Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Salted Caramel Icing

Caramel intimidates me, plain and simple. It always has. I have many childhood memories of watching my parents work together to make Mom's much loved caramel icing that tops a hot milk sheet cake. The whole process is nerve wracking to even watch let alone participate in because so many things can go wrong--the sugar can burn or the caramel can get grainy if not poured and spread quickly enough. The icing alone takes a few hours, lots of patience, teamwork, and perfect timing, and these are the reasons that I have never attempted mom's caramel cake on my own.

So when Mom suggested that I make a caramel icing to top chocolate cupcakes for our English Graduate Organization bake sale, I thought to myself, "Well, that's not going to happen." But Mom reassured me that she had a different caramel icing recipe from her Aunt Harriet that would not be as painful or time consuming as her traditional caramel. This recipe is traditionally used to top a prune cake, but it was indeed very simple and worked perfectly for these cupcakes.

To begin, I baked the cupcakes, using my chocolate cupcake recipe and let them cool completely. Then, it was on to the icing.

Salted Caramel Icing
1 stick butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or Kosher salt
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons sea salt
1-2 tablespoons raw sugar

In a medium-sized sauce pan, combine the butter, brown sugar, and milk.

Bring these ingredients to a boil, stirring frequently with a whisk. Let the mixture boil for 3 minutes, continuing to stir.

After 3 minutes, add 1/4 teaspoon of the sea or Kosher salt. I used Kosher because it dissolves very quickly. You can also adjust the amount of salt to your liking. I love salted caramel, but I have found that I enjoy more of a subtle salt taste rather than an intense one.

After whisking in the salt, add the whipping cream and continue to whisk. I added the cream to the original recipe to thicken and smooth the icing.

When the cream is incorporated, remove the pan from the heat, and use a handheld mixer to whisk in the powdered sugar a cup at a time. Continue mixing the icing until it is completely smooth and cool enough to spread.

There is a small window of time to ice the cupcakes and sprinkle on the salt/sugar garnish, so I suggest mixing equal parts sea salt and raw sugar in a small bowl before beginning to ice the cupcakes. Like the salt in the caramel, you can alter the ratio of salt to sugar or cut out the sugar entirely according to your salt preference. I used the raw sugar not only to cut the salt but also because I like the way larger, darker grain of the raw sugar looks and tastes.

After spreading the icing on an individual cupcake, immediately sprinkle on the salt/sugar mixture to insure that the sprinkles stick to the icing before it hardens.

Try to ice the cupcakes as quickly as possible to avoid the caramel becoming grainy, but if it does, whisking it quickly over low heat with the handheld mixer will give you a little more time to complete the icing process.

Whether these are for a school bake sale or a fancy party, I promise that these cupcakes won't disappoint any of your friends or their taste buds.

Happy baking!

No comments:

Post a Comment