I discovered these cupcakes this winter during a relaxing cookbook perusal. These cupcakes are wonderful as minis. The salty combined with the sweet is a real treat to the taste buds. Cupcake liners are another one of my little obessions and I delight in finding pretty and whimsical liners at obsure locations like hardware stores and party stores. I just found some online that are the most beautiful scroll patterns in great colors.
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped, seeds reserved, OR 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
Caramel Icing Ingredients
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 stick butter, at room temperature
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup powdered sugar
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and arrange a rack in the middle. Line 2 (12-well) muffin pans with paper liners. Combine flour, baking power, and salt in a bowl and whisk to break up any lumps. Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium until very light in color, about 3 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla seeds (if you're using vanilla extract instead you'll add it later), and continue beating until mixture is airy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl, turn the mixer to medium speed, and add egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition. The add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add milk (and vanilla extract if you're using it in place of seeds), and mix until combined ( the mixture will look curdled, but its not). Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture, and mix until just combined, about 15 seconds.
Fill the muffin wells about halfway, and bake cupcakes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Set the pans on a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from the pans and let cool completely before frosting.
Caramel Icing Instructions
Meanwhile, briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. Set aside until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes. Combine butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar, and mix until completely incorporated. Turn mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add caramel. Beat frosting on medium-high speed until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until stiff, about 45 minutes, before using to frost the cooled cupcakes.