Tuesday 7 December 2010

Sweet & Salty Cupcakes: chocolate & salted caramel cupcakes with whipped caramel ganache frosting

Sweet and Salty.

I know, at first glance, that doesn't sound like the nicest of combinations.  Initially for me it conjured up horrific experiences at asian-style bakeries where the seemingly delicious looking pizza bread is actually made with a sweet bun and sugary glaze, or a tempting sweet looking bun turns out to have ham or some other savoury meaty filling....savoury and sweet baking is just not my cup of tea.

But sweet and salty is a whole other ball game: think salted caramels, sea salt toffee and thai mango sticky rice. That little bit of salt with a very sweet item takes the whole experience from merely wow to awesome to the power of rad.

Sweet and salty seems to be the flavour of the month with the Sweet and Salty Cake being raved about all over the food blogging world. The recipe is from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, the culinary geniuses behind the fashion-forward bakery in Brooklyn, New York by the same name.  They are rock stars in the baking world and it seems everyone wants a piece of them.

The Sweet and Salty Cake consists of three parts: chocolate layer cake + caramel with salt sauce + whipped caramel ganache.  I decided to make them as cupcakes using my fav chocolate cupcake/cake recipe and tweaked the caramel sauce and whipped ganache recipes. The original recipes for the caramel with salt and whipped caramel ganache can be found on Martha Stewart's website here and here.

The salted caramel sauce is to die for. It would be insane on ice cream or over chocolate brownie...drool. And the salted caramel whipped ganache frosting is heavenly: rich but somehow still light, intensely chocolatey and silky smooth.  A total dream to pipe with.

This is one heck of a labour intensive cake though and will use every bowl and saucepan you own.  I burnt two whole batches of caramel (even though I swear the temperature never got to the required 350oF!!) before I stopped waiting for it to reach a certain temperature and let the caramel turn an amber colour instead.  I also only have a hand held mixer which made the "beat until the mixture is cool" part a veritable marathon for my poor scrawny wee arms. 

These cupcakes in particular were for Mel's mother-in-law's birthday.  Her fav flavours are chocolate and caramel so I thought these would be the perfect cupcakes for her bday party.  The beautiful piping you see on these wee gems are the handy work of the very talented Melissa...I only had to show her once how to pipe the rosettes and she frosted all those cupcakes like a pro.

I've since made this recipe as a layer cake and even as a sheet cake turned into a naughty shape for a hen's night and it's gone down a treat every time.  

Sweet and Salty Cupcakes

Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Makes 24 - 30 cupcakes.

Chocolate cupcakes
2 cups flour
1 3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp vegetable shortening
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water (3/4 cup water for the cakes)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream

1. Line two 12 cup muffin tins and preheat oven to 180 oC. (for a layer cake line two 25 cm spring form pans with a circle of baking paper at the bottom. For a sheet cake: line a sheet pan/swiss roll pan with baking paper).

2. Place flour, caster sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  Rub in shortening until it resembles bread crumbs.

3. Make a well in the centre and add eggs, oil, water, vanilla and sour cream.

4. Beat on high for 1 minute to incorporate.

5. Scoop into the baking cups, fill to around 2/3 - 3/4 full.

6. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes turning once. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean. (for a layer or sheet cake - bake for 30-40 minutes.)

Salted Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup cream
1 tsp sea salt (if using normal salt use 1/2 tsp)
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla

1. In a small saucepan, combine cream and salt.  Bring to a low simmer and stir until the salt is all dissolved. Take off the heat.

2. In another sauce pan, combine water, sugar and corn syrup and heat on medium high until the sugar is all dissolved and the mixture is an amber colour.  Take off the heat, and add the warmed cream - be careful it will bubble up ferociously!  When it has settled down, stir in the sour cream and vanilla.

3. Set aside to cool.

Salted Caramel Whipped Ganache Frosting
450g dark chocolate
1 1/2 cup cream
1 tsp sea salt (if using normal salt use 1/2 tsp)
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
450g butter, room temperature, cut into around 1" cubes

1. Chop up the dark chocolate and place in a large heat proof bowl.

2. Make the caramel the same as the salted caramel above: in a small saucepan, combine cream and salt.  Bring to a low simmer and stir until the salt is all dissolved. Take off the heat.  In another sauce pan, combine water, sugar and corn syrup and heat on medium high until the sugar is all dissolved and the mixture is an amber colour.  Take off the heat, and add the warmed cream - be careful it will bubble up ferociously!

3. Add the hot caramel to the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute to melt the chocolate. Stir a little with a silicon spatula to make sure the chocolate is melted.

4. Beat the chocolate/caramel mixture on low/medium low until the mixture is cool. This is probably best done using a stand cake mixer.  I have done it every time with my hand held mixer so it can be done! Although I do cheat a little and let the chocolate mixture cool until it is hottish-warm to touch before I start beating.

5. When the mixture has cooled, crank the beaters up to medium high and add the butter a couple of cubes at a time until light and fluffy and smooth. It might need a stint in the fridge to set up if it's a bit too oozy.  And vice versa, if you have it in the fridge for ages it will harden but just let it warm up on the bench and it will be back to fighting shape. I left some icing in the fridge overnight and after a little bit sitting on the bench it was as good as gold again.

1. Cupcakes: Take the cupcakes and poke holes in the top with a toothpick. Spoon over a little of the salted caramel sauce and let it soak in.  It won't soak into totally so there will still be a bit of a layer on top.

For a two layer cake: cut the tops off of the cake to flatten and then spoon the caramel over top of both layers.

