The McGrady Family: Tyler, Cara, Hudson & Sadie

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Best. Cupcakes. Ever.

After tasting last week's root beer float cupcakes, my husband informed me that he simply wasn't "into them."  Ugh.  Seriously?  He claimed that the problem stemmed from the fact that the smell and the texture didn't match.  He even went as far to say somtehing to the effect of, "Okay, now, I don't really like these things... but you guys dig in,"  when I sent a dozen root beer float cupcakes to work with him to share with his co-workers.  He's swell, eh?
Seeing as I've never seen this guy turn down any baked good of any kind, I made it my mission to create a cupcake he would not be able to resist.  After much research and contemplation, I came up with it.
Caramel Latte Cupcakes.  Now, I must admit... Tyler *hates* coffee.  Hates it.  He's tried my beloved
Caramel Frappucinos on more than one occasion. & usually ends up gagging every time.  {What can I say?  He's a trooper.}  So when I decided to make a cupcake with a *lot* of coffee-based ingredients, I was a little concerned... but I kept the faith & made 'em anyhow. 

I found this recipe online.  It sounded like everything I was looking for.  Except... I had no idea where to find Vietnamese coffee, or what it even tasted like for that matter.  I decided that McGrady coffee would suit just fine.  {I don't drink a ton of coffee, so we don't even have a coffee pot in our kitchen.  I used the little "tea bag coffee singles for this entire recipe.  It called for strong coffee-- I added 3 tea bags coffee bags to 3/4 cup of water to get it nice & strong.  I also didn't use milk.  I wanted the cupcakes to have a little pizazz, so I substitued some International Delight- Fat Free French Vanilla that was hanging out in our fridge.  Best decision ever.  It *made* the recipe in my opinion.  I also did not add any coffee grounds to the mix.  There was just something about that that was unsettling to me.  Feel free to try it out... but I totally left them out.  I also added one caramel square to each cupcake before I baked them.  You know... these things:
I loved the idea of biting into chewy caramel inside, however, this part didn't work the way I thought it would.  {Hence, the *experimental* portion of the recipe!}  I put the caramels on the top of the batter, once they were in the baking cups... and by the time the cupcakes were done baking, the caramels had sunk to the bottom, creating a burnt smell.  They also hardened up once the cupcakes cooled & stuck to the wrapper.  Bah.  Next time, I'm going to use Smucker's Caramel Topping {in the jar, not the squeeze bottle} and use a pastry tip & a ziploc bag to squirt some caramel {the Smucker's Topping is a LOT softer and I don't think it will be as hard when it cools.}
Okay, without further's the version that I came up with:

Caramel Latte Cupcakes
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup strong brewed coffee
1/4 cup International Delight- French Vanilla
1 teaspoon coffee grounds
Smucker's Caramel Topping
1. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.

2. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
5. Measure out coffee and milk together.
6. Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
7. Add about one third the coffee/milk mixture and beat until combined.
Be careful when adding the coffee/milk mixture to the batter. If you add it too quickly the mixture will look curdled. Add small amounts and beat well to incorporate.
8. Repeat above, alternating flour and coffee and ending with the flour mixture.
9. Fold in the teaspoon of coffee grounds.
10. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to three-quarters full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes. Note that these cupcakes will shrink slightly when they cool).
11. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. 
12. Remove from pan & allow the cupcakes to cool for at least 10 minutes.
13. Add Smucker's Caramel Topping to a ziploc freezer bag & snip off one corner.  Add a metal pastry tip & coupler to the end.
14. Insert the metal pastry tip into the middle of each cupcake and squeeze some caramel into the center of each cupcake.

Okay.... now for the frosting.  Honestly, I think this is the *best* frosting recipe I've ever made.... or eaten for that matter.  It's based on this recipe-- but with a few tweaks to enhance the 'coffee-ness.'

Coffee Frosting
1/2 c. shortening
1 tbsp. butter, softened
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. flour
2 c. powdered sugar
1 tbsp. milk  (I used my International Delight again!)
2 tsp. vanilla (I used 1.5 tsp. of cold, strong coffee & .5 tsp of vanilla)
1 egg white

Beat all ingredients exactly 10 minutes.

Ho-ly cupcake.  That is some good frosting.  I love how the coffee gives it such a pretty warm color.  ♥  To ice the cupcakes, you can either do the ziploc bag frosting trick, or just scoop some on & then smooth it with a knife or rubber spatula.  Delicious either way.

When Tyler got home from work, I think he was pretty impressed  with the fact that I had cranked out an amazing dinner {check out the recipes page up top for how to make ranch mashed potatoes & spicy mustard chicken {coming soon}!} AND more cupcakes.  I think he was a little skeptical... but I assured him that they were just "Vanilla Caramel" cupcakes.  He believed me, took a bite & with eyes rolled back into his head, informed me that those were the Best.  Cupcakes.  Ever.  Of course, I admitted to there being quite a bit of coffee in the recipe... and he didn't seem to care.  He said he would be thrilled to take a batch of *these* cupcakes to work... and promised that he would even go so far as to shamelessly promote their deliciousness.  What a guy.


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