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Cupcakes with salted caramel

I came up with the recipe for this buttercream because I saw that a Seattle cupcake shop (which shall remain unnamed, but those of you who know me will know which one I’m talking about) had a salted caramel cupcake as a recently added flavor. Now, I find their cupcakes generally too sweet, and it has to do with that powdered-sugar buttercream that I can’t swallow. I’m not sure how that would fly with caramel on top of all that sugar (remember, caramel is sugar too, right?) so, curious, I set out to do my own.
I tried to do a coconut cupcake because I love coconut, but the cake came out dry, so I’m still working on it. The recipe I started with was Ina Garten’s coconut cupcakes, but I’m not so big on those because I find sweetened coconut flakes kinda vile. I tried to replace it with regular coconut, but it didn’t turn out quite right, so I’ll have to do some more experimenting in this area (and I’m sure my family won’t want to ever see another coconut cupcake, ever.) The next time, I did a standard vanilla cupcake and it tasted really nice with the caramel.

This uses a base of Swiss meringue buttercream with the caramel mixed in at the end. It is light and fluffy, but has good caramel flavor. For the caramel I added salt (I call it ‘salted caramel’ even though I always add salt to the caramel I make for say, leche flan). Sprinkle the cupcakes with some fleur de sel at the end and it will totally elevate the frosting to the next level.

Vanilla cupcakes (my go-to recipe is here)
makes 12 cupcakes
Note: I prefer to grease and flour muffin tins because I like eating cupcakes where I don’t have to peel off the wrapper, but the recipe does not change if you want to use cupcake papers.

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the oven rack in the middle position. Grease and flour a 12-cup muffin tin.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until light colored and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the egg, egg yolks and vanilla and beat at medium speed until thoroughly incorporated.
  5. Add the sour cream and beat until incorporated.
  6. Add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
  8. Remove and cool to room temperature on a rack, about 45 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the frosting of your choice.

Salted Caramel Buttercream
makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes

For the caramel:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
pinch sea salt

  1. Add the sugar to a small saucepan and pour the water over it. With the heat on low, swirl the pan around until the sugar has nearly dissolved. Be careful not to let it boil — if it starts getting too hot, remove it from the burner for a few seconds, continuing to swirl.
  2. Once the sugar has mostly dissolved, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover it immediately and leave on boil for 2 minutes.
  3. Uncover and continue swirling the mixture until it becomes dark amber. (Be careful — you want it to be dark, but it can go from dark to burning in seconds.) Take it off the heat immediately.
  4. Slowly pour in the cream, stirring with a whisk. Again, be careful as the caramel will start splattering, and will splatter even more if you add the cream too fast. Whisk until combined and set aside.

For the buttercream:
3 egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 sticks of butter, at room temperature (I actually use salted butter)

  1. Combine the sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar and water in the stainless steel bowl of an electric mixer (i.e. your KitchenAid bowl). Bring a large pan of water to simmer, making sure that the water is a the same height as the egg whites in your stainless bowl. Set the bowl in the pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Be really careful not to curdle the egg whites– simply remove the bowl from the heat for a bit if it feels like that’s happening. Also, you’ll know when it’s getting close to 140 degrees; the mixture will be getting ultra foamy, like the top of a latte. (A really good latte that is– one of those kinds where it has a leaf-pattern on top, you know what I’m talking about.)
  2. Remove the bowl to your stand mixer and beat on high speed for 3-5 minutes, until the mixture holds glossy, marshmallowy peaks. Remove the meringue to another bowl.
  3. In the standing mixer, beat half the butter and one-third of the meringue until well combined. Continue to add the remaining two-thirds of the meringue a dollop at a time. The mixture may look scarily curdled at this point; adding the remaining butter a tablespoon at a time will smooth things out. (Basically, just keep adding a bit of butter at a time until the curdling corrects itself.)
  4. With the mixer on low, add the caramel and mix until well-combined.
  5. Frost the cupcakes using an offset spatula. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Crispywaffle: Vanilla Cupcake recipe
Food Network: Ina Garten’s Coconut Cupcakes Recipe
Crispywaffle: Filipino Leche Flan

Salted butter caramel ice cream

The best thing about having a summer birthday?

