I noticed the other day that I had a couple of jars of caramel hanging around in the store cupboard (as you do). I go through phases of using it lots - as an ice cream topping, or for banoffee pie, for example - and then I forget all about it for months. And because you can't buy it everywhere, I often end up buying two or three jars at a time.
Anyway, I decided it was time to put the rest to good use, so I found this recipe for caramel cupcakes.
Dulce de leche, which gives these cakes their caramel flavour, is made from milk and sugar - and is a very popular sweet in South America. I used to be able to find jars of it in the local supermarket, but haven't seen it for a while now. You can buy Nestle Carnation Caramel (stocked alongside the condensed milk), which is pretty much the same thing. The one I used here is a French version, labelled as 'Confiture de Caramel'. Personally I don't find it has quite such a rich, creamy flavour as the others, but it's perfectly adequate for this recipe.
(recipe adapted from 'The Hummingbird Bakery - Cake Days')
For the sponge (makes 12-16 cupcakes):
80g soft unsalted butter
280g golden caster sugar
240g plain flour, sifted
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
2 large eggs
240ml milk, whole or semi-skimmed (whole is best)
½ tsp vanilla extract
150g dulce de leche/confiture de lait/tinned caramel
For the frosting:
500g icing sugar, sifted
160g soft unsalted butter
50ml water or milk
100g dulce de leche/confiture de lait/tinned caramel
Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5 and line a muffin tin with paper cases.
Whisk the butter, sugar, flour, salt and baking powder on a low speed with an electric hand-held whisk or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Keep going until the contents of the bowl resemble crumbs.
Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla extract together with a fork and pour about three-quarters of this mixture into the dry ingredients, still mixing. When everything is well combined, add the rest of the wet ingredients and turn the speed up a bit to medium until you have a thick, uniform batter.
Pour the batter into a jug and then fill your cupcake cases to about two-thirds full.
Bake for 18-20 minutes until they feel springy when lightly pressed. Cool in the tins for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks.
To make the frosting, beat the icing sugar and butter together at low speed using an electric whisk or a stand mixer with paddle attachment until combined. Don't expect it to be smooth though - it will still be powdery. While mixing, slowly pour in the water or milk, then turn the speed up and whisk until fluffy. Beat in the caramel.
Pipe or swirl the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and decorate as you like. You could dot or pipe some extra caramel on the top if you like. I just put a few edible gold balls on top and sprinkled with a bit of gold lustre dust - and here are six of them all boxed up, ready to go!