chocolate caramel PRETZEL cupcakes

My mom loves chocolate. And pretzels. This is for you Kar Bear xoxo

Duhn duhn duhhhhhhhhnnnnnnnn!

Pretzel crusts+chocolate cake+caramel/ganache filling+ganache dipping+pretzel caramel topping= I ate a dozen of these in like 3 days.

(that’s one of my pillow cases– i love the pattern!)

I was inspired by the cupcakeproject‘s chocolate pretzel cupcakes but I decided that homemade caramel sauce would just magnify these flavors by a million. Here is my recipe:

Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Cupcakes

(makes 2 dozen cupcakes)

Ingredients

for the crust: from the cupcakeproject

  • 3/4 c butter at room temp
  • 3 T brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 c crushed pretzels–makes sure they’re really crushed–no chunks!

for the cake:

  • 1 1/2 stick butter at room temp
  • 1 1/2 c + 6 T granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 c + 6 T flour
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 3/8 t baking soda
  • 3/8 t salt
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 c milk
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla–Mexican vanilla is the best vanilla on planet earth.

for the ganache: check out my earlier eclair post for this recipe!

for the caramel sauce: you can do it!

  • 3 c granulated sugar
  • 2 c water
  • 2 vanilla beans–scraped but keep them. (if you don’t have this it’s ok–you’re caramel will still be awesome)
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 lbs butter–softer makes your life easier
  • you will also need a candy thermometer

*you also need pretzels!* whatever kind you want. Keep some whole and crush some.

Ok here we go!

Crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients together until it resembles a paste.
  2. Press into liners and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make the cake:

  1. Beat butter until soft. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add eggs and beat until well combined
  3. Put flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder in a bowl and whisk to combine.
  4. Measure out milk and vanilla and stir to combine in a small bowl.
  5. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding alternating between dry and wet–finish with the dry.
  6. Scoop batter into baked crusts in liners–fill like 3/4 to the top.
  7. Bake for about 18 minutes–or until cake tester inserted comes out clean. Cool!

While the cupcakes are cooling you can make the ganache.

Make the caramel sauce ahead of time (recipe will follow). I made it first– then made the cupcakes.

Then you’re ready to assemble the cupcakes!!

Make a hole in the center of each cupcake. You can use an apple corer, or a small pairing knife and cut a cone-like shape out of the center. (save the pieces you cut out for your significant other). Dip your cupcakes into the ganache quickly. I kinda rolled the surface of the cupcake for a sec and then twirled it around as I lifted it out of the bowl so it won’t be so messy. Then fill the cupcakes with either the caramel sauce or ganache using a piping bag. Now, I buy these wholesale–but you can buy them at any store that sells crafts and baking stuff like Michael’s, or JoAnn Fabrics. OR you can just use a ziplock bag and cut the tip off.

Please don’t be like me and make sure you dip them BEFORE you fill them. This is a real delicious mess– but its just easier to do the steps in the correct order 🙂

Then drizzle the caramel sauce over the whooooole cupcake and sprinkle crushed pretzels on top. You can do the same bag method or just use a spoon. Bam!

precious

aww yea baby

These were so amazingly delicious. I can’t even do them justice by just talking about them but they were seriously one of the tastiest things I’ve ever made! How good is my photography getting huh huh huh??

Enjoy!!

Now for the caramel sauce…..

A lot of people seem to be intimidated by the idea of making caramel from scratch. Could be the issue of boiling sugar and potential burning opportunities but it’s really not that hard! You just have to be prepared and ready. The best advice is to have all of your things ready to go before you start. That means have your heavy cream measured out, your whisk nearby, and cut up the butter into chunks. And have a cutting board to heat proof surface nearby to put the pot on while you make it. And a mason jar to put the sauce into. And tongs to take out the vanilla beans. Ok I think that’s it…..

  • In a medium pot, combine sugar, water. Scrape vanilla beans and add the insides, plus the whole beans. (again–if you don’t want to spend your paycheck on vanilla beans–the caramel will be still be fabulous).  Stir with the tip of your candy thermometer very very gently. You don’t want a lot of sugar crystals up the sides of the pot because they will burn. I heard that you could use a spatula dipped in hot water to scrape it down while its cooking but I didn’t do that so I’m not sure if that would work or not….
  • Put the pot on the stove over medium heat with the candy thermometer attached.
  • Watch the pot!

