Chocolate caramel corn cupcakes are a chocolate cupcake filled with caramel and topped with caramel-y, popcorn-y frosting; does life get any better?
Did you guys have popcorn day at your elementary school?
We did and I’d forgotten all about it until these cupcakes. Turns out, when you grind popcorn in a food processor it smells an awful lot like that wonderful smell that meant third Friday of the month, which meant two things to my 8-year-old self: a paper bag of buttery, salty popcorn, and that tomorrow was SATURDAY!
I hated school back then. But I’ve always loved popcorn.
And never have I loved it as much as when I made frosting with it. I cannot claim credit for this incredible idea; the credit goes to The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook. Do you know this book? Gorgeous! And so is the bakery itself.
And so is this frosting! Caramel, butter, and popcorn. In frosting. Tom Douglas, I thank you. You are a prince among men.
The chocolate caramel corn cupcakes idea has been percolating in my brain ever since I got that book a few years back. I just couldn’t decide between a chocolate cupcake or a vanilla one. The age-old chocolate or vanilla dilemma always kills me. But if you lean vanilla then go ahead and use your favorite vanilla cupcake recipe.
I was leaning chocolate when I made these, obv, and was ready to finally get down to the caramel corn frosting business since caramel corn is kind of summery and I’m totally craving BBQs and beach days. (Why can’t I live in the moment and just enjoy spring?)
The frosting calls for air-popped popcorn but if you don’t have an air popper you can pop it on the stove. Just don’t use excess oil as overly oily popcorn won’t work well here. Then you grind the popcorn to a really fine powder in a food processor. This takes a while–keep going until it’s basically dust so you don’t have super-chunky frosting. And be SURE your caramel sauce is at room temperature or your frosting won’t come together properly.
Side note: Cookie hated the weird noise the food processor made at it was grinding the popcorn. She ran out of the kitchen so fast I thought she saw a squirrel out the window. But I guess not. (As soon as I stopped the food processor she ran back in to make sure I hadn’t dropped any more popcorn on the floor. She’s helpful like that.)
In the “I make these mistakes so you don’t have to” portion of today’s post, be sure the feed tube pusher thingy is actually in the feed tube of your food processor. Otherwise you’ll end up with popcorn powder all over your counter.
Yep, I eat my cupcakes with a fork. But only when I’m feeling fancy.
Happy Thursday, everybody! I hope your weekend includes some cupcakes—chocolate caramel corn cupcakes if you’re feeling summer-y!
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature
- 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- about 6 tablespoons caramel sauce, for filling
- 2 cups air-popped popcorn (from a scant 3 tablespoons popcorn kernels)
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 to 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup caramel sauce, at room temperature
- 2 to 3 tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream, as needed
- store-bought caramel corn (such as Cracker Jack) for decorating, if desired
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 muffin cups with cupcake liners and set pan aside.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl; turn mixer to low and beat in eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract.
- Combine the coffee and whole milk in a glass measuring cup. With mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the milk-coffee mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
- Divide batter evenly between prepared muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 of the way through. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back when pressed gently with your fingertip. Allow to cool in muffin tins for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.
- Place popcorn in the bowl of a food processor and process until it’s finely ground—this will take some time. Set aside.
- Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until creamy. Beat in salt and vanilla to combine. With mixer on low, gradually add 3 cups of the powdered sugar. Turn mixer to high and beat until very light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in caramel sauce, then fold in the ground popcorn with a rubber spatula. If frosting is too thick, add a little milk to thin it. If it’s too thin, add additional powdered sugar.
- Once the cupcakes are completely cool, carefully cut a small hole about 1/2 inch deep in the middle of each. You should be able to pull a cupcake plug, of sorts, out when you cut the hole—keep these. (I used the wide end of a pastry tip for the hole but you can use a paring knife.) Spoon or pipe about 1 teaspoon of caramel sauce into each cupcake. Replace the cupcake plugs, a bit of cake trimmed off the bottom if necessary. Frost and decorate with caramel corn, if using. Serve and enjoy.