Monday, April 30, 2012

Salted Caramel Cupcakes (and a life update!)

Happy Monday everyone! 

I've got a recipe that I'm SO excited to share with you today...

Salted Caramel Cupcakes!! 

Seriously, they are to die for. 

 Salted caramel has been somewhat of a trendy flavor lately, and so when I spotted these cupcakes on Pinterest, I had to give them a try. I was so pleased with the way they came out and although they have quite a few steps, the end result is totally worth it. 

Salted Caramel Cupcakes
 Recipe Source: 52 Kitchen Adventures
Makes approx 14-15 cupcakes

Ingredients you'll need (minus vanilla because I forgot to put it in the picture!)
Brown Sugar Cupcakes
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 °F. Line muffin tin with paper or foil liners.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each until fully incorporated. Mix in vanilla extract. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with 1/2 of the buttermilk, stirring after each until everything is combined.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tin until each liner is 3/4 full. 

My trick? I use an ice cream scoop to fill my cupcake liners and it works really well!
Bake for around 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Salted Caramel Filling
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, cubed
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature

In a medium saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat, whisking as it melts. 

When it turns a deep amber color, add the butter and stir until it is melted. Add the heavy cream and whisk until the caramel is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool. (I totally forgot to take a picture of the finished product, but I promise this will turn into caramel!)

Using a large pastry tip or a paring knife, cut a small round piece out of the top of each cupcake. 

This was the first time I had tried this trick for filling cupcakes and it worked like a charm! (FYI it's Cam's hand in the photo, my arms aren't quite that hairy...)
Cam helped me with this part...mainly because I think he wanted to eat the cupcake centers!
Pour in around 1-2 teaspoons of caramel. 

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • Fleur de sel for sprinkling (optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water and cook over medium-high heat. Boil without stirring until it turns a deep amber color. Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream and vanilla, whisking until it is very smooth. Let cool for around 20 minutes, until it’s just barely warm and still pourable. (And yes, you do have to make this second round of caramel because you'll use all of the first batch filling the cupcakes!)

Meanwhile, beat butter and salt together until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat until thoroughly combined. 

Pour in the cooled caramel and beat on medium-high speed until light and airy (around 2 minutes). Spread or pipe onto filled cupcakes (if frosting is too runny, the caramel was too warm when added – refrigerate for around 15-20 minutes until frosting is stiffer). Sprinkle each cupcake with a small pinch of fleur de sel.

My note: I felt the frosting recipe was super buttery, so if when I make these again I might try omitting one stick of butter. To cut down on the buttery flavor, I ended up adding some additional vanilla, powdered sugar, and another 1/4 tsp of salt. At that point I felt like the frosting was salty enough, so instead of topping the cupcakes with salt, I decided to finish them with a coarse crystal sugar...that way I could liberally sprinkle it on without worrying about it being too overpowering, yet it totally gives the illusion of salt! 

 These cupcakes are definitely one of my favorite things I've ever baked, and they're totally worth the effort! Seriously, they are divine! 

I made these cupcakes for a get together over at my friend Natasha's house, and they ended up being a big hit! She and her husband Ryan had us over for dinner along with some of their other friends and it was such a fun evening! I know I've mentioned it on my blog before, but meeting Natasha through the blogging world has been such a godsend since moving to Tahoe, and she has been so welcoming! It was great to get to know some of their friends, and it was definitely the highlight of the weekend. 

One of the great things about Saturday night (besides the cupcakes...) is that it really made me feel good about the idea of starting to open myself to life here in Tahoe. When we lived in South Carolina, people were really welcoming and we (thankfully) met so many wonderful friends. It was really hard to leave all that when we moved, and I wondered if we'd ever be able to find that again. In Boulder, we knew that most likely we weren't going to be there more than six months so I feel like I didn't really put much effort in to trying to make friends. When we moved to Tahoe almost four months ago, it was really tough at first. Where we live is very isolated, and it seemed like it was going to be impossible to meet people. I was really hoping that we'd get to move again because I just couldn't really see living here for the long term. 

But now that some time has gone by, I'm definitely starting to see things differently. Cam is in the process of completing his rotational program with his company, and will be off-boarding in to a full-time position soon. It's extremely likely that we will be staying here in Tahoe for the indefinite future...and I'm honestly happy about it...something I couldn't have envisioned a few months ago. It's really nice to feel like I can finally start to invest myself more in this place knowing that we're not going to be moving right away. Hanging out with Natasha and Ryan and their friends Saturday was so much fun and it just reminded me that there really are nice people wherever you go. I'm looking forward to get to know more people, and I'm going to be attending a blogger meet-up in Sacramento in the beginning of June! Plus, we've been having such gorgeous sunny weather (just check out these pictures from last weekend!) and so I'm really looking forward to the summer here. (And I'm also excited that we already put the deposit down on our ski passes for next season!)

