I say general, because I had a specific taste in mind and didn't find a recipe to follow -- and that means I made a lot of it up as I went along. I was also making a very large batch of frosting for 3 batches of cupcakes (biggies and mini's), so I haven't scaled this down yet for one dozen cupcakes.
If you give this a try I would be very interested to see what variations you make and the results!! Let's dig in!
I stared with pre-made (store bought) caramels and unwrapped a whole bunch -- the more you use the more caramel flavor you will add. If you were really feeling ambitious, homemade caramel would work too!
I popped a bunch of caramels in the microwave to melt them 10 seconds at a time -- stirring in between each zap -- until I got a gooey sauce like this.
While the caramels were melting I put 2 sticks of unsalted room temperature butter in the mixer with a bunch of powdered sugar. I let this mix and kept adding powdered sugar until the butter looked consistently mixed and had stiffened a bit.
I then tried to just add the caramel to the butter.... didn't work.... the caramel cooled too quickly as it hit the metal bowl, hardened and made all the drippy mess that you see on the sides of the bowl.
This is part of the fun of experimenting, right?!!
With that not working, I decided to add a little bit of apple cider and vanilla extract to the melted caramel to loosen it up a bit. And then I ended up also adding a small amount (2-3 tablespoons) of the sugar-butter mixture to the caramel goo to keep it from hardening. And it worked!
I did mix in more of the sugar-butter just to make sure the caramel was really softening. Then, it looked like this... a little bit lighter in color and a little more soupy.
Next, I was ready to incorporate the caramel into the remaining sugar-butter.
Gave it a good whizz in the mixer. Don't you love mixer in action pictures!! I know I do!
I also added spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper... add to your liking.
When you step back and take a peak at how I roll in the kitchen you can see I'm all over the place! Lots of things out, using a lot of counter space, and happy happy as a clam!!
When I picked up the paddle and the frosting started to look like it does below; I knew we were there! Not too thick that I can't pipe it. Not too thin that it would run off the cupcakes. Just right. It's neat how the caramel gave a bit more of a goo-texture to the buttercream. That's buttacream -mmmm!
This turned out to be a tasty experiment!
I put the frosting in a big plastic zippy bag (in lieu of a real piping bag) using this measuring cup to help support the effort. Cut off a very small part of one of the corners of the bag and start frosting.
I made swirls since I knew I could do a ton of swirls rather quickly.
Yum! I love how you can see the black pepper and cinnamon flecks in the frosting!
More yum! I enjoyed mixing and matching cupcake liners for a more festive presentation!
A peak at my display for the actual competition!!
I felt really good about this effort!
And I received so so so so many compliments on the cupcakes. The judges did their thing and I didn't end up placing, but hey... I had fun, made people smile, and got to spend quality 'cooking with Katie' time in the kitchen -- and that's all that matters!
What goodies have you experimented with lately?
I am also linking to the Creative Juices linky party over at These Creative Juices... hosted by the lovely Beckie! Check out the other creatives there!!