Last night I was able to join some friends for a girls night and as part of it we had a cupcake contest. I made caramel apple cupcakes with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting, and they were a hit. We had four judges (husbands) who rated the seven different cupcakes and then picked out their favorites. James was able to be one of the judges, but lest anyone call favoritism, he actually picked my cupcakes as second, he liked the key lime ones better. I did manage to win over the other judges though and took home first place.
Here is the winning recipe. [I wasn't able to find vanilla bean paste at the store, but I did find it on Amazon here for a great deal.]
Caramel Apple Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 apples, cored, peeled, and chopped into small pieces (I used 2 granny smiths and 2 pink ladies)
Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows
Caramel syrup, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 regular size cupcake pans with cupcake liners.
In a large bowl using an electric mixer on low speed, combine the sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla extract until blended. In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing on low until blended. The batter will be somewhat dry at this point. Stir in the apples.
Fill the cupcake liners three-quarters full with batter and bake until the cupcakes spring back when touched with your finger, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool in the pans for a few minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Either pipe Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting onto the cupcakes using a pastry bag and your favorite tip, or spread each cupcake with the frosting. Drizzle each cupcake with caramel syrup.
Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 (8-ounce) bar cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
4 cups powdered sugar (about 2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
In a large bowl using an electric mixer on low speed, beat the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla bean paste until smooth and thoroughly blended. Slowly add the powdered sugar and salt. Mix until smooth.
1 cup of sugar
6 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
First, before you begin, make sure you have everything ready to go - the cream and the butter next to the pan, ready to put in.
Heat sugar on moderately high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart or 3-quart saucepan. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a whisk or wooden spoon. As soon as the sugar comes to a boil, stop stirring.
As soon as all of the sugar crystals have melted (the liquid sugar should be dark amber in color), immediately add the butter to the pan. Whisk until the butter has melted.
Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat. Count to three, then slowly add the cream to the pan and continue to whisk to incorporate. Note than when you add the butter and the cream, the mixture will foam up considerably.
Whisk until caramel sauce is smooth. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then pour into a glass mason jar and let sit to cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Warm before serving.