This recipe is the motherload of all that is salted caramel! Caramel cupcakes topped with salted caramel frosting and salted caramel candies.
If you like salted caramel, I can give you 3 reasons why you’re going to LOVE this cupcake.
(1) The cupcake itself is… wait for it… caramel flavored. A brown sugar- and caramel-flavored cupcake, to be exact. (2) Swirled on top of the caramel cupcake is a thick layer of salted caramel frosting. (3) Adorning that luscious frosting is a petite salted caramel candy. It’s a triple threat cupcake.
Sweet caramel cupcake, thick salted caramel frosting, adorable salted caramel candy. My taste testers said these are the best cupcakes they have EVER eaten. Hands down, they are my new favorite cupcake as well.
Let’s begin with the homemade cupcake. The recipe yields 12 standard size cupcakes—just enough to share with friends, coworkers, or your family. After saving a few cupcakes for myself and friends, I brought them into work and they were gone by 9:15 a.m. Breakfast of champions.
The ingredient list and baking method are both very simple. Forget the boxed mix and make a cupcake from scratch. There is nothing like a homemade cupcake and these are just as easy as a boxed mix, I promise.
The taste of butter is an essential part of caramel flavor, which is why we’re using butter (and not oil) in the cupcake batter. The cupcakes are very soft and moist because I use brown sugar to sweeten them. Brown sugar lends a soft texture to baked goods. Make sure to use dark brown sugar in this cupcake recipe, which has more profound caramel and butterscotch undertones compared with light brown sugar.
The salted caramel frosting. Oh my goodness, this frosting is legendary and has become quite popular on my website! I have a separate Salted Caramel Frosting post dedicated to it, along with a video tutorial. I like to use dark brown sugar in the frosting when I make these cupcakes (but light brown sugar is fine too).
Allow the caramel to cool at room temperature for 15–20 minutes. Do NOT put caramel in the refrigerator to cool. Once the caramel is no longer hot, beat in the confectioners’ sugar and a little more cream.
Once the cupcakes were cool, I swirled the frosting on top with a knife—rustic style! I gave my piping tips a break. The recipe makes enough frosting to really pile it on high.
The little caramel candies on top complete the whole cupcake “outfit.” I used store-bought soft caramel candies, cut them in half, dipped them in melted chocolate, and sprinkled them with coarse sea salt. I ran out of time, so only some of them were dipped in chocolate. If you don’t have time to dip caramels into chocolate, simply use store-bought caramels, Rolo candies, or any caramel decoration of choice. Or leave off the candy topping completely!
The caramel/brown sugar-flavored cupcakes are soft and tender, but sturdy enough to support the thick salted caramel frosting. I admit, I ate one even before I frosted them! A few hours after frosting the cupcakes, I found that the salted caramel frosting “set” and thickened/stiffened up even more, giving the frosting a soft fudge-like texture.
There is SO much flavor in every bite. Are you ready for this?Print
Caramel cupcakes topped with salted caramel frosting and salted caramel candies.
- 1 and 1/2 cups (188g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (200g) packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick or 115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk*
Salted Caramel Frosting
- 1/2 cup (1 stick or 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 equal pieces
- 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar (pictured cupcakes use dark brown)
- 5 Tablespoons heavy cream, divided*
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (240g) confectioners’ sugar
- optional: salted caramel candies for decoration
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners, plus a second pan with only 2 liners. Fill empty cups halfway with water to prevent the pan from warping. Set aside.
- Make the cupcakes: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate medium bowl, beat the butter and sugars together at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla. Beat until combined. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until no flour remains, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Slowly stir in the milk. Do not over-mix the batter.
- Fill each cupcake liner only 1/2 way full with batter. Bake cupcakes for 22–23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool before frosting, about 1 hour.
- Start the frosting: (This frosting is popular, so we have a separate salted caramel frosting post if you need more help making it.) Combine the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir constantly as the butter melts. Once butter has melted, switch to a whisk to make sure the two are really combined. (Otherwise, you might see an oily layer around the edges where they’re still a bit separated; you do not want that.) Once melted butter and brown sugar are combined, add 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream and the salt. Whisk to combine, then stop whisking and attach a candy thermometer to your pan, making sure the bulb is not touching the bottom of the pan. Let the caramel boil, giving it a quick whisk every 30 seconds or so, until the temperature reaches 230°F (110°C). On my stove, it takes just under 2 minutes.
- Remove the saucepan from heat, give it another quick whisk, and let cool for a minute. Carefully transfer the salted caramel to a heat-proof mixing bowl set on a cooling rack and cool for just 15–20 minutes before continuing. The caramel sauce thickens during this time.
- Finish the frosting: Sift in confectioners’ sugar and add remaining 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat on medium-low speed until the ingredients are incorporated. Turn mixer up to high speed and beat for 1 minute. Avoid over-mixing or the frosting will begin to “break” and separate. Let it sit for at least 20–30 minutes before filling your piping bag, to give it a chance to thicken up to a pipeable consistency.
- Frost cooled cupcakes. Cover and store leftover cupcakes at room temperature for up to 1 day or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. For make ahead details on the frosting, see separate Salted Caramel Frosting post for specific instructions and FAQs. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and then bring to room temperature before serving.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Handheld or Stand Mixer | USA Pan Cupcake Pan or Wilton Cupcake Pan | Candy Thermometer | Silicone Whisk | Sieve/Sifter
- Milk: You can also use buttermilk. I do not recommend a lower fat or nondairy milk for this recipe, but either could be used in a pinch.
- Cupcake batter adapted from Cupcakes by Shelly Kaldunski
Keywords: salted caramel cupcakes