Double Salted Caramel Cupcakes

double-salted-caramel-cupcakes

Gluten-free and dairy-free do not mean delicious-free. In my case it certainly doesn’t always mean pretty. I mean, did you see my photo above? But with vanilla cupcakes filled with sticky butterscotch and topped with a caramel buttercream, dairy-free and gluten-free are completely sinful. Basically if anyone ever made me these cupcakes I’d die of joy. Instead, I made them myself. But some day, SOME DAY, someone will make me these cupcakes and that will be an even more spectacular day. I’m just saying, if someone makes YOU these cupcakes, keep them.

There’s always a way to replace an ingredient. Some substitutions are worse than others…and when a recipe goes out of balance, it can really go out of balance (too much baking soda and your baked goods taste hollow, and not enough fat and your roasted veggies burn).

double-salted-caramel-cupcakes

Filled cupcakes. I’m sorry for the absolutely awful photos. My camera got stuck in a strange mode after the screen broke, and I didn’t know until I uploaded them how bad they were.

But caramel is completely replaceable. It’s easy, in fact. Even if you don’t eat refined sugar. I don’t use xylitol or powdered stevia, but theoretically those would even work here (xylitol would be much better because of the lack of aftertaste). The best option for a lower glycemic index is coconut sugar, but I made this recipe using regular white sugar. Don’t start messing with puréed dates, though. Honey and maple syrup are fine. My theory is, though, don’t mess with a recipe if you don’t have to. Make the fewest amount of changes possible and your chance of success will be much higher, assuming the recipe is good in the first place. And all the recipes from my favourite dessert blog, Sprinkle Bakes, are stellar. I could hae made these triple salted caramel cupcakes by making the caramel tuile type thing on top, but two caramels were enough for one day, so I just drizzled my extra cooled caramel filling over top of the buttercream.

And my friend in a very French cooking school who’d never eaten anything gluten-free and/or dairy-free even said it was good. The texture was different because of the amaranth and rice flour, but not bad, just different. And cooks and bakers are always trying to come up with new things, new tastes, new textures, so he liked it. And, as with roasted garlic, who doesn’t like caramel? No one I want to meet, that’s for sure.

double-salted-caramel-cupcakes

Inside of a double salted caramel cupcake. Look at that juicy butterscotch filling…It’s a delicious mess.

Double Salted Caramel Cupcakes (gluten-free, dairy-free)
adapted from Sprinkle Bakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

3/4 cups rice flour
3/4 cups amaranth flour (or tapioca flour, or a mix of the two. Amaranth is naturally sweeter so I like to use it for baked goods)
1/8 tsp guar gum
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup earth balance, at room temperature, or other vegan margarine (not oil unless you’re desperate. It will change the consistency)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature (you can use egg replacer equivalent to two eggs, but they won’t rise as much)
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened vanilla or plain almond milk
1/2 tsp lemon juice
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line muffin tins with papers (you can just grease them, but the liners are better for these cupcakes since they keep any renegade caramel filling firmly inside. Sieve flours, guar gum, baking powder and salt in a small bowl (also sieve in egg replacer powder – not water – if using instead of eggs).
In a medium bowl cream earth balance and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time (or water to go with egg replacer). Add vanilla or vanilla bean seeds. Combine almond milk and lemon juice is a small bowl. On low speed beat 1/3 of the flour mixture into the brown sugar/egg mixture. Then beat in half the almond milk and lemon juice. Then half the remaining flour. Then the remaining almond milk/lemon juice. Then the remaining flour. Beat until just combined after each addition. You can also use a whisk for this if you think the batter will start to fly everywhere. It shouldn’t, but some people are messier than others…
Divide batter evenly among cupcake liners.  Bake for 22-28 minutes, untl a toothpick inserted in middle of the largest cupcake comes out clean without any crumbs. When cool enough to handle, remove cupcakes from tins and let cool completely on wire rack. Theoretically you should place the tins on the wire rack for the first ten minutes when it’s too hot to remove the individual cupcakes, but it’s not the end of the world. Hurray, cupcakes!
Salted Caramel Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp water
3 tablespoons earth balance or other vegan margarine
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons almond milk, at room temperature
Melt the sugar in the water over medium-high heat in a large pot.  Whisk the sugar as it melts but then stop stirring once it has melted and cook it until it becomes a deep amber colour. No stirring. Have the earth balance and almond milk ready to go while you’re watching the caramel. You need a good light to see the colour because caramel can burn fast.
Now add the earth balance and stir. Pour in the almond milk (mixture will foam) and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Mine didn’t thicken very well, so I cheated. Shh! I added 1 tbsp arrowroot powder!!! I learned it from a vegan butterscotch recipe I made once. It tastes a little difference, but if your caramel just won’t thicken, it’s an option. You need to whisk it in so there are no lumps, so stir 1 tbsp of it into 1 tsp water before adding, and the bring the caramel back to medium-high heat to bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thick, stirring constantly so nothing burns and the excess water evaporates out.
double-salted-caramel-cupcakes
See the cut-out pieces on the right? Those go back on top after you fill the cupcakes.
Remove from heat and let cool for at least 10 minutes while you cut small, round pieces out of the tops of each cooled cupcake (Sprinkle Bakes pics are better than mine) and hollow out a bit of the filling. The more you take out, the more caramel you can stuff in! Pour at least 1 teaspoon of caramel into each cupcake and put the top of the cupcake back in place.
Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting:

1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 cup earth balance shortening, or other dairy-free shortening. I used regular earth balance spread but the spread likes to melt at room temperature, making a very poor frosting. “Gloop” is not frosting)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Make another caramel. I know, I know. “Again?” you say. But hey, if it wasn’t stellar the first time, here’s another kick at the can. In a saucepan, stir together 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tbsp water. You can also do this 2 tbsp water method above – it will just take the water longer to evaporate out, but the caramel will burn less quickly on you. Or you can be brave and do the no water method, stirring the sugar as it melts and wiping down the side of the pan with a spatula so you don’t end up with grains of sugar or chunks. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook without stirring until mixture turns that deep amber colour. Remove from heat and pour in almond milk and vanilla (or vanilla bean seeds), stirring until very smooth. Let cool 20 minutes, until warm but still pourable.
Meanwhile, instead of sitting around twiddling your thumbs, beat 1/2 cup earth balance with salt in a large bowl for 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar.
Scrape down the side of the bowl and pour in the caramel you just made. Beat on medium-high until completely mixed (about 2 min). It should now be frosting. If your caramel was too hot when you added it, your icing will be runny.  So you can refrigerate it for 15-20 minutes. Then re-beat. If it’s still not stiff enough to be frosting, add more powdered sugar and beat until it’s right. Put frosting in a ziploc bag or a pastry bag. Cut the tip or attach a proper tip and pipe onto top of cupcakes. I ended up with tons of leftover frosting because my frosting kept trying to melt and I had to add more sugar. Just pipe as much as you like and keep the rest.
Drizzle some of the leftover caramel filling over top. Eat (one) immediately. Stop before four.
I also ate these with leftover caramel filling. Boy was that good. And then I ate the leftover caramel filing with gluten-free bread. And then I ate the caramel filling by itself…
Take that, anyone who thinks a dairy-free gluten-free life must be sad. My stomach loves me more than yours does. The love my hips feel for me is, however, debatable.
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