For sheet cake: cut the top off the sheet cake and spoon caramel over the cut side. Leave to set.  For the naughty shaped cake - cut the cake into shape before spooning the caramel on top.

2. Cupcakes: Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes.  For rosettes: start with your nozzle about 1cm above the centre of the cupcake.  Squeeze a little out to start off and anchor the frosting and then using your wrist move the nozzle in a spiral outwards from the centre.  When you get to the edge, lessen your pressure on the bag to let the frosting taper off.  There is plenty (read HEAPS) of frosting so you can definitely do the 1M ice-cream swirl as well.  Sprinkle sea salt to top.

Layer cake: Place one layer on top of the other.  Be careful, the caramel makes the layers slip against each other.  You might want to refrigerate the stacked layers to set the caramel a bit before frosting.  For frosting, use a pallet knife to do a crumb layer first (a thin layer to set the crumbs) then pile heaps of frosting on to the pallet knife to get a thick layer of frosting on the top and down the sides of the cake.  The caramel will ooze. Baker's treat.

Sheet cake: Let the caramel set as much it can set before frosting then stack loads of frosting on to your pallet knife to make a thick layer of frosting over the top and down the sides.  For the naughty shaped sheet cake: do an initial layer of frosting over the whole cake and then use extra frosting to shape the various parts.  Dark chocolate can also be used to decorate.

Some notes: The ganache melts if it gets too hot.  In the 20 minute drive to C's folks house the ganache had gone all melty.


  1. omg Nessie, I just had my first ever salted caramel cupcake this weekend and I almost died. It was so good and I was so upset I never tried Martha's salted caramel cupcake recipe (I've had it dog-eared for years!). Definitely trying this recipe for the holidays! :)

  2. Oh my my I'm bowled over seeing your first picture Nessie..I have had many time relished Thai sticky rice with mango ...oh yum! so am love ur cupcakes, def bookmarking this..gorgeous! Thanks for the share!

  3. So gorgeous! Love your piping skills :)!!!

  4. You just gained a follower from this post.
    Yum. I also want that book now. I've seen several references to it, but I think they should pay you, you've done such a great job advertising it.

  5. Beautiful job on these. They look irresistible. I love a sweet and salty mix...it really hits the spot.

  6. Donna: Hey donna! I know how good is salted caramel?? When I first tried it I was like where have you been all my life!?? I ate this sauce by the spoon full. YUM.

    Ananda: Thanks so much Ananda! Means a lot to me coming from someone who takes such awesome photos!!! How good is mango sticky rice yea? When we were in Thailand I had it at with Every. Single. Meal. :P

    jacksta: Thanks heaps! Hope things are going well in the tropical north :)

    Pretty. Good. Food: Thanks Meredith!! Can't take all the credit for the piping...Mel did an awesome as job on them too!!!

    Anonymous: Thanks for stopping by and leaving a nice message...a random act of kindness always gives me warm fuzzies. Will def be paying it forward :)

    Mariko: Yay! Awesome thanks heaps Mariko!! I wanna get the book too...their milk ball cake sounds divine!

    briarrose: its the strangest thing how that little bit of salt can make such a massive difference huh? I'm getting a little salt happy in all my caramelesque recipes now!!

  7. Just discovered you blog...Omg, what a stunning photos!! May I ask you what kind of camera/lens do you use? I have to buy myself a new one...:)

    Lovely, lovely!!! Looking forward to new posts!


  8. Sweet and salty isn't my favorite kind of dessert either, but yours seems to be mostly sweet and a little bit salty. Perfect.

  9. now that is a great cupcake!! and salty sweet is the black! gotta love it!
    Welcome to foodbuzz!

  10. AJ: Oh wow thanks heaps for stopping by! I use a Canon 450D with a canon f/1.8 II 50mm prime lens. LOVE it - it does beautiful bokeh and makes all food look fab :)

    Melissa: There is totally a very fine balance between weird salty and sweet and delcious salty and sweet huh!

    Chef Dennis: Haha it is TOTALLY the new black! Thanks for your comment...have just joined foodbuzz and still trying to figure it all out :)

  11. Hi! I just stumbled upon your blog... and what a delight.

    I am a closet baker, now out of the closet thanks to my recent purchase of a kitchen mixer! I can't stop baking. I am also a huge fan of the Baked cookbooks and a currently fattening my friends up as I try each and every recipe in the books. (I love their pies!)

    I noticed your love affair with cupcakes and have to recommend you take a look at one of my favorite books, "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World"

    I'm not vegan, but I am hard-pressed to find a moister, yummier cupcake anywhere on the island of the long white cloud.

    Thanks for the blog... I'm going to keep reading and borrowing some of your recipes.

    Merry Christmas!

  12. Thanks for this delicious recipe!! You're the best!!!I made these cupcakes and they were "crazy good" according to someone who tasted them! I thought they were awesome too. I just had one problem with the icing. Was the chocolate supposed to be semi sweet because I used the unsweetened baker's chocolate and got an unsweetened icing. I ended having to cut amount in half and adding powdered sugar. It was still yummy; I just wanted to know where I went wrong.

  13. Hi Tiffany, Thanks heaps for your lovely comments! I did use semi-sweet (65% cocoa solids) sorry I should have put that in the recipe! Stoked to hear that they still turned out yummy thanks to your ingenious fix!! :)

  14. These silky ganache look really awesome,and I love sweet and salty combo.I've featured this recipe on my blog, hoping that you don't mind, but if you do, please contact me and I'll remove it. All the best.



Copyright © 2010-2013 by Nessie Chan/Nessie Sharpe. All rights reserved.

Related Posts with Thumbnails