramel another way again. This is the easiest most delicious method EVER.

The liners are from a set of assorted ones I bought from Bake It Pretty.

I don’t see why you can’t make the cakes using coconut milk right out of the can, but this is the method for reducing coconut milk, according to Bon Appétit:

Bring coconut milk to boil in large deep saucepan over medium-high heat (coconut milk will boil up high in pan). Reduce heat to medium-low; boil until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, stirring occasionally, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat; cool completely. Transfer to small bowl. Cover; chill (coconut milk will settle slightly as it cools). DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.

As far as how they taste? All I can do is quote Stacy London & say SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.”

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26 comments

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    I absolutely love caramel, but it never occurred to me to try and make some caramel cupcakes for some reason. But when I read your recipe it all made sense. Bottom line, I’m going to make some caramel cupcakes tonight. Thanks for enlightening me.

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