Rum Caramel Chocolate Cinnamon Cupcakes
Curious noses, eager eyes, rummaging hands and hungry stomachs lead a march of men through my kitchen. First to the near-empty cookie jar, they congregate, their eyes become concerned. With a shuffle they move to the glass domed cake stand. It sits empty; hungry stomachs become worried. “Don’t worry, y’all,” I assure my five hungry friends, “I’ve got some cupcakes in the oven now.” Eyes perk again and smirks pierce faces.
The five guys leave, their hunger insatiated, and head to their recording studio, a mere – thankfully soundproof – fifteen feet from my kitchen. My own eager appetite stares at a counting down timer. With forty seconds left I give up, swipe open the door, slide a toothpick in to test doneness, decide the dozen straggling crumbs are ok, and whisk the hot cupcake pan to my butcher block island. Testing the pain threshold of my “chef’s hands” I flip each cupcake to allow air to cool around the bottom. I get to nine before I start swearing and dancing in pain as I quickly but gently flip the last three.
As the cupcakes cool I prepare a fortified rum caramel sauce. My eyes widen and dance with excitement as I watch the boiling sugar mature into a beautiful golden amber. Caramel – like a soufflé – is incredibly easy despite rumors otherwise and yet every time I make it I am amazed that it comes out. As soon as it reaches the color I want I slide it off the heat and pour in the cream. A spectacular show of exploding sugar and cream dance inside the pot. I stir and stir, then add the butter and rum and stir and stir. I taste it, again testing the limits of my “chef’s hands” and despite the small burn to my finger and tongue I go back for taste after taste, sliding my finger along the back of the coated spoon until it is spotless.
The frosting is easy. All the ingredients in the mixer, slide the speed to 6 and let frosting suddenly appear. By now my cupcakes are cool. I messily prepare one cupcake, first trying each aspect on its own, then all together. I like it. Now to the judges. I take a deconstructed cupcake into the studio. I set it down and leave five forks for them. Before I can exit, the sample cupcake is devoured and I get five approvals. “Do we each get our own yet?” one of them shouts. “Soon,” I retort. They know to expect another hour as I shoot the cupcakes.
I spend nearly an hour trying different piping tips and looks for the top of the cupcakes alone. I try four, none of which I like. I slide the icing back in to the bag and start over. Finally, I am satisfied with the results of a very large star tip held stationary above the cupcake letting the weight and pressure of the frosting do the work as it creases and folds on top of the cupcake. A little drizzle of caramel and a scattering of cinnamon candied pecan crumbs and they’re done.
I then begin to collect the props I want to use in the pictures. By now the sun is well on its way to setting so I collect my studio lights, bounce boards and everything else I need to attempt daylight. I shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot.
Suddenly it is midnight. I have again lost hours to another recipe. I finally carry a meticulously prepared plater of cupcakes, one for each of the band members, to the studio. To my surprise it is empty; the lights turned off. I smile anyways. The band wont meet for another three days so I know I wont have to share with five, way too hungry, guys.
Did I take my time on purpose? Perhaps.
I slide the plate of cupcakes down in the kitchen before I put my camera and equipment up. I head back to the kitchen and to my surprise I see five hungry mouths devouring my beautiful, once bountiful pile of cupcakes. I don’t bother to ask where they were hiding, or how I managed this foodie oversight. I let them enjoy the sweet bite-sized cakes. That’s the point, right?
In this recipe you’ll want to prepare the chocolate cinnamon cupcake batter first. While the cupcakes bake, prepare the fortified rum caramel and the cinnamon buttercream frosting. Let the cupcakes and caramel cool completely before assembling. And yes, these cupcakes are sweet and messy. If you can’t find cinnamon candied pecans at the store to top the cupcakes, you can adapt my recipe for cinnamon candied cashews here – just substitute cashews with pecans.
Chocolate Cinnamon Cupcakes
This recipe will yield 12 cupcakes. As always, you can substitute using both cake and bread flour with using 5 ounces all purpose flour. Be sure to sift the cocoa powder as it has a tendency to clump.
2 ounces bread flour
3 ounces cake flour
2 ounces good unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 ounces granulated sugar
5 ounces unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup freshly brewed strong coffee
1. Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
2. Mix together the flours, sifted cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated. Add the vanilla and mix until well blended.
4. Mix in half of the flour mixture to the butter and egg mixture. Mix until blended. Add all of the coffee and buttermilk and mix until well blended. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until the batter comes together and is smooth.
5. Pour the batter evenly into the muffin pan cups. The batter should stop short of the top of the cup.
6. Bake the cupcakes in the preheated oven for 16 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out barely clean. Mine went for 17 minutes.
7. Flip the cupcakes on their side in the pan to let air cool around all sides and let cool completely.
While the cupcakes cool you can prepare the fortified rum caramel and the cinnamon buttercream frosting. Both are simple but the caramel will require significant cooling time – you can put it in the fridge to speed up the process.
Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting
8 ounces butter, at room temp.
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup heavy cream
1. Add all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix until the frosting comes together and is smooth. Be careful not to mix too fast to avoid whipping or incorporating any air into the frosting.
This rum caramel sauce is delicious and can be used for numerous other treats. When making caramel be sure to stare at the pot while it boils. It may seem tedious or boring but I promise you it is necessary. Here is why. Boiling caramel goes something like this: clear, clear, clear, clear, clear, clear, clear, clear, clear, clear, clear, tan, perfectly amber, BOOM! Burnt. Yes it happens that quick, so watch the pot and as soon as it becomes amber, remove from the heat and add the cream immediately to cool the caramel down. Be sure to stand back as it can splash and bubble up.
Fortified Rum Caramel
This recipe will yield a couple cups and more than you need for the cupcake recipe. You wont be sorry you made extra in the end though, I promise you.
8 ounces granulated sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 ounce unsalted butter
2 tablespoons rum
1. Put the sugar, water and lemon juice in a heavy bottomed pot – I used a 3 quart pot. Bring to a boil.
2. Reduce the heat to medium (so long as the boil is maintained) and add the corn syrup. Boil until the color changes to an amber. As soon as the color reaches amber remove the pot from the heat.
3. Off of the heat add the heavy cream right away, stirring constantly as you add the cream. Be careful and stand back as you stir, it could splash and boil up. If the caramel is chunky place the pot over the heat and boil until the sauce smooths out.
4. Off the heat after the cream has been incorporated, add the unsalted butter and rum and mix in until the butter is completely melted and rum dispersed throughout the caramel.
5. Let the sauce cool completely before using.
Assembly is as easy as piping or spreading the frosting on the cooled cupcakes, then drizzling the cool caramel on top. Sprinkle some chopped cinnamon candied pecans on top of the caramel and you’re set. Enjoy!