So seeing as it looks like we're going to be in Tahoe for the foreseeable future, Cam and I have decided to move...upstairs! We currently live in a house that is divided in to two apartments, and we lived on the lower floor and another couple rented the upper floor. However, they recently move out and so we made the decision that we wanted to move upstairs. The upper apartment has 2 bedrooms plus a giant loft, 2 bathrooms, a much bigger deck with better views, and overall it's just a lot bigger and brighter than the lower apartment which is only 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom. We figured if we're going to be in Tahoe for awhile, it made sense to have a little more space and I'm totally psyched about it. We had a professional cleaning company come in on Saturday and deep clean the place, and then we started moving our stuff in yesterday. We slept in our new loft bedroom last night, and you can totally see the stars out the window when you're laying in bed which is awesome. 

The not so awesome part? Having to move ALL our stuff. Even if it's only up one flight of stairs, it's still really annoying. (Especially moving the furniture!) We're trying to do it little by little so it doesn't get to overwhelming, but hopefully the process won't drag on for too long! Also, since this place is a little bit bigger I'm already going crazy with ideas of things I want to do (and things I want to buy) to decorate it! The hard part is even though it looks like we'll be in Tahoe for awhile, I know that we're not going to be here forever so we don't want to buy a bunch of furniture for this place that might not work when we move. At the same time, I think this new apartment has some great potential so I want to make it look nice. The top priorities at the moment are: getting some patio furniture (preferably a table, chairs, and some chaise lounges would be great!), buying a new grill (we sold ours when we moved to South Carolina because our apartment didn't allow them), getting a new kitchen table (we sold our kitchen table when we left Colorado because we didn't have space for it in the downstairs apartment), and possibly putting up some new curtains. I'm scouring Pinterest for some good DIY ideas and we'll hopefully be doing some shopping over the next few weeks. Once we get everything moved in, I'll definitely be sharing some pictures! 

Alrighty, this post is getting crazy long so I think that's enough for today! Have a great Monday everyone! (And bake these cupcakes, you'll thank me!) Xoxo

PS: Making these cupcakes totally reminded me that I made some Salted Caramel Ice Cream a few months ago and never shared the on the lookout for that soon! :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Mom and Dad Visit Tahoe!

Happy Friday everyone! 

I ended up taking a little break from the blog the last few days, but I'm back baby! My parents left on Tuesday morning, and then I've had a busy week (as usual) with work. And then Wednesday night, Cam and I drove to Reno to see The Shins in concert! It was a lot of fun, but I haven't had any time to go through all the photos that I took during my parents' visit...until last night! I was going to break the pictures up in to multiple posts, but instead I thought I'd share them in one massive goes!

My parents got in on Friday afternoon, and they rented a condo only a few minutes from our house right near Heavenly Ski Resort. We spent a lot of time there during their visit as it was a little more roomy than our place :)

 My parents went out to visit some of my mom's relatives in the Bay area before coming to Tahoe, and so her cousin Mike came along with my parents for the weekend. Mike has spent a time out in Tahoe, so it was fun for him to revisit it, plus we all had a nice time hanging out together. Saturday we had gorgeous weather, so we decided to take the Heavenly Gondola up to get some good views of the lake. It was absolutely breathtaking!

After the gondola ride, hanging out at the ski lodge, and checking out Heavenly Village, we decided to drive around the lake. We stopped by Emerald Bay, which is one of the prettiest spots on the lake to take a few photos.

There were a few ambulances that went by, and Lola started howling her face off when she heard the sirens! Everyone had a good laugh over that. After taking in the beautiful scenery at Emerald Bay, we drove up to Truckee for lunch. We ate lunch at Fifty Fifty Brewing Company, and it was excellent!

After lunch, we continued our drive around Lake Tahoe and the views were stunning thanks to the blue skies and sunshine! We stopped at this great overlook point on the Nevada side right before you get to Cave's such a pretty spot, we'll definitely be coming back here this summer!

Sunday, we went out for brunch in South Lake Tahoe and then took Lola for a walk around our house. We spent the rest of the day showing my parents around Nevada--we stopped by Cam's office in Minden, took them through the old western towns of Genoa and Virginia City, and then stopped for diner in Reno.

This is the view from Cam's office...pretty amazing!

It was awesome to have my parents here, and we had a lot of fun spending time with them and showing them our new home. They could not have come on a more perfect weekend, and it was so nice to be able to enjoy the beautiful weather together. I'm already looking forward to their next visit!

Have a great weekend everyone! Xoxo

{PS: Is anyone else having problems scheduling their posts? I had set this to post earlier this morning and it didn't work! #bloggerfail If anyone knows how I can fix this, let me know!}


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