Dark chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel Swiss meringue buttercream are quite possibly my favorite cupcake flavor combination. Rich, moist, dark chocolate cupcakes with a silky caramel buttercream with hint of salt to balance the sweetness. Cupcake perfection.
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This is not my first blog. My first blog was a cupcake blog. Started during the rise of cupcake shops around 2006-2007. I was all about making as many cupcakes from scratch that I could.
I had a few other baked goods I would make and post. Cakes, donuts, cookies and muffins but it was mostly cupcakes. And all had awful pics of them. Taken quickly with my old blackberry, under fluorescent kitchen lighting, with stuff piled on my kitchen counter in the background. Which was crazy since I had been a photographer since high school, having taken photography classes etc. But I photographed mostly landscapes, not food. I rarely used my DSLR for food. Wild times.
I decided after a few years as a cupcake blogger to switch to a new blog name, new platform (wordpress form blogspot) and get more serious about it. This dark chocolate cupcake recipe was on my old blog and I knew I wanted to bring it over here. Not all of my recipes from my first blog are here, just the best ones.
- Chocolate cupcake ingredients:
- Salted Caramel Buttercream ingredients:
- 🔪 Pro Tips:
- How to get moist chocolate cupcakes:
- How to make Swiss meringue buttercream:
- Weighing ingredients Vs using cups:
- Dark chocolate cupcake recipe with salted caramel Swiss meringue buttercream recipe:
- Did you make this recipe?
Chocolate isn't my first choice for a dessert, but I do love it most in cupcake form. Chocolate in baked goods tends to be very rich, and with cupcakes it is just a few bites to satisfy that chocolate craving without being too much to eat. I often find with chocolate cake a few bites is enough. This is what makes the cupcake awesome. It is really like just a few bites of cake. Satisfying without food waste.
Chocolate cupcake ingredients:
These cupcakes have quite a few ingredients but its what makes them oh so good. Get everything ready before mixing up.
- All purpose flour - sifted
- Granulated white sugar
- Unsweetened cocoa powder - you want to use Dutch process, and a good brand such as Droste, Valrhona or my personal fave - Cacao Barry extra brute.
- Baking soda ( no baking powder is used since vinegar is added to help with leavening).
- Salt - I use Diamond Kosher, adjust if using a different brand since others tend to be more salty.
- Dark chocolate - chopped and melted. Good quality - Callebaut, Valrhona, Guittard etc.
- Whole milk - the fat in the whole milk leads to a richer cupcake
- Eggs - large
- Vanilla extract - use good stuff not the generic cheap vanilla flavored extract.
- Oil - these cupcakes use oil instead of butter.
- White vinegar - reacts with the baking soda to give the batter lift as it bakes.
- Boiling water -helps intensify the chocolate flavor and adds to the moist texture of the cake.
- Espresso powder - just a little bit mixed with the water to enhance the chocolate flavor.
Salted Caramel Buttercream ingredients:
I make my own caramel sauce to add to Swiss meringue buttercream. Both really are easy to make, just takes paying attention so the caramel doesn't burn.
- Sugar - for both the buttercream and caramel sauce
- Water - for making the caramel sauce
- Heavy Cream - makes the caramel sauce smooth and so it doesn't harden and can be stirred into the buttercream.
- Salt - I use Diamond Kosher salt
- Butter - for both the buttercream and caramel sauce, unsalted
- Vanilla extract -splurge on the good stuff
- Egg whites - separate when cold to make sure no egg yolk gets into the whites or else it won't whip up
- Cream of tartar - adds stability to the buttercream
🔪 Pro Tips:
- Make the buttercream a day ahead of time if pressed for time. You can keep it chilled and bring to room temperature and whip back up to light and fluffy once the cupcakes are baked. You can even freeze buttercream up to three months. If you want to make a double batch and have buttercream at the ready for cupcakes or cakes, make it, put in a freezer safe container or bag even and press it flat if in a bag and freeze. Don't forget to label and date it. After three months it is really not as good anymore.
- Choose high quality ingredients. One thing about a good chocolate cupcake recipe or a chocolate cake recipe is when higher quality ingredients are used the end result is amazing. Good butter, high quality cocoa powder and chocolate, full fat dairy. This is a decadent treat so don't substitute for cheaper or lower fat products.
