This small batch of Caramel-Vanilla Cupcakes yields cupcakes that are deliciously moist and tender…and vegan! If you have a small dinner party and want a great dessert that comes together easily, these are perfect.
So, what are you making for dessert tonight? Maybe something like that Caramel Apple Cake I saw on your blog a while ago?, a friend excitedly asked me around 2 o’clock one afternoon.
I thought we’d forgo dessert this time, you know, since everyone is trying to eat healthy…, I trailed off. Dead silence from my friend.
I guess “eating healthy” doesn’t mean skipping dessert, even for a regular weeknight meal among close friends that’s not in celebration of anything other than it being a Tuesday night.
I can roll with it. Dessert was back on the menu, stat.
The thing about dessert is that while everyone wants just a little taste of it after dinner, no one really wants to volunteer to take home the remainder of it (which inevitably, is enough to feed two armies with some to spare). That’s when I decided I needed a recipe for small batch cupcakes.
I know that small batch recipes exist in abundance on the internet, but at that point I had no time to look for them. And so I did what I usually do when someone asks for cake. I went to my mom’s recipe for Crazy Chocolate Cake (that I’ve remade into yummy things like Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle Cupcakes and Red Velvet Cake). I scaled the recipe way back, but it’s essentially the same base (but with the cocoa powder omitted and the addition of caramel extract). I am in love with how versatile that recipe can be.
Speaking of versatility, this recipe is equally so. If you want your cupcakes chocolate, add a couple tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. If you want them vanilla, omit the caramel extract. If you want them vanilla-almond, use almond extract instead of the caramel extract. You get the idea; take these cupcakes and make them your own.
The Bittersweet Chocolate Shavings on Top: Be sure you don’t omit these, since they add another dimension and a delicious contrasting flavor to the sweet caramel flavor of the frosting. (A huge thank-you to Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella – the beautiful chocolate I used was a gift from her!)
A Note on the Frosting: When I made these cupcakes it was getting late and I really didn’t have the time or energy to pipe on the frosting, which was a good thing because I don’t think this batch would have made enough for the enormous amount of frosting that goes on top when you pipe it. (Plus frosting the cupcakes this way reminds me of how my mom did it when I was a kid…the cake recipe is adapted from hers, so why not give a little tribute to her with the frosting?) The amount of frosting I made was generous enough though, especially considering that it’s very sweet. If you prefer a thick piped layer of frosting on top (for example, similar to my peanut butter and jelly cupcakes), make at least a double batch of the frosting to make sure you have enough.
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon caramel extract
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons avocado or light olive oil
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons vegan buttery spread (such as Earth Balance)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon caramel extract
- 2-3 teaspoons plain, unsweetened vegan "milk" (such as almond, coconut, rice, or soy milk)
- Bittersweet chocolate shavings, for topping (optional)
- For the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350; line a muffin tray with 5 or 6 paper liners. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, caramel, vinegar, oil, and water. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk to combine (a few lumps are fine), being careful not to over-mix. Divide the batter between the 5 or 6 muffin wells; bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with just a couple crumbs, about 18 to 20 minutes. Cool completely, then frost with Caramel-Vanilla Frosting and top with bittersweet chocolate shavings.
- For the frosting, use a handheld electric beater to cream together the buttery spread, shortening, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and caramel extract. Add the milk little by little while beating until the buttercream is smooth and creamy.