Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Snickers Cupcakes with a Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Recently at school I held a group competition, hoping that it would motivate my students to slow down and really focus on their reading and comprehension.  Each day the groups were assigned to read a short passage and then, working together, they'd have to answer a set of questions.  For the competition, each group would have to come to a consensus for every answer (which can be very difficult for sixth graders), and if one or two of the group members disagreed, they'd have to explain to their other group members why they thought it was something else, making sure to use support from the text.

During these types of activities, I find it very encouraging to walk around the room and listen to students' justify their answers to their peers.  Sometimes it'd be only one student in the group who had the correct answer and I loved it when they didn't give up just because everyone else in the group may have disagreed with them.  I knew from the start that this task would require some serious effort, therefore, I promised the group with the highest score, at the end of the competition, that I'd bring them in a "special" treat.  By this point in the school year, my students know how much I love to bake, and are always asking me to bring in things.  Due to this, I thought it might be good motivation for them to try hard. 

I decided right away that I'd make cupcakes for the winning groups!  I didn't want to make just any plain old cupcake though, it needed to be special for all their hard work.  Here's the result!!!  Be prepared for these to go quickly!

Snickers Cupcakes with a Caramel Buttercream Frosting
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Servings: About 20-24
For the cupcakes:
½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup hot water
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. coarse salt
16 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1½ cups sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1¾ tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature

For the caramel sauce:
8 Tbsp. butter, cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

For the filling:
18-22 fun-size Snickers bars, chopped

For the frosting:
16 Tbsp. butter, at room temperature
1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup caramel sauce
Pinch of coarse salt
2 Tbsp. Sugar Free Smucker’s Caramel Syrup
2 Tbsp. heavy cream

For garnish:
8 fun-size Snickers bars, chopped

To make the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line standard cupcake pans with cupcake liners.  Set aside.

In a small bowl combine the cocoa powder and the hot water then whisk together until smooth.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk together and then set aside.

Combine the butter and sugar in a medium size sauce pan, over medium heat.  Make sure to occasionally stir the two ingredients together until the butter is melted.  Once ready, pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on a medium-low speed until it begins to cool.  This could take 4-8 minutes.  Beat in the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, making sure to beat well after each addition.  Next, add in the vanilla and the cocoa mixture and beat until well incorporated.  Working in two batches, and with the mixer set to a low speed, slowly add in the flour mixture making sure to alternate with the sour cream, until just combined.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cupcake liners, filling them about ¾ of the way full.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Make sure to rotate the pans halfway through baking.  Cool the cupcakes on a wire rack and in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pan and let cool completely.

To make the Caramel Sauce:
In a heavy bottom sauce pan, set on a low-medium heat, melt together the butter and sugar.  Do not stir around, but let the ingredients slowly melt together until they start to bubble.  The mixture should look a little greasy and separated and should be beginning to caramelize.  Let cook for another 5-9 minutes, or until the mixture begins to look even more like caramel.  Slowly add in the heavy cream, a little at a time, while whisking continuously.  Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the vanilla and salt.  *Do not pour in the heavy cream all at once, because it will really begin to boil.* Making this sauce is a slow process, so be patient.  Let it cool.

To fill the cupcakes, cut a cone shape out of the top of the cupcakes, using a small knife and cutting at an angle.

To make the Filling and Fill the Cupcakes:
Place the chopped Snickers pieces in a small bowl with 1/3 cup of the caramel sauce, 1 Tbsp. Smucker’s caramel syrup and mix to combine.  Drop the coated Snickers pieces into the holes at the top of the cupcakes.

To make the Frosting:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the butter and beat on a medium speed for 1 minute, or until smooth.  Add in the powdered sugar and beat on a low speed until blended.  Mix in the vanilla, caramel sauce, Smucker’s caramel syrup, and salt until just combined.  (Make sure that the caramel sauce is not hot, so as not to melt the butter in the frosting)  Pour in the heavy cream and beat on a high speed until light and fluffy.  This might take a minute or two.

Place the frosting into a pastry bag that’s prepared with a decorative tip and pipe it on top the cupcakes.  Garnish with extra snickers pieces, and drizzle with the caramel sauce. 

Source: Slightly adapted from Annies Eats


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