- Cupcake liners - I love the greaseproof liners from Surfas. Surfas is a baking supply store out of Los Angeles, CA. and they are awesome. I only order cupcake/muffin liners from them.
How to get moist chocolate cupcakes:
Everyone talks about loving super moist chocolate cupcakes or cakes. No one likes a dry cake. Here are some of my tips for achieving that every time:
- Oil - instead of butter in the batter. Butter does make for a rich, moist batter but oil is what keeps it extra moist and rich
- Buttermilk or whole milk. You want full fat dairy for richness and moisture
- Melted chocolate - these cupcakes get their chocolatey flavor from rich cocoa powder as well as melted chocolate that is stirred into the batter. The melted chocolate helps with the moistness.
- Boiling water - intensifies the rich flavor of the chocolate and adds moisture.
How to make Swiss meringue buttercream:
Don't let this meringue buttercream recipe intimidate you. It is quite easy once you get the hang of it. If you want to save time or not fuss with making the caramel sauce first, you can by all means use a storebought salted caramel sauce.
The trick for Swiss meringue buttercream is patience and not panicking when it looks soupy after starting to add the butter to the whipped egg whites.
This starts with mixing egg whites with sugar and cream of tarter in the stand mixing bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Use a candy thermometer to check until the mixture reaches 185 Deg F (85 C). This is when you take the bowl off the pan of water and place it on the stand mixer to whip to get a meringue. Use the whisk attachment for the meringue.
You want to whip until its greatly increased in volume as well as cooled down to 90 deg F. (32 Deg C).
While the mixer is running, still using the whisk attachment, add in the cool butter pieces one or two at a time, and mix until added in then repeat until all the butter has been added. Scrape down the sides of the mixer when needed. You might notice at this point that the buttercream is very loose and soupy. This is what is supposed to happen. The more you whip the thicker it becomes and you will actually hear a difference in the buttercream when it starts to thicken.
You will then switch to the paddle attachment and mix to get out any air and smooth out the buttercream before adding in the caramel sauce. You want the buttercream as smooth as possible before piping it on the cupcakes.
To get the swirl I achieved on these frosted cupcakes I used the infamous Wilton 1M tip. Another option would be Ateco 823 piping tip. These are both "open star" tips and give that classic piped swirl.
Weighing ingredients Vs using cups:
I use my food scale and weigh out ingredients in grams because this is the most accurate way to get the best quality baked goods. Cups aren't accurate because not only are all cups not the same the sizes vary from brand to brand as well as from different countries. I have done tests with different brands of measuring cups and they all came out with different weights after I did the spoon and level as well as scoop method and then weighed in grams. Baking is a science and science needs accuracy. Weighing is accurate and precise. Not to mention a lot easier.
Another issue with cups is that I have no control over how people use measuring cups to measure dry ingredients especially flour. You could pack in way too much which would result in a sub-par baked good. Too much flour could throw everything off. Same with not enough. Not to mention also some ingredients are difficult to measure in cups such as nuts, dried fruit, chocolate etc. This is why weighing in grams is the most accurate.
I also use grams for most liquid measure since 100 grams equals 100 ml of water. Smaller amounts of items measured in teaspoons I usually leave as teaspoons, tablespoons are sometimes listed in grams as well but for the most part the different tablespoons I have used have all resulted in the same amount. Aside from cute, decorative ceramic tablespoons and teaspoons are never accurate. Those are better as decoration than for being used for baking.
Dark chocolate cupcake recipe with salted caramel Swiss meringue buttercream recipe:
Quick tip before the recipes - yes they are both a lot of ingredients so read through carefully and make sure you have all your ingredients set out before making. The recipe is split up with the ingredients in the top section for both the cupcakes and buttercream as well as split up in the instructions. I used to have these as two separate recipe cards but that isn't good for SEO. They are split up into one card now.
