Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Filling, Cream Cheese Frosting and Sea Salt Candied Walnuts

Did you see that title?  Yeah, it’s intense.

I have a little bit of a confession though.  I wasn’t going to blog about these.  Not because they aren’t good.  No, no.  They are the most amazing things ever.  But because I wasn’t happy with the photos.  You see, prior to my full time employment, I had time to bake in the morning and take photos in daylight.  Now that I work all day, baking happens at night (unless it’s the weekend of course).

In case you’re not really into taking pictures… pictures look better when taken in natural light.  Truth. I was even tempted to make these again this morning just so I could take pretty pictures in the sunlight! But in the end, laziness (or health consciousness?) prevailed.

That said, nothing is going to change the fact that these are amazing.

Not even a mediocre pictures.

Next time you have a gathering or just really need something sweet, please make these.  They’re wonderful.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Filling, Cheese Cheese Frosting and Sea Salt Candied Walnuts

1 recipe for your favorite chocolate cupcakes (I like Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake)
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
2 sticks of butter, softened
Few cups of powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 sugar
1 tsp coarse sea salt

Bake cupcakes and allow to cool completely.  While they are baking, you can make the caramel filling.  Place sugar in a deep saucepan on medium heat.  Allow the sugar to melt (about 10 minutes), stir occasionally until the sugar is a golden brown color.  Remove from heat and immediately stir in butter.  Once butter is mixed in, stream in cream while you stir.  Stir until all combined and smooth.  Set aside to cool.  You can make this a day in advance if you like. Once the caramel is completely cooled, place into a ziploc bag (or a piping bag, if you’re fancy) and cut off one corner so you can pipe caramel.

Next, make the cream cheese frosting.  Using a stand or hand mixer, blend together cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla.  I say a few cups of powdered sugar because 1. I never measure and 2. you should use as much as is necessary to get the consistency and amount of sweetness you like.  I’m guessing I used about 6 cups?  Once your cream cheese frosting is ready, put it in the fridge to keep firm until you’re ready to use it.

Next prep the cupcakes.  Scoop out some of the cupcakes to make room for the caramel.  I use a small knife just to make a small hole on top then pull out some of the filling.  Pipe some caramel into the hole.  It doesn’t need to be a ton, but let’s be honest a lot is always delicious.

Now you can make the candied nuts.  First, lay out some wax paper so you’ll have somewhere to place the candied nuts.  This really is an essential first step.  Next in a pan, over medium heat, combine the walnuts and sugar, stir occasionally.  After a few minutes, the sugar will start to melt.  Stir to coat all the nuts.  Once they look golden and candy coated, remove from heat, sprinkle with salt, stir again and then spread them on the wax paper.  Be careful.  At this point they will be very hot.  Give them some time to cool, then go through and separate any pieces and stuck together.

Lastly, now you can finish assembling the cupcakes.  Frost them however you like.  My sister and I went through a different types of frosting styles with different tips, but in the end it doesn’t really matter, since it’ll be covered in delicious candied nuts.  So once you’ve frosted them, lay some salted, candied nuts on there.  Refrigerate so everything gets firmed up together.  Then serve!

(Note: This picture will be infinitely funnier if you’ve read this)

You might be wondering why I decided to bake in the middle of the week.  Well, I suppose it’s not that out of character for me, but I had a reason. It’s my favorite brother-in-law’s birthday.

Happy Birthday, Tim!!  I think he liked them 🙂

In fact, I think everyone that’s eaten them has liked them.  I’m pretty sure that means I might have to make these again.

There has to be another birthday coming up soon, not that I really need a reason to bake.

Have a great weekend!

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Lemon Curd Obsession

The word curd is not cute.  But it’s 50% of my obsession: lemon curd.  No one’s perfect.  When you really love something, you over look some of its flaws.  I’ll overlook the word “curd,” because I simply adore lemon curd.

If I wasn’t conscious about my health, I would probably eat a bowl of it for breakfast, then have it again as a light afternoon snack.

A few weeks ago, I used it to make Lemon-Blueberry Tartlets.  I’m sorry to report I was holding out on you.  I also used it to make lemon bluberry cupcakes filled with lemon curd and topped with lemon whipped cream.

I know, it’s all sorts of amazing.

Lemon Curd

3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice (about the juice of 2 lemons)
4 tbsp butter, softened
zest of 2 lemons

Place a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water (make sure the water isn’t touching the bottom of the bowl).  In the bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice.  Stir over the double boiler until thick.  This will take about 10 minutes.  Carefully remove from heat and stir in the butter and lemon zest.  Set aside and allow to cool completely.  Once it has cooled, you can store it in the fridge for a few days, but chances are it won’t last that long.

You can put it in cupcakes by scooping out some of the cupcake then filling it with lemon curd.

Spread it on pound cake.  Fill sandwich cookies with it.  Place a dollop on a scone.  Use it as tart filling.

Eat it by the spoonful.  That’s more my style.

Either way, it’s the perfect tart, sweet treat.  If that’s not cute, I don’t know what is.