I am not much of a cupcake person.
That is not to say that I don't enjoy eating them, or even appreciate the way they look (some cupcakes can be complete works of art) - it's just that I have never really been one to bake them on a regular basis. I am merely a dabbler when it comes to the graceful art of cupcakery.
In fact, this recipe was not going to be about a cupcake. It was going to be all about the sauce you see oozing from said cupcake in the lead photo.
Let me tell you about this sauce: to anyone who is reading this, it looks like a normal (albeit tasty) caramel sauce & it is safe to assume that it is salted (as most forms of caramel these days tend to be). What you probably can't tell, however, is that this is caramel sauce was made with maple syrup as a prime ingredient.
If you have never made caramel sauce with maple syrup before then I implore you to give this recipe a go. Caramel sauce has been a small goal of mine (I am working my way up to these) and prior to this recipe, the ones I have made (due to my lack of skill) have all been duds. This was a perfect beginner's caramel (that didn't require a candy thermometer) and the maple just gives it a beautiful earthiness*. Because of this I felt the sauce would be perfect with some carrot cake that contained a generous amount of walnuts. I am a big carrot cake fan and the sauce was perfect with it. I really wanted the cake to ooze the caramel and cupcakes seemed to make sense to me in order to achieve this.
Something I have come to appreciate about cupcakes are while they are generally made for a crowd, when you get down to it, you end up with one in your hand (until your second) that is for you and you alone, personally gift wrapped in a patty case. If you make these you will also get your own, personal ooze of maple caramel sauce.
Maybe I am a cupcake person after all.
*The sauce is also fantastic with warm poached pears.
Carrot and Maple Caramel Cupcakes
Maple Caramel Sauce was adapted via Oprah.com
Carrot cupcakes were adapted from the book Cupcake Heaven by Susannah Blake
Cream Cheese Icing was adapted from Baking with Passion by Dan Lepard and Richard Whittington
For the Maple Caramel Sauce
Makes 2 , 290ml jars with a little leftover
250g salted butter
2 cups of light or dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1 cup of 100% pure maple syrup - do not use maple flavoured syrup here.
Melt the butter in a medium heavy based saucepan over a medium to high heat.
Add the sugar and salt and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Turn the heat down to medium and boil for a further 2 minutes
Add the maple syrup and then stirring constantly, boil until the sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon.
Take the sauce off the heat to cool a little before pouring into sterilised jars. Will keep refrigerated for up to 2 months.
For the Carrot Cupcakes
100g g soft brown sugar
160ml of vegetable oil
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg
200g of self rising flour
Approx 150g grated carrot
about 60g of roughly chopped walnuts
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line a cupcake tray with patty cases.
Put the sugar in a mixing bowl and beat in the 2 eggs and oil.
Stir in the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
Sift the SR flour over the bowl, add the carrot and walnuts and then fold to combine.
Spoon the mix into the patty cases and bake for about 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. When done, cool the cakes for 10 minutes before turning them out onto a rack to cool completely.
For the Cream Cheese Icing
65g of unsalted butter, softened
150g of cream cheese, softened
80g icing sugar, sifted
Using an electric beater, combine all ingredients well, until fluffy. Set aside in a cool place.
For the toffee walnuts - optional
12 whole walnuts
2 tbs sugar
In a pan over a medium to high heat, melt the sugar until it is golden in colour. Immediately add the walnuts and toss to coat with a spoon. Immediately transfer them carefully to a heat proof tray to cool and harden.
Once the cupcakes have cooled, carefully slice a hole into the cake about the 2cm in diameter and about 2cm deep. Remove the "hole" and cut about half of the bottom of this off,set aside. Spoon about 1 tsp of the caramel into the hole and then replace the top of the "hole" on the cupcake. Repeat with all 12.
Next, using a flat knife, spread the icing evenly over the cupcake and top with a toffee walnut. Repeat with all 12.