For the chocolate cupcakes:
- 390g cups all-purpose flour ( 3 cups)
- 400g cups granulated sugar (2 cups)
- 50 g unsweetened cocoa powder ( Dutch process like Droste, Cacao Barry extra Brute, or another GOOD brand) (½ cup)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 240 ml buttermilk or whole milk
- 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled (cooled for about 15 min make sure its still melted though don’t want it to harden back up)
- 134 ml water, heated to boiling ( have a kettle of water on the stove boiling ready to go) (½ cup plus 1 tablespoon water)
- 180 ml vegetable oil (¾ cup)
- 2 large eggs, room temp
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar (not wine vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon good vanilla extract
Ingredients for the salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream
For the caramel:
- 200g cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons water
- 120 ml cup heavy cream
- large pinch sea salt
For the buttercream:
- 6 egg whites ( from large eggs)
- 100g granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 460 g unsalted butter ( 4 sticks) at cool room temperature, cut into tablespoons
- Cupcake instructions
- This can be done with a stand mixer or by hand with a hand mixer or whisk but it is more of a 2 bowl method than one if going the hand mixing route
- Preheat oven to 350F with rack in the center.
- Place paper baking cups in regular sized muffin tins, spray edges around
- cups lightly with cooking spray. If you have a small 6 cup muffin tin and you only
- get 27 or 28 cupcakes fill the rest of the wells halfway with water and no baking
- Whisk together the dry ingredients (sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt)
- in a large bowl.
- In a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer whisk eggs till slightly thickened and a pale
- Add in the milk, vanilla, oil and vinegar and whisk/beat well
- Add in the melted and cooled chocolate and whisk/beat until combined well
- Either add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients OR the wet into the flour and mix
- just to combine. Add in the boiling water and mix again just to combine. Scrape
- down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure all the dry ingredients are
- Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups
- Bake 15-18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and free
- of crumbs or the cupcake tops bounce back when lightly pressed. Mine baked for
- Let cool for 5 min in pans and then remove carefully to a wire cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting
- My notes: Yes there is ONLY baking soda in these but it works. Do not try to add baking powder. I know you will look at this and think, “ don’t baked goods need baking powder or both powder and soda?” well yes, sometimes. It’s the vinegar that reacts with the soda, which helps with the proper leavening of the cake. These totally ROCK. They’re moist, dense, perfect texture and taste. Even 4 days after having been in my fridge, which normally dries them out, but they were still perfect. I have made them a few times now once I got 26 or 27 cupcakes and another time 28. Just depends on how full you fill the cups. I use a #16 ice cream/batter scoop to fill mine. One full scoop works and if I have batter leftover and some look to be less filled with batter than I try to even out with a spoon and add in more batter that way. I also like SLAM the cupcake pans down on my counter a few times ( just lift evenly and let drop) to help get some of the air bubbles out. I am not sure where I read this technique but it works and well its kind of fun to make the noise. Unless you bake while your baby/kids/husband/significant other is sleeping. They might not like it. Good luck and trust me you will LOVE this recipe. I do!!
- !Buttercream instructions
- !For the Caramel:
- Add the sugar to a small saucepan and pour the water over it. With the heat on low, swirl the pan around until the sugar has nearly dissolved. Be careful not to let it boil — if it starts getting too hot, remove it from the burner for a few seconds, continuing to swirl.
- Once the sugar has mostly dissolved, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover it immediately and leave on boil for 2 minutes.
- Uncover and continue swirling the mixture until it becomes dark amber. (Be careful — you want it to be dark, but it can go from dark to burning in seconds.) Take it off the heat immediately.
- Slowly pour in the cream, stirring with a whisk. Again, be careful as the caramel will start splattering, and will splatter even more if you add the cream too fast. Whisk until combined and set aside.
- For the Buttercream:
- Combine the sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar in the stainless steel bowl of an electric stand mixer. Bring a large pan of water to simmer, Set the bowl in the pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Be really careful not to curdle the egg whites– simply remove the bowl from the heat for a bit if it feels like that’s happening. Also, you’ll know when it’s getting close to 160 degrees; the mixture will get foamy and be slippery to the touch.
- Remove the bowl to your stand mixer and beat on high speed for 5-7 minutes, until the mixture holds glossy peaks and the bowl is cool to the touch. Lower the speed to medium and add in the butter one tablespoon at a time until all is added in. It may look soupy and or curdled at this point but don’t worry, just raise the speed until it comes together. Add in the caramel sauce and mix well. Taste and add a little more sea salt if desired.