I recently ate at a vegan chocolate truffle shop in New York City. One of my favorite flavors, although not incredibly original like their other choices, was their salted caramel truffle. Messy, sticky, gooey, it was a perfect combination of sweet, salty, and dark chocolate. I had to recreate it in cupcake form when I returned from my vacation.
This is what my friends thought about the cupcakes:
Becca: Yum yum yum
Zoe: Intense rich chocolate flavor
Both Zoe and Becca: The caramel was to die for!
Rosa and Rachel thought these were the best cupcakes they’d ever eaten, hands down.
Julie: The caramel was like taffy and perfect. The chocolate cupcake was intense and not too sweet. A nice chocolatey-ness. The caramel was gooey and chewy and I couldn’t stop eating it!
Just thinking about these cupcakes again made all of us hungry, and we had to make a snack!
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
4 Tblsp. very dark, or black, cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup caramel (recipe below)
1 cup Earth Balance margarine
1 cup brown sugar
¼ almond milk
Note: Make the Caramel before you make the cupcake batter.
To make the caramel:
Melt the Earth Balance margarine in a saucepan over a medium flame. Add the brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Allow the caramel to begin boiling and bubbling, and stir intermittently until it thickens considerably. Meanwhile, heat the almond milk in a small pot until warm or hot to the touch. When the caramel is as caramelized as you would like, add the heated milk and stir rapidly until fully combined. Turn off the burner but allow pot to sit over the heated stove and preheating oven while you prepare cupcake batter.
To make the cupcakes:
Preheat your oven to 350º F. Line a twelve-muffin tin with paper liners.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powders, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large mixing bowl combine the almond milk, oil, maple syrup, sugar, vinegar, and vanilla. Beat this wet combination until fully combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two batches, mixing as you go. Beat until there are no lumps.
Fill your cupcake tins just under ¾ of the way full. Now it is time to spoon about a tablespoon of caramel onto the top of each cupcake. Dollop the caramel in, and let it rest on the top of the cupcake.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes sit in the pan for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Caramel Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening (Earth Balance brand is good)
1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup caramel, or to taste (see recipe above)
3 pinches of rock salt, or to taste, to put on top of your finished cupcakes
Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy.
Add 2 cups of sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes. Don’t add the third cup of sugar yet, until after you add the caramel when you can decide if you want the frosting to be sweeter or fluffier.
Add the vanilla and the caramel, and beat for another 5-7 minutes until fluffy. If the frosting has a weird lumpy consistency because of adding a warm caramel to the cold margarine and shortening, then you can mix everything together and then refrigerate for about a half hour. Take out of the fridge, and whip using an electric mixer until you have a fluffy consistency. Add more sugar if you want a thicker frosting, but be careful to not make it too sweet since the caramel already has a good amount of sugar in it. Pipe onto the tops of your cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle rock salt over the tops, and enjoy!