There were two birthdays going on this week (a co-worker's and a friend's) and that was good enough of a reason for me to whip up a batch of cupcakes to celebrate the occasion. I love making cupcakes filled with a little something extra in the middle—a nice little surprise with every bite. So, inspired by the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup (which ironically I absolutely can't stand), I made Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes with a sweet surprise inside...
The night before, I had come across a container of leftover caramel sauce in my freezer, which made the little lightbulb in my head light up. Why not stuff the cupcakes with peanut butter caramel!
After baking a batch of my standard chocolate cupcakes (these are no-fail—rich and chocolatey in flavour, an excellent crumb and super moist. While the cupcakes were cooling on their rack, I warmed up the caramel just a little, removed the caramel from the heat and whisked in two tablespoons of peanut butter. I then threw the bowl of caramel into the freezer for about 10 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken up (if your caramel is too liquid, it'll only get soaked up into the cake and you won't get that nice caramel centre). When the caramel has thickened but is still soft and scoopable, you can start filling the cupcakes.
The peanut frosting is an adaptation from Allrecipes.com. While there were many frosting recipes out there that were certainly appealing (it was hard to resist making the version that calls for cream cheese), I loved the simplicity of this. The recipe merely calls for peanut butter, butter, vanilla extract, confectioners' sugar and heavy cream, and what resulted was an incredibly light, creamy and oh-so-peanut-buttery frosting that would be the perfect accompaniment to the rich chocolate cake base.
Top each cupcake with a piece of Reese's peanut butter cup (which ironically, I cannot stand), coarsely chopped chocolate-covered peanut, or for a nice contrast to the taste buds, roasted salted peanuts. This is a really nice cupcake, and like most of my baked goods, isn't too sweet, with a bit of the saltiness in the peanut butter to help balance the flavours. This is sure to be a hit with kids of any age!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Caramel Filling
Cake adapted from Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit
Frosting adapted from Allrecipes.com
Makes 24 cupcakes
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups milk, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter (not natural)
1 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
For the peanut butter caramel:
1/2 cup caramel sauce (preferably homemade)
2 heaping tablespoons creamy peanut butter
Pinch of salt
To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a bowl, beat the butter with a hand mixer until softened (you can also make these with a stand mixer using the paddle attachment). Add the sugar, and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat to combine.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, and espresso powder.
Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat until just incorporated. Add about half of the milk and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between the flour and milk, and finishing with the flour. Do not overbeat!
Spoon the batter into prepared muffin tins about three-quarters full. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely on cooling racks.
To make the peanut butter caramel: If your caramel sauce is really thickened, warm it up a little, either over low heat on the stove or medium-low heat for 20-30 seconds in the microwave. Whisk in the peanut butter and salt until smooth and well incorporated. Place sauce into the freezer for about 10 minutes, until thickened but still soft.
To make the peanut butter frosting: In a large bowl, beat together butter and peanut butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Slowly beat in 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar and 1 tablespoon cream. Beat until incorporated. Repeat with the remaining sugar and cream, going at 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon intervals. Add the vanilla and pinch of salt and beat until light and fluffy.
To assemble cupcakes: Using a dull knife, cut a circle in the centre of the cupcake and scoop out some of the centre with a spoon. (Set aside the cupcake innards for yourself, to go with the leftover frosting you'll lick from the bowl later!)
Scoop a teaspoon of the peanut butter caramel into the crater you've just created and flatten the top a little. Spread or pipe the peanut butter frosting overtop. Garnish with a piece of Reese's peanut butter cup, or chopped salted peanuts, if desired. Enjoy!
** Have you heard? I'm giving away a ticket to see Jamie Oliver and Bob Blumer at The Art of Cooking event in Toronto next Thursday, November 18. Click here for more information and to enter to win! Contest closes Monday, November 15 at 12:00 am EST.