Icing on the Cupcake

My (pound cake) gramma’s house, the house where my dad chased rattlesnakes, cured tobacco in the barn throughout his summers, and where he to-this-day parks his 1984 Nissan pick-up truck (the same pick-up truck in which I learned to drive stick shift, and the same one I stole Doral ultra-lights from in high school) is flanked by a now non-functioning outdoor wash basin and sink, a swing set, and a pe-can tree that stretches up towards the sun. I remember spending my summers there, and when I wasn’t in awe at my grandmother and her quilting club or climbing the rafters in the tobacco barn, I was picking pe-cans from that tree with my bro.

We loved us some pe-cans, and we may have loved picking them up and filling those buckets even more.

I’ve also been known to fancy a dollop of molasses on a buttermilk biscuit (and gladly licked the dripping syrup before fastening the jar); it seems only natural to be an avid fan of a sugar + molasses marriage, brown sugar.

These things, these humble ingredients, they work perfectly together. Brown sugar + pecans = soulmates.

And just in case the words brown sugar and pe-can aren’t really quite doing it for you, how about the word ‘caramel’? Thought so, it works every time! For me at least, and I’ve been known to eat the caramel topping without even eating the dessert itself, even when involved with a favorite of mine, bread pudding.

But this icing, oh, this icing; it’s madly insanely good. The strange thing is, I used to never be an icing girl. I used to swipe it to the plate, enjoying the cake itself far better. But homemade icing is a monster I cannot tame, and although the one that gets me is usually of the cream cheese variety, I think I found my oh so very close second.

Brown Sugar Pecan Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting
Adapted from Bon Appetit, makes 12

the icing is good as is, but i’ve heard you could leave out the egg yolks, if you like, without it affecting the overall taste or texture. next time, i’ll try that. the icing recipe makes enough for two batches of cupcakes, unless you use ALOT of icing, or unless you eat it from the bowl while you’re frosting (not that anyone would do that, right?!). as for the cupcakes, i added a little more sour cream to the recipe below to moisten them up a bit, and cut back on the baking time.

printable version

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 c cake flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t fine sea salt
1 1/4 c coarsely chopped toasted pecans
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c (packed) golden brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 c sour cream
1 t vanilla extract

1 c sugar
1/4 c water
1/2 c heavy whipping cream
2 large egg yolks
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/8 t fine sea salt
1 c powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 c coarsely chopped toasted pecans

Put rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Spray 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray; line with muffin cups.

Whisk both flours, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt in medium bowl. Stir in chopped, toasted pecans. Beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add brown sugar; beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; beat on low speed just to blend. Divide batter among muffin cups.

Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 15 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool.

Stir sugar and 1/4 cup water in medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to med-hi; boil until syrup turns deep amber, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat; add cream (mixture will bubble up and try to harden). Stir over low heat until caramel bits dissolve; may require additional heat, if so – stir over medium heat. Whisk egg yolks in medium bowl. Very gradually whisk hot caramel into yolks. Cool to room temperature.

Using electric mixer, beat butter and salt in large bowl until smooth. Beat in caramel. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Let stand at room temperature until thick enough to spread, about 1 hour.

Spread frosting over cupcakes. Top with a few pecans.

5 thoughts on “Icing on the Cupcake

  1. Caramel frosting sounds awesome. Won’t the hot caramel scramble the beaten egg yolks, or is it better to let it cool a little before adding. Also do you strain the caramel through a sieve to remove clumps of cooked yolks?

  2. Oh, Jared, you always ask the right questions! I was curious about that too, but I never ever have egg yolk cooking problems and never even strain homemade icecream because it’s never clumpy – am i bragging?! but I also think it’s b/c of the caramel – it’s runniest and easiest to work with when super hot, and pouring it slowly worked perfectly with no clumping at all! the icing is so rich and amazing; downright drinkable.

  3. Jim-49 says:

    You could have put chocolate,but “NO”,HAD TO BE CARAMEL!! My weakest point!! I got it in the cabinet,frig.,now in my mind.They look so lovely,especially the frosting!! I will let you in on a thing I came up with,46 years ago.I loved Caramel Apples,at the Fairs,but so messy,so I came up with,getting apples,and pealing them,and getting caramel,squares,liqued,or anything caramel,and taking a bite of the apple,and some caramel.Well,my kids,then grandkids,and others now sit around with apples and caramel.There is a almost new box,behind me now,really about 50 apples,6 are already gone.Caramel is my weakness,and family.

  4. Another caramel fanatic checking in! Wow, Heather – these look amazing! And I think I want to go to your grandma’s house and pick pe-cans, and swing on that old swingset. Gorgeous, piccies, BTW!

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