  • Once the temp reaches just about 360 take off the burner and put onto the cutting board. Take out the whole vanilla beans with the tongs.

  • IMMEDIATELY pour the heavy cream into the pot. It will rise up! It’s a little scary but don’t worry–just watch out for the steam. Start to whisk the sauce in the pot with one hand.

  • With your other hand, grab a couple chunks of butter and drop into the pot. KEEP WHISKING with your other hand. Add more butter–1 or 2 chunks at a time–once the other chunks have dissolved. Keep doing this until all the butter is gone. WHISK the entire time. Yes, your arm will start to hurt.
  • Pour into a mason jar and let cool. You can put it into an ice bath if you want to, too.

Congratulations you’ve just made homemade caramel sauce!!!

You can use this for dipping apples, drizzling, dunking cookies into… whatever your foodie heart desires. YOU DID IT!

UP NEXT: peanut butter caramel apple cupcakes

eclair + lemon cheesecake + eyeballs

Here is a true story:

I went to Molly’s Cupcakes in the west village of NYC. I ordered an Eclair cupcake. I ate it all. And then I exploded.

It was AMAZING!!!!

I looooooooooooove eclairs. I love eclair cake—especially my Aunt J’s super delicious eclair cake (xoxo). So when I tried this cupcake, I was like I MUST MAKE THIS.

I followed a basic eclair cake recipe that I found at allrecipes.com (again–a really handy site for everything). But I tried to adapt it for cupcakes–like baking them in cups and lowering the baking time. When I opened the oven I was so excited to see that they puffed up!!

Now for the inside I used a combo of homemade whip cream and french vanilla pudding that I folded together.

(FYI–this was good enough to eat alone. I had some left over after filling the cupcakes and I just took a spoon to it. The end.)

To get the chocolate coating like on regular eclairs, I made chocolate ganache and then dipped them in it carefully. Ganache is basically chocolate and heavy cream with a little bit of butter. (another thing you can just eat alone with a spoon)

Here is my ganache recipe:

Ganache

  • 8 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Put the chocolate chips in a bowl.

2. Heat up the heavy cream in a small pot on the stove. Once you see tiny bubble action happening around the edges, its hot enough. Watch it because it can burn quickly!

3. Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate chips.

4. WALK AWAY! no don’t really– but leave it alone for a few minutes. I’d say like 5 to 8 minutes. You want the cream to melt the chocolate before you start stirring.

5. Add the butter and vanilla to the bowl.

6. Use a whisk to mix everything together. The heavy cream will get sort of speckly looking-while the chocolate melts. Keep whisking—it will come together and should look like chocolate sauce.

You’re done! You can use it to dip fruit, pretzels, cookies–whatever. It will harden slightly when you put it in the fridge so if you need to make it ahead of time, make sure to let it go back to room temperature if you need to dip something or drizzle it on something.

(brain fart–no pictures : ( sorry…)

Once you make this and realize how easy and cheap it is to make, and also what you can use it for, and also what tastes good with it– you’ll never go back!  You’re welcome : )

Now, in spite of this ganache recipe that I swear by, I followed the ganache recipe that this recipe gave me with the cake. Big mistake. It was way too runny and when I dipped my cupcakes into it, it just ran right off and it wasn’t thick at all. Even after dipping multiple times. So then I just made my own ganache and dipped them=much better. Lesson learned.

I added sprinkles to the first batch but then decided against it for the second. It just made the texture way to grindy and hard— not a soft pillow of an eclair.

The finished project

Look at the inside!!

that’s what I’m talkin about!

All in all–compared to Molly’s–I think mine were better. Molly’s were amazing– but I loved my filling more! Plus I had a dozen of them!!!


 

  Mine                                                                                  Molly’s

I ALSO MADE EYEBALLS FOR A HALLOWEEN PARTY……………..

