Vanilla Mini Cupcakes 

adapted from Cupcake Project

Yields 21 mini cupcakes

1/2 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour

3/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 egg

3 tablespoons Greek yogurt, I use non-fat

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 tablespoon vanilla

1/3 cup milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Add the sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer.
  2. Split open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife.  Smush the vanilla seeds in the sugar and set aside while you gather all of the other ingredients.
  3. Sift together the flour, soda, powder, and salt over the sugar.  Mix together on low speed.
  4. Add the butter and beat for several minutes until the mixture becomes nice and crumbly.
  5. While the mixer is mixing, whisk together the sour cream, oil, milk, and vanilla.  Pour this in the mixer and combine.  Beat until well combined, scraping the bowl as needed.
  6. Using a medium sized scoop, pour into lined cupcake pans.  Bake 10-12 minutes until a toothpick in a center cupcake comes out clean.  Cool on cooling rack.

Caramel Sauce

Adapted from Baking Illustrated, page 120

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

8-10 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon corn syrup

  1. In a medium saucepan heat the sugar and water together.  Cover and let the mixture boil until it reaches 300 F.  Do not stir, just let it boil.
  2. Meanwhile bring 8 tablespoons of heavy cream, butter, vanilla, salt, and corn syrup to a simmer in a small saucepan.
  3. Remove the lid from the sugar and let it continue to boil until it reaches 350 F and browns.  Add in a little bit of the cream mixture and leave it alone to bubble.
  4. Slowly add the rest of the cream mixture as you whisk the caramel sauce.  Whisk until smooth.
  5. Pour into a different bowl.  Add more cream as needed to get the consistency you want.  This is not supposed to be a hard caramel.  Drop some on the counter and as it cools see what it does.  If the caramel becomes solid, add more cream one tablespoon at a time.  Place the fridge to cool as you make the frosting.

Caramel Frosting

Adapted from Can You Stay for Dinner

3/4 cup milk

4 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

4 tablespoons caramel sauce

  1. Heat the milk and the flour in a medium saucepan.  Keep whisking the entire time.  Whisk until the mixture is thick like pudding.
  2. Pull the milk mixture off the heat and whisk in the vanilla and the caramel sauce.  Let cool completely.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until pale yellow and there is no longer a gritty texture, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add the in the milk mixture and beat for several minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy and there is no longer any grittiness.
  5. Do NOT refrigerate!  Trust me, it changes the texture.

Assembly

15 ounces dark chocolate

coarse finishing salt

  1. Melt the chocolate in the bowl of a double boiler above simmering water.  Melt the chocolate slowly.
  2. Meanwhile, fill a small piping bag with the cooled caramel and a filling tip.  Push the tip into the cupcakes and pull up so you are not pushing the filling to the bottom.  Squeeze in the caramel.
  3. Dip the top of each cupcake in a little bit of chocolate.  Place in the freezer for 10 minutes or until the chocolate sets.
  4. Frost each cupcake with caramel frosting, I used a spatula for this.  Place in the freezer for another 10 minutes.
  5. Tilt the bowl of melted chocolate so most of the chocolate is pooled together.  Dip the top in the chocolate and shake off any excess.
  6. Sprinkle with a few grains of coarse salt.
  7. Enjoy the moment!