Daring Bakers Challenge: Caramel Cake Cupcakes


I’ve missed the Daring Bakers! When I took a bit of a sabbatical from food blogging, I also took a break from the Daring Bakers. But I’m back and just in time for a sugar rush! Challenge hosts Dolores from Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, Alex from Blondie and Brownie, Jenny of Foray into Food and Natalie of Gluten A Go Go found what can only be described as a dentist’s worst nightmare. This month’s challenge recipe is Shuna Fish Lydon’s Caramel Cake, as published on the Bay Area Bites blog, an ode to sugar at its finest. It’s a cake…with caramel in the batter…topped with a carmelized buttercream. My teeth ached just reading the recipe. For my first challenge back in the saddle, however, this was an easy yet versatile recipe…even more so since I turned them into cupcakes.


My love of cupcakes is pretty well known (some would call it obsessive, but I ignore such rudeness), so when I saw the challenge didn’t specifically call for us DBers to make a cake, I decided to use the batter for cupcakes. Before I started baking, I read over the experiences of other DBers, a majority of whom said both the cake and the frosting were VERY sweet. Considering I don’t even like caramel, I knew I was going to have to reduce some of the sugar in the recipe to make it palatable. With this adjustment in mind, I got out Big Red and started in on the cupcakes the day before my Thanksgiving feast.


10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 Cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan or 2 muffin tins lined with cupcake liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan or muffin tins.


Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

If making the cupcakes, bake for 15 minutes, rotate the tins and bake for another 10 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for “stopping” the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back. NOTE: I took a tip from a fellow DBer and placed aluminum foil over the sauce pan with a small hole to pour water through in the middle. Then I poured the water through the hole slowly, thus keeping the splattering (and HOT) caramel from flying out and burning me.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste (I used 1 teaspoon of the salt to cut the sweetness of the frosting)

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.


Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light.

The cake was very moist and delicious, if a bit on the sweet side (next time I would reduce the sugar to a 1/2 cup total). Not only that, the entire thing was a breeze to make from start to finish, including the frosting! Hands down the best recipe to bring me back into the Daring Bakers fold!


Filed under Baking, Cupcakes, Daring Bakers Challenge, Dessert

3 responses to “Daring Bakers Challenge: Caramel Cake Cupcakes

  1. Lovely looking cupcakes. Glad you were back in time for these delicious treats!

  2. ha! I love the picture of all your notes. Too good. These cupcakes look absolutely darling.. I want one… now… with my coffee. Why so far away!?

  3. Glad you enjoyed the challenge even if you felt it a bit sweet! Welcome back!

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