Rich chocolate caramel cupcake

  • 625 g plain flour
  • 11/2 tsps bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 170 g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 170 ml hot water
  • 570 g caster sugar
  • 250 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 170 ml buttermilk
  • 2 tbsps vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • Caramel cream center, recipe follows
  • Ganache, recipe follows
  • Prepared blue rock sugar, for garnish
  • For the caramel cream center
  • Egg whites from 5 large eggs
  • 70 g caster sugar
  • 340 to 450 g unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 batch agave caramel sauce, recipe follows
  • For the agave caramel sauce
  • 115 ml water
  • 2 tbsps caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsps light agave nectar
  • 140 ml cream
  • 25 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • For the ganache
  • 700 ml cream
  • 700 g dark chocolate chips (recommended: Ghirardelli 60% cocoa dark chocolate chips)
  • Ice bath, in shallow bowl
For the cupcakes:

1) Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C/Gas Mark 3. Line 30 regular-size cupcake or muffin cups with paper cupcake liners or line 6 dozen (72) mini cupcake or mini muffin cups with mini cupcake liners.

2) In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, and salt. Sift the cocoa powder in a separate bowl. Whisk the hot water into the cocoa until smooth. In bowl of electric mixer, cream the sugar and butter well. Add the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and add the cocoa mixture. Beat just until smooth.

3) Fill the cupcake liners 3/4-full and bake the regular-size cupcakes for 20 minutes, or until cooked through or bake the mini cupcakes for 19 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove the cupcakes from the tin and let cool completely.

For the caramel cream center:

1) Warm the egg whites and sugar over double boiler, stirring the egg mixture until the sugar dissolves and the mixture feels warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and whip until medium-stiff peaks form. With the mixer running, gradually add the softened butter and vanilla until thick and smooth. Fold in the agave caramel sauce until fully incorporated. Place the caramel cream center in a pastry bag fitted with pastry tip and fill the cooled cupcakes.

Cook's Note: The yield for the caramel cream center is more than needed. The extra can be used as frosting or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature and stir, before using.

For the agave caramel sauce:

1) In a small saucepan, heat the water over high heat until hot but not boiling. Add the sugar and the agave and stir gently to dissolve. Bring the mixture to a boil, and heat to 165 degrees C, or to a warm brown color. Add the cream slowly, whisking constantly, the caramel will bubble and rise. Add the butter and continue whisking over the heat until the caramel is smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla essence. Chill the mixture to thicken.

For the chocolate ganache:

1) In a saucepan, heat the cream to scald. Add the chocolate chips. Stir the mixture until smooth. Chill on the ice bath until a spreadable consistency, stirring frequently

To assemble:

1) Fill with caramel cream center and top with ganache icing and the prepared blue rock sugar.

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