Barbecue and ice cream.

The best thing about barbecue and ice cream?

Ice cream.

Salted butter caramel ice cream

So besides throwing down on barbecue chicken (pinoy-style, of course), my gift to myself was to actually take the time to make one of my favorite ice cream flavors: salted butter caramel. Back when I started making this, I used David Lebovitz’s excellent recipe (you can find the original here). But because I’m – let’s face it – lazy, I started making the caramel in the water/sugar method, the way I do for leche flan (and I have made dozens of leche flans), and dropping the caramel praline. I figure that if it takes less time, I’m more likely to make it. And if I’m more likely to make it, then more caramel ice cream for everybody. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get some on your birthday.

Lazy Kine Caramel Ice Cream
makes 1 quart / 1 liter

1-1/2 cups (300 g) fine granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup (100 g) salted butter
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
5 egg yolks
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk

  1. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Add the sugar to a medium saucepan and pour the water over it. With the heat on low, swirl the pan around until the sugar has nearly dissolved. Be careful not to let it boil — if it starts getting too hot, remove it from the burner for a few seconds, continuing to swirl.
  3. Once the sugar has mostly dissolved, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover it immediately and leave on boil for 2 minutes.
  4. Uncover and continue swirling the mixture until it becomes dark amber. (Be careful — you want it to be dark, but it can go from dark to burning in seconds.) Take it off the heat immediately, and stir in the butter and salt. It’ll splatter, but just keep stirring it to keep it from splattering. The butter will eventually incorporate. Gradually whisk in the cream until fully incorporated. Stir in the milk.
  5. Whisking constantly, add about a third of the warm caramel mixture to the egg yolks (careful not to curdle the yolks). Place the yolk-caramel mixture back into the saucepan with the rest.
  6. Heat the custard over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens a bit and hits 170F (77C). Remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl through a strainer. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  7. Churn in an ice cream maker as directed.

This is even better sprinkled with a wee bit of sea salt.


Waffles and Breakfast
Favorite hot chocolate
Oatmeal pancakes with yoghurt-banana topping
The best (and easiest) yeasted waffle
Waffles, not shortcakes (waffles with strawberries and cream)
Back to basics (buttermilk waffles)
The accidental scone
Waffle Disaster! (Even Easier Crispy Waffles)
The Perfect Waffle


Cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream
Gooey double chocolate chip cookies
Chocolate crinkle cookies
Roasted chestnuts
Pumpkin cheesecake
Raspberry oatmeal bars
Rhubarb strawberry crumble
Strawberry shortcake
Kickass brownies
Vanilla rice pudding
Classic chocolate chip cookies
Raspberry almond clafoutis
Quark ice cream
Sweet potato ice cream
Chocolate malt, perfected
Super chocolatey ice cream
Coconut caramel cream tart
SHF 27: Droste chocolate cake
Linzertorte with cheater’s lattice
Can of goodness (dulce de leche)
Appeltaart: apple pie, Dutch stylie (Dutch appeltaart)
Chocolate walnut tart with cajeta (surprise!)
Intense chocolate souffle
Yvonne’s rhubarb bread
Having your (cup)cake and eating it two (ways)
When life hands you vanilla, make ice cream
Chewy chocolate chip cookies, by accident
Cajeta, documented
One Smart Cookie… (Anzac Biscuits)
Have an Outrageous Valentine’s Day! (Little Outrageous Brownies)


Sesame noodles with smoked eel
Grilled chicken with pineapple marinade
Weekday paella with sausage
Garlic shrimp with coconut milk
Weekday spaghetti and meatballs
Tofu with peanut sauce
Stir-fried brussels sprouts with garlic
Weekend ragu with homemade pasta
Everyday arugula salad

