Pecan Caramel Nutella Cupcakes
If you haven’t noticed I kinda have a thing for caramel. Caramel brownies? Check. Caramel blondies? Check. Caramel cookies? check. Caramel cupcakes? wait, what? I haven’t shared my love of vanilla cupcakes topped with loads of caramel buttercream and toasted pecans with you yet? They’re a bit of a birthday staple in our house. And August is the month of birthdays between my neice, my brother, my daughter, my son, my sister oh and then there’s like 3 other friends kids’ birthdays…yeah August is just one. big. party.
I’ve gone through several combinations of vanilla cupcakes and caramel buttercream and I believe I have finally hit the right combination of sweet and salty and indulgent. This time I filled the cupcakes with nutella (because salted caramel and pecans weren’t enough calories), then generously frosted them with salted caramel buttercream (the quicker version-more about that later) and garnished with toasted pecans to balance out the sweetness. They were so good I made them two nights in a row. You know, to make sure they were just right.
Pecan Caramel Nutella Cupcakes
Yields approximately 12 cupcakes
Frosting adapted from Gimme some oven
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
1/4 -1/3 cup nutella
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped finely
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Line a muffin tin with liners and set aside.
For the cupcakes: In a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter on medium speed with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until fluffy, another 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula in between each addition. Beat in vanilla.
3. Add the flour mixture in two parts alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup (or cupcake scoop) fill the cupcake liners about 1/2 full. Bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. For the frosting: salted caramel: In small microwave safe bowl, warm heavy cream in the microwave for about 30-45 seconds. It should be hot to the touch. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar & water but DO NOT STIR. Place over medium-high heat & bring to a boil. Cook until mixture turns an amber color, but not too dark that it looks like the sugar is burning but definitely amber. This can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes just keep a close eye on it.
5. Remove from heat and add warm cream, vanilla, and sea salt. Stir gently (and carefully! it will bubble up as you’re doing this) until smooth & well combined. Let sit for 20 minutes until cool enough to touch.
6. While the caramel is cooling, cream the 3/4 cup salted butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add the confectioners sugar a half cup at a time scraping down the bowl periodically. Pour in the salted caramel and beat until combined.
7. To assemble: Use a 1-inch round cookie cutter or pastry tip to cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes (I have found that a large pastry tip works great-push it in most of the way, give it a little twist and the cupcake pulls right out). You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom about 2/3 of the way. Put the nutella into a piping bag with a wide tip or a freezer bag with the corner cut off and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top. Frost the cupcakes with the caramel buttercream and sprinkle generously with the toasted pecans.