Sticky Toffee Cupcakes

One of the specialty bulbs in my lightbox blew a few days ago, and so I am avoiding all food photography for the moment. Without a lightbox, taking decent food shots is an exceptional challenge for me - limited to the brightest daylight hours, which are few and far between in Oregon at this time of year. This is because I am not a professional photographer and am afraid to venture beyond the Tried and Tested. I hope that explains the delay with our promised cupcake-topper tutorial.  Someday!

Meanwhile, I thought perhaps the readers (if you're really out there?) might be appeased if I posted one of my all-time favorite cupcake recipes. It's not on the regular menu at Honey Crumb (who knows why?), but you can certainly order these from us for your next celebration.  Sometimes, to make them less sticky and a little more grown-up, I leave out the inner caramels and drizzle the cupcakes with some Calvados (French apple brandy) before frosting them. You could, of course, drizzle them with caramel, because the flavor profile would only be enhanced by it. Sometimes, I like to adorn these with a mini gumpaste apple to hint at the Calvados addition. 

Having said all that, the original version (with solid caramels stuffed into the cupcake batter before baking) is just extraordinary - comforting, sweet without the risk of a tooth-revolt, and entirely reminiscent of English sticky toffee pudding. Mmm-hmm!

Toffee Cupcakes with Soft Centers
Makes 8 large cupcakes

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 egg (at room temperature)
1 tsp good vanilla extract (we use Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla)
1/3 cup butter (at room temperature)
1 1/4 cups chopped dates
8 caramel toffees

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with 8 paper cups. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour and sugar. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the milk, egg, vanilla and butter for 2-3 minutes until smooth and pale. Stir this batter into the flour/sugar mixture, then fold in the dates. Spoon the batter equally into the 8 cups, and push a caramel into the center of each. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes in the pan. Remove the cupcakes to a wire rack, and allow to cool completely before frosting with Brown Sugar Meringue Buttercream.

Brown Sugar Meringue Buttercream

4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened

Over a double boiler (I simply use the metal bowl of my KitchenAid set over a pan of simmering water, but not touching the water), whisk the egg whites and sugar together for 4 minutes until the sugar crystals have dissolved and the mixture is hot to the touch. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the heated egg/sugar mixture at high speed for 5 minutes. You'll be able to tell that the mixture has cooled down sufficiently if you touch the sides of the bowl. They should feel absolutely cool to the touch. If there's any warmth left, the butter that you add next will turn your mixture into a soupy mess.  Now, gradually add the butter, a few cubes/blobs at a time, and beat very well after each addition. Beat on low for another 2-3 minutes. Use immediately. (I like to cram the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a 2D Wilton piping tip, and use that to pipe swirls on top of my cupcakes.)