Homemade Caramels

Homemade Caramels
Homemade Caramels

My little sister Colleen is getting married.

Since I’m making her wedding cake, I’ll save the sap for future posts, but I can assure you that the sap will come. Today is Col’s bridal shower and I’m excited to celebrate her with friends and family.

As a small favor to our guests, I cooked up a batch of homemade caramels. I love caramel, in all of it’s sweet, chewy glory. It’s a perfect fall flavor, and if you have a candy thermometer, they’re easy to make at home. For me, the hardest part about making caramels is cutting them into uniform shapes and sizes after they have cooled. Mine always turn out all wonky and diagonal, which can be lovely and homey in its own right, but for a bridal shower, I wanted caramels that looked perfect. Instead of pouring all of the caramel into a baking dish to harden, I poured it into square silicone molds. After they had firmed up, they popped right out of the mold, 90-degree angles and all!

Caramels in Silicone Mold
Caramels in Silicone Mold

Homemade Caramels

3/4 cup heavy cream
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 walloping teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or more if you want salted caramels)
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup water

In a sauce pan, combine the cream, butter, vanilla, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat and allow to boil for one full minute, watching carefully that it does not boil over the top of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat.

Spray silicone molds with cooking spray.

In a large pot, combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir gently until all of the sugar is moistened, but be careful no to splash the sides of the pan. If sugar granules get stuck to the side, they can cause your caramel syrup to crystallize. Cook over medium heat, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with water and a pastry brush to dissolve sugar granules, until the caramel is deep amber in color. If your pan colored and you cannot clearly make out the color of the caramel, dip a spoon in it and drizzle on a white plate. It should be brown, not golden. Don’t be afraid of cooking caramel – the darker the color, the more flavor it will have, so let it cook until you think you’ve gone too far.

Slowly stream the hot cream mixture to the caramel. Be careful – as soon as the cream hits it, the mixture will bubble up wildly. Stir to combine. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the caramel reaches 250°F. Turn off the heat.

To mold caramels, pour the hot caramel into a glass measuring cup with a spout. Carefully pour into prepared silicone molds. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, or until completely set before unmolding. Wrap caramels in parchment paper while they are still cold. Let caramels come to room temperature before serving.

Makes 48 1-1/2 in. x 1-1/2 in. caramels.


Tropical Honeymoon Cupcakes

Post Update: I’ve made a video for this recipe and you can watch it on my YouTube channel!

tropical cupcakes covertropical cupcakes cover

Ever since my episode of Cupcake Wars aired, people have been asking me for cupcake recipes. Someone on Twitter asked me for the BEST cupcake recipe. That’s a hard one! If your favorite cake is chocolate, but my favorite cake is lemon, then my BEST cupcake recipe is going to differ from yours.

I can confidently say that our recipe for Honeymoon Cupcakes that Milette and I did on Cupcake Wars uses the best coconut cake I have ever tasted. The recipe is unique because it incorporates cream of coconut (the stuff that you use to make pina coladas), sweetened shredded coconut, and coconut flavoring together for a super robust, tropical flavor. Coconut extracts are not all created equal. The imitation stuff you’ll find in the red-labeled bottles tastes just like tanning lotion smells, and that’s just downright nasty. I like Frontier Coconut Flavor. It’s all-natural, so it tastes natural. You can buy it directly from Frontier or at Whole Foods.

We filled the coconut cupcakes with a homemade mango curd, which is easily made with a thick natural mango juice, like Naked Juice Mighty Mango. Top it all off with a tangy cream cheese icing flavored with orange zest and a piece of fresh pineapple for an overall flavor that will transport you on an island vacation…well, not literally, but you get what I’m saying!

Here’s the recipe. You can also get a sweet, printable version at FoodNetwork.com.

Tropical Honeymoon Cupcakes

©Beth Somers, 2012

Coconut Cupcakes

1 egg + 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/2 cup cream of coconut (Cook’s note: Stir cream of coconut before measuring it, as it tends to settle as it sits)
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut, coarsely ground in food processor
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoons

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with baking cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, cream of coconut, water, coconut extract, and vanilla extract until well combined.

In a large bowl, mix flour, ground coconut, sugar, baking powder, and salt with electric mixer on low speed until combined, about 15 seconds. Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, continuing to beat on low speed until mixture looks dry and crumbly and the largest chunks of butter are about ¼ in. in diameter, about 2 minutes.

Stop the mixer and add half of the liquid mixture. Beat on low speed until the flour mixture is moistened, about 15 seconds. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds. With the mixer still running, slowly stream in the remaining liquid. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat on medium speed for an additional 30 seconds.

Fill baking cups 2/3 full with cake batter. Bake 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in centers of cupcakes comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Mango Filling

2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon corn starch
1-1/4 cups thick mango juice, divided
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Pinch kosher salt

In a small bowl, whisk together  egg yolks, cornstarch, and 1/4 cup of mango juice until smooth. In a saucepan, combine remaining mango juice, sugar, and salt. Cook over medium-high heat until boiling. Slowly stream half of the hot liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Add egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Cool before filling cupcakes.

Orange Cream Cheese Icing

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
2-3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. Add orange zest and vanilla extract and beat until fully incorporated.

Makes 13 Cupcakes

Walloping Teaspoon – Now in Italian!

I’ve been syndicated into Italian over at Parole di Zucchero, which means Words of Sugar.

My friend Giulia, an Italian expat living in the Chicago area translate my Baby Reveal Cake post. Now taking over/under bets on how long it takes this trend to overtake Italy!