Or should I say eyebools. That’s how everyone around here pronounced them! Haha

Basically you dip a donut hole in white chocolate. Then color the rest of the chocolate a color, pipe a small dot on top and push a mini choco chip in the center for the iris. Then dip a toothpick in red food coloring and draw squiggly lines from the iris to the end of the eye. Creepy!!

AND ADAM MADE LEMON CHEESECAKE CUPCAKES!!

Yup. My husband bakes. And cooks. Jealous……. : )

UP NEXT: chocolate caramel pretzel…. think about that for a second…..

maple walnut pancake cupcakes…………yes i said pancake

Fall is here!

It’s my favorite season and I love love love all of the baked goods that are fall inspired. Pumpkins, apples, caramel, and maple walnut!

I decided to try a new recipe from Martha Stewart: Maple Walnut Cupcakes with maple frosting and candied walnuts

I finally bought an oven thermometer so I would know the actual temperature of my oven. : )

Here is the recipe I followed:

Maple Walnut Cupcakes

(reprinted from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups (5 1/2 ounces) walnuts, chopped medium-fine
  • Maple buttercream (recipe follows)
  • Candied walnuts (recipe follows)
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners. Into a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until combined. With the mixer still on medium speed, add the flour mixture in two parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in walnuts with a wooden spoon.
  3. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until cupcakes are golden and a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool slightly. Invert cupcakes onto the rack; then reinvert and let them cool completely, top sides up. Frost tops with Maple Buttercream and garnish with candied walnuts, if using. Cupcakes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
This time when I baked they all came out perfect!!

For the frosting I also used Martha’s recipe:

Maple Buttercream
(reprinted from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup, best quality
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes; set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, bring the maple syrup to a boil, and cook until it registers 240 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
pay no attention to my gross stovetop please

       3. With the mixer running, slowly pour syrup down the side of the bowl in a slow, steady stream, until completely incorporated, about 1 minute.

purple kitchenaid mixer!! i love u!!!

       4.Continue beating until bowl is just slightly warm to the touch, 4 to 5 minutes. Add butter, one piece at a time, until thoroughly incorporated and the frosting is fluffy, about 4 minutes more.
Now, for the maple syrup, I used whatever I had onhand–which was $1.49 generic maple syrup. This is NOT high quality maple that Martha uses. She would probably cringe if she knew that I used a cheap substitute!

Because of this, and the large butter quantity in the frosting, the overall taste of the cupcake was  like a pancake! (my taste testers: Adam=husband, Jennie=sister–they agreed)  Therefore I am calling these Maple Walnut Pancake cupcakes.  So if you really like pancakes and you don’t want to pay oodles of cash for fancy maple syrup–this recipe will work for you!!

I also tried to make candied nuts for the first time. My experience with cooking sugar is limited. I tried to make decorative sugar shards for a cake once and that took me like 4 tries….. This time it only took 2!!

I got the recipe from allrecipes.com  (amazing site–soooo many recipes) It really wasn’t that hard– if  I can do it–so can you. Now I will show you!

Candied Walnuts
(recipe by Dawn Timmerman on allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound walnut halves ( I halved this recipe)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spread nuts in a single layer over a baking sheet. Roast for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until the nuts start to turn brown and the smell of roasting nuts fills the kitchen.
  • Stir together sugar, cinnamon, salt, and milk in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat for 8 minutes, or until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage of 236 degrees F (113 degrees C). Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla immediately.
  • Add walnuts to sugar syrup, and stir to coat well.
  •  Spoon nuts onto waxed paper, and immediately separate nuts with a fork. Cool, and store in airtight containers.

They were scrumptious!!! And hard to stop eating………..

And there you have it. Cupcakes that taste like pancakes : )

UP NEXT: Eclair cupcakes!!!!

so now I’m a double blogger….. lol

I have recently been granted the opportunity to be a blog intern with the Cupcakes Take the Cake website. I have blogged about them before (cupcake crawl) and now I will be blogging for them as well as for myself here!

I thank you all for following me and supporting me and commenting on my ramblings— I love it!! Please continue to follow me at their website: http://www.cupcakestakethecake.blogspot.com/    I will be posting 5 times a week!

