Chocolate Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting

I wanted to cheer up a buddy in lab before an interview, so I made him these cupcakes, inspired by the KAF “Baking Sheet” that Joe’s mom got me for my bday!

Directions: Preheat the oven at 350°F. Line a cupcake tin, with cupcake paper liners. And here is a new trick I learned: spray all of the paper liners with a non-stick spray to make sure your cupcake peels off the paper smoothly. It will make the paper look a bit icky, but it REALLY makes a difference.

Melt the butter and let cool for a minute. Mix the melted butter with the vegetable oil, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Mix with a hand mixer until the mixture is fluffy.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt. (Sift together if you have a sifter, otherwise a fork will do.)

Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, and mix well. (Take care to scrape the sides of the bowl after each step.) Add the buttermilk, and mix well. Add the second half of the dry mixture, and mix well. Add the hot coffee, and stir to just combine.

Fill the cupcake molds about 2/3 full. Bake 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester (ie toothpick) comes out clean and the cake springs back when touched in the center. Let the cupcakes cool for about 5 minutes in the pan, and then remove and allow them to finish cooling on a wire rack. (If you let them sit in the pan much longer, they will steam themselves and turn tough.) Once they are fully cooled, frost away!

Also – if you want to make this into a sheet cake or round cake, keep everything the same. Just bake for 40-50 minutes.

Directions: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and add the brown sugar. Bring to a mild boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the milk and return to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from heat and cool to lukewarm. Congratulations, you have made a caramel sauce. Now to turn it into frosting…

Do not add the powdered sugar while the butter/milk mixture is very hot, otherwise the sugar will just melt and it will not reach a fluffy frosting consistency. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat until thick. At this point, the frosting will be quite thick. Add a little hot water to loosen a bit and create a fluffier, more spreadable consistency.

I used a pastry gun to frost my cupcakes, but you can just transfer the frosting to freezer bags and pipe the frosting to get a swirled effect. This makes enough frosting for 24 cupcakes (as frosted in the picture) or for a 2-layer cake if you want to use it with another recipe.

I like this combo of chocolate and caramel. The chocolate cake is not too sweet (a fault in many recipes, I think). This balances well with the sweetness of the caramel frosting. And I hope these turned out to be a good de-stress-er for interview time!

Enjoy!

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