It's the third We Should Cocoa challenge and Chele has chosen caramel for November. When I found out, I was excited but also rather nervous, a definite challenge for me this time. First, what exactly is meant by caramel? Well it seems virtually anything goes: boiled sugar on its own or a combination of boiled sugar with water and maybe added butter or cream - hum? Last time I attempted making caramel for this chocolate and caramel salted tart, I burnt it and it tasted horribly bitter. I didn't want to make that mistake again. This recipe for salted caramel buttercream I adapted from Fiona Cairns's Bake & Decorate and the cake recipe I adapted from here.
This is what I did:
- Dissolved 7oz vanilla sugar (could use granulated sugar and add 1 tsp vanilla extract later) in 100ml water.
- Brought to the boil and "watched like a hawk", as advised by Fiona Cairns for a while and then got a bit bored as took a lot longer to caramelise than "a few minutes". Luckily, I did catch it this time before it burnt
- Poured in 184ml double cream. It all went very lumpy at this point, but I stirred and stirred and eventually all became smooth.
- Stirred in 1/2 tsp pink Himalayan rock salt.
- Creamed 5oz unsalted butter with 4oz light muscovado sugar
- Beat in half the caramel.
- Broke in two duck eggs (large hens eggs are fine) and beat well.
- Sifted in 4oz flour (1/2 wholemeal, 1/2 white), 1oz of cocoa, 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of bicarb of soda.
- Spooned into 12 cupcake cases and bake at 180C for 20 minutes.
- Creamed 3oz salted butter with 4oz icing sugar until my arm was sore and the mixture was very light and fluffy.
- Beat in the remaining caramel.
- Spread on top of the cooled cupcakes.
- Licked the bowl clean - reckoned it was the best buttercream I've yet made.
Hoorah, the caramel worked - what a relief. The photos don't really do these justice - grey days and dark nights don't do a lot for my photography skills. I know I was making these for work, but I had to try one for quality control purposes and then CT had to try one following a hard day at work. The buttercream was delicious, sweet and caramely and was really lifted by the salt. I'm not normally a great fan of buttercream, but this was exceptionally good. The cake was rich with cocoa and not too sweet so made a good foil for the topping. Both cake and buttercream were delicious in their own right, but together they were more than the sum of their own parts.