These perfect little buttermilk caramel cupcakes are the kind of thing that you can have a hankering for at 3pm and be eating by 4pm. It's one of those quick, no fail recipes that I find myself coming back to over and over again because the cupcakes are just so deliciously accessible.
Buttermilk Caramel Cupcakes in 1-Hour
Using ingredients most of us have in our cupboards or pantries this recipe will give you soft, perfect little golden cupcakes and an addictive caramel frosting in about an hour.
Also... there's caramel frosting dripping down the sides. Who can resist a cupcake with caramel frosting dripping down the sides??? Not this girl. Not ever.
Most of us have a couple of recipes like this in our back pocket. That perfect thing that can be whipped up at a moment's notice for no other reason than you suddenly have a craving and you probably have all the ingredients on hand.
That simple loaf cake, or comforting cookie (Giant Chewy Oatmeal Raisin), or crowd-pleasing brownie (Sheet Pan Frosted Brownies), that shows up at every birthday party, potluck, and backyard BBQ because it's a surefire hit with everyone, always.
No frills. Unfussy. Simple. Always delicious.
That's what these buttermilk caramel cupcakes are
The cupcake batter takes about 15 minutes to make and about 20 minutes to bake. Whip up the frosting in about 10 minutes, no spreading, piping, or decorating required (except maybe some sprinkles because sprinkles are awesome).
Simply pour the caramel frosting over the top of the buttermilk cupcakes while it's still warm, letting it drip deliciously down the sides, all excessively self-indulgent like.
And then, there's nothing left to do but eat.
5 Tips for baking perfect cupcakes
#1. Use room temperature ingredients
At room temperature, eggs and dairy form a creamy emulsion that traps air. This is a good thing because all that trapped air expands in the oven, giving you light, fluffy cupcakes. Also, room temperature ingredients mix together better.
Creaming the butter and sugar (beating them with an electric mixer until light and creamy) is impossible if the butter is cold. Same goes for the eggs - if they are added to the cupcake batter straight from the refrigerator, they just won't incorporate well.
The whole point of these cupcakes is that you can whip them up when the urge strikes. No one wants to wait an hour or two for the butter, eggs, and buttermilk to come to room temperature. Here's how to bring dairy and eggs to room temperature quickly.
#2. Salt is essential
I am a firm believer in using a generous amount of salt in sweet treats. Salt brings out the flavor of food - helping you taste nuances that your tongue might not pick up on otherwise. Think about how bland tasting the base ingredients for these cupcakes are on their own - unsalted butter, eggs, flour. I mean...
Would you make scrambled eggs without salt? Put unsalted butter on your dinner roll? Make the coating for fried chicken without a generous measure of salt?
Add just a bit of salt to eggs, butter, or flour and suddenly they have flavor. It's kinda magical. You don't need a ton of salt in sweet treats like cupcakes. But, I feel you generally need more than most recipes call for.
So, if you think that a full teaspoon of salt is a bit much for cupcake batter, try it anyway. Your cupcakes will not be salty - they'll just be more flavorful.
#3. The right oven temperature
I don't know where I learned this trick but it's gold. If you bake cupcakes for 5 minutes at 400 degrees F and then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees F for the rest of the bake time, you'll get cupcakes with that perfect little dome on top.
That initial blast of heat helps the cupcakes rise quickly, creating the domed top. Turning the oven temp down ensures that the inside will bake through before the outside burns.
#4. Always spray the cupcake pan with non-stick spray
Unless you're really under-filling the cupcake cups, the little domed tops will rise up and over the paper liners, touching the surface of your cupcake pan. Even if your pan has a non-stick surface, those tender little tops just might stick to the pan making the cupcakes a pain in the you-know-what to get out of the pan intact.
Spraying the surface of the cupcake pan with a light coating of non-stick spray totally solves this issue, allowing you to easily pluck those cupcakes from the pan after baking.
#5. Add sprinkles while the caramel frosting is warm
If you want to top these with a handful of sprinkles, make sure to sprinkle while the caramel is warm. This caramel frosting cools to a nice crackly-firm texture which is both delicious and super practical if you're transporting these babies anywhere.
But, if you want to add sprinkles and wait until the frosting dries, you'll be out of luck. The sprinkles won't stick.
So, drizzle a few cupcakes with caramel and sprinkle. Drizzle, sprinkle. Drizzle, sprinkle. I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon.
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These Cupcakes are a Building Block Recipe
Building block recipes are tried-and-true recipes that I consider foundational to great home baking. They are the kind of recipes I come back to over and over again, sometimes baking them as is, but often using them as a jumping off point to create something new. > Scroll through all Building Block recipes.
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #ofbatteranddough on Instagram. Happy Baking!
For the buttermilk cupcakes:
- 2 ½ cups (300 grams) flour
- ¼ cup (28 grams) cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon table salt, OR 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 16 tablespoons (8 ounces/ 226 grams) butter, salted or unsalted, at room temperature
- 1 ¾ cups (350 grams) granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups (340 grams) buttermilk, at room temperature
For the caramel frosting:
- 12 tablespoons (6 ounces/ 170 grams) salted butter
- ¾ teaspoon table salt, OR 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 & ½ cups (320 grams) light or dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (85 grams) whole milk
- 3 cups (340 grams) powdered (confectioners) sugar
- 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C). Line cupcake pans with paper liners. (This recipe makes 30 cupcakes. *See note.)
- Add the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt to a bowl and stir with a wire whisk to combine.
- Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add 2 of the eggs. Beat on high until completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the other 2 eggs plus the egg yolk. Beat on high until the eggs are fully incorporated and the batter is perfectly smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Stir the vanilla into the buttermilk. Add the flour and buttermilk in alternating additions: ¼ of the flour, ⅓ of the buttermilk, ¼ of the flour, ⅓ of the buttermilk, ¼ of the flour, the last of the buttermilk, and the last of the flour. After each addition, mix on low speed just long enough to barely incorporate. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. After the last addition of flour, use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to stir the batter, ensuring all the ingredients have been well combined.
- Divide the batter between the 30 cupcake cups. (*See note.)
- Bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C) and bake for 13-15 minutes longer, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the cupcakes comes out without any batter on it.
- Remove from the oven and place the pans on wire racks. Let cool for 5 - 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pan, set on the wire racks, and allow to cool completely before frosting.
MAKE THE CARAMEL FROSTING:
- Add the butter, salt, and brown sugar to a medium-sized saucepan set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar is melted and the mixture is just starting to boil. Stir in the milk and bring back to a boil.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla with a wire whisk until smooth.
- Pour the caramel frosting over the cupcakes while it's still warm.
- No buttermilk? No problem. DIY Buttermilk: How to make your own
- If you only have one or two cupcake pans, bake the cupcakes in shifts. It can be useful to fill the cupcakes all at once so that you know you're filling them evenly - just set extra paper liners on the countertop and distribute the batter evenly amongst all 30 cupcakes.
- One reader wrote to tell me that she cut the recipe in half to only make 12 cupcakes, using 2 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk, and only ¾ cup sugar in the cupcake batter. She said they came out perfectly.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 30 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 216Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 66mgSodium: 291mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 0gSugar: 15gProtein: 3g