Red lentil dal
Barbeque pork skewers
Stir-fried gai lan (Chinese broccoli)
Simple guacamole
Stir-fried snow peas
Katsu chicken
Four ingredients = tomato mozzarella tart
R to the izzo (mushroom risotto)
Quiche duo (spinach and mushroom quiche, bacon and cheese quiche)
Naan bread
Butter chicken curry
Canary Islands mojo
Chickpea stew
Super salmon (Salmon with kecap manis)
Cheater’s soup noodles
One of the easiest recipes I know (Pork shoulder braised in milk)
Not lemons, but plenty of garlic (Baba ganoush)
More bacony goodness (Asparagus with bacon)
Bacon… mmm…. (Pasta with bacon and tomato sauce)
Beef and coconut: So happy together… (Beef Ginataang)
The joy of lemons (Preserved Lemons)
Bravo AB! (Standing Rib Roast)

Wacky ice cream 1: Sweet potato

So taking advantage of my new ice cream maker, I’ve decided to revisit some weirdo flavors I’ve been experimenting with over the years, back when I was using my plan-way-ahead-of-time Krups ice cream maker. I thought, “Why not a series?” so here’s the first one.

I found a recipe for sweet potato ice cream in The Ultimate Ice Cream Book, but like all of Weinstein’s recipes, I modified it. (I often find his recipes sickeningly sweet, and at times even cut the sugar to a quarter of what he calls for.) I liked his idea of roasting the sweet potatoes so that they caramelize, so this is how I started my recipe.

For whatever reason, the normal grocery stores in Holland don’t seem to carry sweet potatoes, and when they do, it usually is the normal pale type rather than the sweeter bright orange varieties. Don’t quiz me on the variety names– I have no idea really, besides “orange” and “yellow”. So anyway, they carry sweet potatoes / yams at the big open market, but being too lazy to go down there, I picked some up at the regular store for like, 3 euros a pound or something ridiculous. But given that it was going toward ice cream, I figured that perhaps it was worth the cost.

I started with what is developing into my standard custard base and mixed in the sweet potato puree that the four-year-old kitchen helper made with a strainer. (He was bored, I wasn’t letting him watch TV or play Gameboy that afternoon, so what was a boy to do?) If you don’t have a four-year-old kitchen helper, don’t worry; you can use a food processor instead.

The result is a sweet ice cream that, for me, tastes like a cross between candied sweet potatoes and ube (purple yam). Those who eat it must be fans of sweet potatoes– if they aren’t, this recipe won’t convert them. But if you love candied yams, this will taste heavenly.

Making sweet potato puree– the old fashioned way

Sweet potato ice cream
makes about 1 quart

2 pounds (about 1 kilo) sweet potatoes, the kind with the orange flesh (not orange skin)
1 cup whole milk
1-1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub the sweet potatoes, arrange in a baking dish and bake for 1 hour, or until the potatoes are tender enough to put a skewer through easily. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temp.
  2. Combine the eggs and sugar in a standing mixer. Beat until lightened in color and a ribbon forms.
  3. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and cream to barely a simmer and slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking the whole time to prevent the eggs from curdling. Transfer back into the saucepan.
  4. Stirring constantly over medium-low heat, bring the mixture to 180 degrees. (It’ll be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon). Remove from heat and add the vanilla
  5. Peel the sweet potatoes. Add a pinch of salt, and using a sieve or a food processor, make a puree.
  6. Strain the custard into the sweet potato puree and make sure it’s well combined. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
  7. Freeze according to the instructions on your ice cream maker. This ice cream tastes excellent with salted pecans!

Chocolate walnut tart with cajeta (surprise!)

For my first time participating in the Food Blogger event Sugar High Friday, I settled on a tart that I make every now and then. The theme is “surprise”– as in surprise ingredient or filling.

