Sweet Things In Small Batches

by Mara @ What's For Dinner? on February 28, 2011

in Baking, dessert, friends, vegetarian

You all know that I go a bit nutty around birthdays. I make 3-course meals, bake an inordinate amount, and generally celebrate my friends and family in the best way I know how.

Many of you have already expressed interest in being one of my coworkers simply for the fact that I bake and cook for them all the time. Really, this is because I have no idea how to cook or bake in small amounts, or so I thought.

Since I’m a rather inexperienced baker, I hesitate to reduce recipes because I fear they won’t turn out correctly. I know if I took the time to weigh out ingredients instead of measuring them, I’d have a more consistent result, but let’s face it: I’m lazy. I like throwing things together and having them just “work”, which is why I cook far more often than I bake.

Ok, I’m off topic. Birthdays. Right. So my friend Kristina’s birthday was on Sunday, and Wendy and I had decided that we would bring treats and a gift for her today. Twist my arm to bake treats, right? Kristina has a sweet tooth, so I knew that her baked goods needed to err on the side of sweet. But they couldn’t be boring.

So I went with a classic:


With a bit of…


And just a touch of…


The result? Well, after finding perfect-for-Kristina Eiffel Tower-adorned cupcake wrappers…


Chocolate cupcakes with a salted caramel buttercream frosting. And the best part? I only made 15. Not 100, not 50… just 15 lovely little cupcakes.

Perfectly Chocolate Cupcakes


  • 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1&1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghiradelli unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg


Pre-heat the oven to 350*F. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix together the boiling water and cocoa powder and stir until smooth. Allow to cool. Add the vanilla to the butter and sugar, beat on high until well-incorporated. Add at this point the egg and mix well. Turn off the mixer and add the flour, baking powder and soda, and turn the mixer on low. Pour in the chocolate mixture and mix until incorporated. Scrape the bottom of the bowl, and mix again for a minute to incorporate all lumps. Scoop into 12-15 prepared cupcake tins and bake about 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before frosting.


After a little bit of online research, I found that a standard powdered sugar and butter buttercream frosting could be flavored with a small amount of liquid flavorings such as berry purees, chocolate, and pretty much whatever else I could think of. So I googled a bit more and found that indeed, I could use liquid caramel to flavor a buttercream. So I went with it…

Salted Caramel Buttercream

Inspired by Gimme Some Oven’s Salted Caramel Buttercream


  • 1 1/2 sticks salted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, warmed
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt


Place the granulated sugar and water in a small pot on your stovetop, stir gently until the sugar is moistened. Heat the sugar over medium heat until boiling, then boil until a dark amber color. SLOWLY and CAREFULLY add in the cream (start with maybe a tablespoon), stirring constantly. Add in the vanilla and salt; stir until smooth. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Set aside and cool to room temperature. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or hand mixer) whip the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the powdered sugar and mix until light and smooth. Pour in the cooled caramel, whip on high speed until the caramel is distributed throughout the frosting. Eat with a spoon. Decorate cake or cupcakes of your choice.


Since these were a gift, they deserved special packaging.



Oh, hello cupcake!


Kristina loved them, as did anyone else who tried them. I’m kicking myself for not making more… but that was the point, right? Smaller batches?

I can’t win :)



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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristina @ spabettie February 28, 2011 at 8:43 PM


these could have been made for THIS Kristina… I love Eiffel Towers (BIG collection…), I love cupcakes, I love caramel + chocolate…

my birthday is in September… ;)
Kristina @ spabettie´s last blog post ..when veggies last in the snowyard bloom’d


VeggieGirl February 28, 2011 at 8:43 PM



J3nn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) February 28, 2011 at 8:45 PM

Wow, those look so professional! I bet salted caramel is heavenly. Yes, I wanna be your coworker, too. lol
J3nn (Jenn’s Menu and Lifestyle Blog)´s last blog post ..My Mom’s 25th Birthday


Blog is the New Black February 28, 2011 at 8:55 PM

Gorgeous flavor combo! Great job, these sound so tasty!
Blog is the New Black´s last blog post ..Rosemary Garlic Bread


Amanda February 28, 2011 at 8:55 PM

Salted caramel buttercream? oh man! I NEED to make these!
Amanda´s last blog post ..It’s the freaking weekend baby


Lindsay @ Peace, Love and French Fries February 28, 2011 at 9:01 PM

salted caramel ANYTHING is a winner to me. These sound just delicious!
Lindsay @ Peace, Love and French Fries´s last blog post ..Blueberry muffins and a fancy new camera!


Juliana February 28, 2011 at 10:57 PM

Where did you get the recipe from?


Mara @ What's For Dinner? March 1, 2011 at 6:30 AM

The cake recipe is original after trial and error with chocolate cakes, and the frosting inspiration is linked.


Roz March 1, 2011 at 10:45 AM

Your friends are soooo lucky! (on many levels, not just for the baking – you seem like a truly wonderful friend!)
I am LOVING the Parisian cupcake papers!!! WOW.
My birthday is October 1st, can I place my order now?? KIDDING of course!! But if you ever quit your day job, I’m SURE you could run a successful cupcake business, your creations are AMAZING. Have a great day Mara!!!
Roz´s last blog post ..Let the Birthday Celebrations continue!!


Christin@purplebirdblog March 1, 2011 at 11:44 AM

You never cease to amaze me with these recipes!! Salted caramel buttercream? Did it hurt… when you fell from heaven? ;)
Christin@purplebirdblog´s last blog post ..Homegirl’s a Genius


Carrie March 1, 2011 at 1:07 PM

I bought some caramels like this around Christmas I couldn’t decided if I like the flavor or not. I think this might be the next best thing to try.


justine @ you're so martha March 1, 2011 at 4:07 PM

YUM. you had me at salted caramel. i have added these to my recipes and can’t wait to make them. where did you get those adorable boxes?


Mara @ What's For Dinner? March 1, 2011 at 5:07 PM

surlatable.comLet me know what you think! I got the boxes at Sur la Table, here’s the link: http://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO-7051/Meri-Meri-Toile-Cupcake-Party-Box-Tents


justine @ you're so martha March 1, 2011 at 5:18 PM

so awesome. thanks. now i have to go to sur la table! (my husband will not be happy, ha)
justine @ you’re so martha´s last blog post ..butternut squash soup


Mara @ What's For Dinner? March 1, 2011 at 5:32 PM

It’s such a dangerous store! I’m not allowed to go on payday… my own restriction :)


Amy March 1, 2011 at 7:27 PM

You had me at Salted Caramel.. wow do these look good and the packaging is amazing. What a good friend you are!


Diana March 3, 2011 at 6:59 AM

My birthday is in September…you happen to be low on birthdays to celebrate. ;) hahaahaha jk. That cupcake looks amazing!!!!!
Diana´s last blog post ..A Time Management Challenge


Trish U June 18, 2011 at 3:14 PM

I just made a batch if the Salted caramel buttercream to top my husband’s Father’s Day brownie cake and it’s incredible! I’m not sure I will be able to leave enough to frost the cake. Thanks for the recipe :)


Mara @ What's For Dinner? June 18, 2011 at 7:49 PM

I’m so glad you liked it!! It’s one of our favorites :)


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