Once a year I pack myself a bag, kiss my family goodbye, and leave them for one day and night. This past weekend was that special day — the Twinbirthday. My husband’s gift to us both was our hotel room for the night, as it is every year, and this year we spent it at Alyeska in the shadow of the frosty mountains.
We refuse to write itineraries or make solid reservations or otherwise force any expectations upon us for our special day. We spent the early afternoon mall shopping in Anchorage after a spontaneous haircut and another last-minute change of plans. We took our time showering and getting dressed for dinner, then ate our meals at extreme leisure, and even ordered dessert to share.
We reflected on the last year and helped each other put the events of our lives into the context of the 37 years we have shared together on this earth. After the ritual emotional purge had concluded, we watched videos on our phones and giggled under the covers until the wee hour of 9:30 when we turned off the lights.
Bright and early the next morning, we packed up again and said our goodbyes before departing in opposite directions, back to our separate but forever intertwined lives. We had laundry to do and a school week to prepare for, and I had cupcakes to bake.
Now that I’m working with so many people, I have decided to reinstate cupcake Mondays as a little gift to myself. For my first offering I decided on a flavor my sister and I both love — salted caramel. These cupcakes are very sweet, but the flaked Maldon salt cuts and balances the sweetness so it isn’t cloying.
Salted Caramel Cupcakes
Ingredients for 12 cupcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
½ cup milk
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
For the frosting:
1 stick salted butter
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 ¼ cup powdered sugar
Maldon salt for finishing
Soft caramel candy garnish (optional)
Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Beat the softened butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add your eggs one at a time, fully incorporating before adding the next.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
In another separate bowl whisk together the milk and Greek yogurt until smooth.
Add the milk mixture and the flour mixture to the butter and sugars. No need to alternate — just dump them in and stir until homogeneous.
Use a ¼ cup capacity ice cream scoop to dish the batter into the cupcake liners. (If you don’t have an ice cream scoop, just use a ¼ cup measuring cup to portion the batter.) You should have just enough for 12 cupcakes.
Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the tops are firm and springy.
Take them out and let them cool while you make the frosting.
In a medium saucepan heat the butter, cream and brown sugar until everything has melted and has begun to bubble. At this point the sugar should not be grainy but taste it to be sure before moving on to the next step. If the sugar hasn’t completely melted, the texture of the final frosting will be gritty and unpleasant.
Take off the heat, transfer to a mixer bowl and cool in the refrigerator.
When the mixture is about room temperature, move to your mixer and add in the powdered sugar a little at a time while the mixer is running with the paddle attachment.
Put the finished frosting in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before transferring to a piping bag.
By this time, your cupcakes should be room temperature and ready to be frosted.
Sprinkle the finished cakes with Maldon salt and store cold until ready to share.