Fall is pumpkin season, and I’m embarking on a series of pumpkin-themed recipes! These brown butter pumpkin cupcakes with salted caramel frosting were amazing, everyone loved them at the mermaid-themed 2nd birthday party I brought them to, and they are definitely not diet food given the butter content of each element (the batter, salted caramel, and frosting). What’s life worth living for if not the occasional caloric splurge, though, huh? I feel like I do pretty well on this blog at keeping things healthy, so I reserve the right to enfatten my family and friends every now and then.
Full credit for the recipe goes to Two Peas and their Pod – well done, you. You can use storebought salted caramel for these, but making it yourself is an interesting challenge and then as a reward you’ll have about two cups of extra salted caramel at the end to use for other things (or eat with a spoon). I’ll be honest, though, buying it is a time-saver and making it isn’t easy. I tried to make salted caramel for my Apple Szarlotka and failed completely when the sugar and fat separated. It wasn’t salvageable, and I’ve been wanting to try again since. The trick that worked for me this time was to set out the cream and butter for the caramel the night before so it could warm all the way to room temperature, and then to add them slooooooooowly at the appropriate stage.
The frosting itself is also made with the salted caramel, and is optional. I’m not a big frosting fan myself, so I left it off half the cupcakes to give myself and others the option. Personally, I thought the frosting overpowered the lovely flavor of the pumpkin in the cupcakes, but others loved it, so who am I to judge?
Yield: 16 cupcakes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
For the Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes:
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
For the Salted Caramel Frosting:
Salted Caramel Sauce
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
- 1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon sea salt flakes or kosher salt
- 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup salted caramel sauce
- To make the brown butter pumpkin cupcakes: preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line the muffin cups with paper or foil liners and set aside.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat and continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until it turns golden brown. Skim the foam from top and remove the butter from the heat. Pour into a bowl to stop the cooking, leaving any burned sediment behind; let cool. I stuck it in the freezer while moving on to the next steps.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, sugars, eggs, vanilla extract, and brown butter (make sure the brown butter is cooled enough before you add it that it won’t cook the eggs). Add the flour mixture, and whisk until just combined.
- Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full.
- Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire cooling rack and cool completely before removing cupcakes.
- While the cupcakes are cooling, make the salted caramel frosting. First, make the salted caramel sauce. Make sure you have all of the ingredients ready, since once you start the caramel sauce you have to pay close attention so you don’t burn it. To begin, heat the sugar over medium high-heat in the bottom of a heavy 2-3 quart saucepan. When the sugar starts to melt, start whisking it. The sugar will clump up, but keep whisking and it will continue to melt. When the sugar is melted, stop whisking. You’ll be able to swirl the pan to move the sugar around.
- Continue cooking the sugar until it reaches a deep amber color. Make sure you watch the pan very closely. This is where it is easy to burn the caramel. You want the caramel to reach 350 degrees F. If you are new to making caramel, I suggest using a thermometer.
- As soon as the sugar reaches the dark amber color, carefully add the butter. Whisk until the butter is melted.
- Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour in the heavy cream. Whisk until the cream is incorporated and the caramel is smooth. Whisk in the sea salt flakes/kosher salt.
- Let the caramel sauce cool for about 10 minutes in the pan. Pour the caramel into a large mason jar and cool to room temperature.
- To make the frosting: beat the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, add powdered sugar, and mix until completely incorporated. Turn off the mixer, and then add the 1/2 cup of salted caramel sauce. Beat the frosting on low to combine, and then increase to medium-high and beat until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes. I had to add a bit more powdered sugar to get it to fluff back up after adding the salted caramel – look for whipped peaks.
- Frost the cooled pumpkin cupcakes with the salted caramel frosting and and drizzle cupcakes with extra salted caramel sauce, if desired. As I mentioned, I’m not a fan of frosting, so I don’t have piping bags or anything. If you are the same, never fear! Just spoon the frosting into a quart or gallon-sized ziplock bag, squeeze it to one bottom corner, and snip of the very edge of the bag off. Viola, it’s easy to frost!
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
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