What I didn’t realize about this tart is that whenever I make this, guests are pleasantly surprised that what appears to be a chocolate tart with walnuts is really a caramel tart with a thin topping of chocolate ganache. And you can’t beat the combination of chocolate and caramel! (And for those who love walnuts, this tart is the best.)

This was originally a recipe for a chocolate caramel walnut tart out of Cooks Illustrated (my favorite cooking mag), but I’ve adjusted it in a number of ways. Ever since I mastered making cajeta, the Mexican version of dulce de leche, I try to keep some on hand (for what else? waffles, of course). This is my favorite caramel: it gives an extra layer of flavor that comes from that cinnamon-y, extra-milky flavor and texture that only cajeta has (and dulce de leche possesses as well, sans cinnamon). I also salt the walnuts and the ganache because salt is soooo good with caramel, and I’ve cut the amounts for the ganache because, well, a 9-inch tart shell just didn’t seem to have enough room for the ingredients called for.

Another thing I really like about this tart is that the crust slices perfectly. I know that seems trivial, but anyone who’s tried to slice a good ol’ American fruit pie in front of company will understand why this is important– if you want actual slices rather than a pile of crust and filling on a plate, then have a go at this tart.

Chocolate walnut tart with cajeta
makes one 9-inch tart

For extra tasty walnuts, take all the walnuts in the recipe and toast in a 350-degree oven for about 8 minutes.

Tart crust:
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, separated
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Cajeta and walnut filling:
1-1/2 cups cajeta (my recipe is here), or dulce de leche
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped, sprinkled with a pinch of salt

Chocolate ganache:
1 egg yolk
4-ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1/4-cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of butter
16 walnut halves, toasted and sprinkled lightly with salt

For tart crust:

  1. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Lift out 1 tablespoon of the egg white and transfer to the egg yolk. Add vanilla to the egg yolk and whisk until combined. (Set aside the remaining egg white in the fridge– you will use it later to ‘seal’ the crust.)
  2. Combine the walnuts and powdered sugar in a food processor and grind until well-combined. Add the flour and salt and process until combined. Add the cold butter until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.
  3. Add the egg yolk mixture to the food processor and run until the dough forms a ball.
  4. Remove and shape into a 6-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  5. After 30 minutes, lightly flour two large sheets of cling wrap. Set the dough disk on one sheet, then cover with the other. Roll out dough with a rolling pin into a 13-inch sheet. Set on a baking sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove dough from freezer and peel off top layer of cling wrap. Overturn into a greased 9-inch tart pan. This dough is really forgiving, so just pat it into the pan and use the scraps that hang over the edges to make sure the crust is solid without holes or patches. Refrigerate crust in tart pan for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place refrigerated tart pan on a baking sheet. Set a piece of foil in the crust and place pie weights in it, distributing evenly. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and pie weights and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
  8. Remove the tart shell from the oven and cool the whole thing, baking sheet and all on a cooling rack. Brush the inside of the tart shell with the reserved egg white from earlier.

For the cajeta and walnut filling:

  1. You should have approximately 1-1/2 cups of cajeta. Either let it sit at room temperature for a half hour or so, or heat it in the microwave for about 30 seconds to soften it a bit. Add the 1 cup of toasted walnuts.
  2. Pour the filling into the cooled tart shell, spreading evenly.

For the chocolate ganache:

  1. Whisk the egg yolk with the one tablespoon of cream. Set aside.
  2. Place the milk and 1/4-cup cream in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Remove from heat and add the chocolate and butter. Cover for 2 minutes. Use a spatula to stir the contents until you have a smooth chocolate mixture.
  4. Stir in the egg yolk mixture until smooth.
  5. Pour the mixture over the caramel filling in the tart shell, covering the whole thing.
  6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees and bake for 25 minutes until the filling is still shiny and a bit wobbly.
  7. Arrange the salted toasted walnut halves around the perimeter of the tart.
  8. Cool on a cooling rack for 30 minutes, then refrigerate, uncovered, for 3 hours.

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