But I will still be posting here about all my personal baking adventures…. remember– maple walnut cupcakes and eclair cupcakes are on the way!!!

Love and cupcakes,

LENA

cookies n cream (finally!!)

I’ve been saying that I want to make cookies n cream cupcakes for a while now and I finally finally made them!

Chocolate cupcake with an Oreo truffle inside, iced with a cream cheese buttercream and garnished with Oreo crumbles.

Behold!!

This was the first baking adventure in our new Queens apartment……

This is my oven

At first glance you may think ok what’s the big deal its a regular oven.. but NO! It is a TINY TINY oven! Like half the size of my other one in Buffalo!!

To demonstrate the size look closely at this picture. There is an oven liner on the bottom that is folded over (the hamburger way–for all you teachers) so that it fits on the bottom of the oven.

Now imagine unfolding that liner and laying it flat on the bottom of another regular size oven to fit. That’s what size most ovens are and the size of my last oven!! This new oven is HALF the size of my glorious former oven!!!

City living at its finest….

Anyways–I  made the batter for chocolate cupcakes and put them in the oven. All should be good right? WRONG!

Half came out burned.

But weirdly just around the edges that puff up around the actual cupcake baking pan….and the bottoms. Always the bottoms.

Perhaps this is responsible:

What numbers do YOU see? Because I only see 450. So I kinda had to guestimate…. (making a big note to self to buy an oven thermometer to put into the oven!)

Sooooo, half came out burned, as you saw above.

Some exploded

FAIL!

BUT salvation! The other batch came out perfect

Not a total loss!!!

When I was thinking of how to make these I immediately thought of Oreo truffles. Could I put the truffle inside the cupcake??? YES.  Could I make a cupcake that tastes like  cookies n cream and Oreos??? YES.

I feel like most people know what I’m talking about when I say Oreo Truffles but in case you haven’t discovered these super easy balls of deliciousness, here is how to make them.

Oreo Truffles

You need:

  • a bag of oreos
  • 1 8 oz block of cream cheese–softened
  • chocolate chips

Step 1: (the fun part) crush all the Oreos.

Step 2: Reserve like a 1/2 cup of crumbs, and put the rest into a bowl with the cream cheese. Mix really well until combined and like a paste.

Step 3: roll the oreo paste into small balls. You can put them in the fridge for a little bit if you want to firm them up before the next step.

(they look a little gross but trust me)

Step4: melt chocolate over a double burner or in the microwave (I haven’t mastered the microwave melting of chocolate skill without burning it… I like the double boiler because you’re in control, but your choice)

Step 5: dip the ball in chocolate–cover them with chocolate–and put them on waxed paper. Sprinkle with the remaining oreo crumbles. Put in the fridge to set. Voila!

(you can also make these with mint Oreos, or specialty Oreos too)

For these cupcakes I didn’t cover them all in chocolate.. some were just naked inside the cupcake and some had chocolate. But basically I carved out a hole in the cakes once they were cooled and plopped a truffle in the center.

Now for the frosting–I wanted something that was sweet but had a little cream cheese marshmallowy taste to it. I didn’t really have a formal recipe so I decided to wing it! And it was a success! I used the Wilton buttercream frosting recipe (follows) but instead of using shortening I used half a block of cream cheese. And it really came out good! I was so proud of myself because I usually just follow the recipes I find and then tweak them very minimally (a little more vanilla, a little less powdered sugar, etc) but I really don’t substitute things in recipes all that much. Usually because it backfires and then I get sad. But this worked!!! It was still a very rich sweet frosting, but it had just a light flavor of cream cheese that went perfectly on these babies. Yayyyyaaaaa!

Once I figured out the stupid oven it was actually pretty easy!!

Kinda messy though

Here is the recipe for Wilton frosting

Wilton Buttercream recipe

  • 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (or cream cheese if you’re trying the cream cheese version)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened
  • 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
 Instructions:

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. Makes about 3 cups of icing.

Try it!

UP NEXT: maple walnut pancake cupcakes………………(and I get an oven thermometer)