Being in the position I’m in can be very stressful, with lots of uncertainty in the future and I’m not the best at dealing with it. That’s why I’m so grateful for wonderful co-workers who help keep me grounded, make me laugh and always know how to calm me down. They are the best; and while terrible at our short lived diet plans, I still love them. Eating healthy is hard when you work in a dermatology office that seems to have an endless supply of girl scout cookies and leftover cake. So when it was my funniest friend’s birthday, I obviously had to make cupcakes, to contribute to the problem.
I toyed with a few flavor ideas, but ultimately decided on turtle because, 1) I had all the ingredients and 2) who doesn’t love a turtle sundae. It’s basically a super moist, yet sturdy, cupcake base, topped with a caramel cream cheese frosting, ganache and a caramel pecan filling. “Some people” were a little worried about how nuts would taste on a cupcake, but I assure you, you have nothing to fear. It was delicious. If I had to make them again, I would probably double the caramel and pipe some caramel filling, or scoop some caramel pecan filling, into the center. I also used low fat sour cream (because it’s what I had), but no one complained :-)!
Makes 2 dozen
For the cupcakes:
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup sour cream
For the caramel and filling:
½ cup sugar
½ cups heavy cream, warmed
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (optional)
¼ tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup chopped pecans
For the frosting:
12 oz. cream cheese, cold
12 tbsp. (6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tbsp. caramel sauce (recipe above)
2¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of coarse salt
For the chocolate ganache:
2 oz chopped bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 T. butter
- Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and hot water and whisk until smooth. In another medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk to blend.
- Combine the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth and the butter is completely melted. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is cool, about 4-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let cool in the pan about 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the caramel, spread the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place over medium-low heat, watching carefully. When the sugar begins to liquefy around the edges, use a heatproof spatula to gently stir it towards the center. Continue stirring very gently until all the sugar is melted, taking care not to over stir. Measure out the heavy cream in a liquid measuring cup and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream. Set aside. Once the caramel reaches a deep amber color, immediately remove the sauce pan from the heat. (To test the color, spoon a drop onto a white plate or bowl.) Carefully pour half of the heavy cream into the saucepan in a steady stream down the edge of the pan, whisking constantly. The mixture will steam and bubble violently. Stir until the cream is well incorporated, then whisk in the remaining cream. Stir in the salt and the vanilla. If any sugar has seized or hardened, place the saucepan over low heat and whisk until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. If you desired, double the recipe and pipe a small dollop of caramel into the center of each cupcake at this time.
- To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese, butter, and caramel sauce in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar and salt at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag with a large round tip. Pipe a heavy swirl of frosting over the top of each cupcake. Use the tip of a small offset spatula or a small spoon to scoop an indentation out of the center of the frosting.
- To make the chocolate ganache, chop chocolate and place in a small bowl. Heat heavy cream in a saucepan or carefully in the microwave until hot. Pour over chocolate. Let sit for 1-2 minutes, then stir until smooth. Stir in 1 T butter. Let sit at room temperature until desired consistency.
- In a small bowl, mix together of the caramel sauce and the chopped pecans. Fill the indentations in the frosting with a small spoonful of the caramel-pecan mixture. Drizzle the cupcakes with additional caramel sauce, chocolate ganache, and sprinkle with additional chopped pecans, if desired.
Recipe from Annie’s Eats
I know you are probably up to your ears in left over Halloween candy, and the last thing you want to think about is making your own candy….but I promise you, these are worth it! This recipe has been circulating the internet for over a year, and despite coming from THE Smitten Kitchen, I was still a bit hesitant as to whether these would actually taste like apple cider. Well my friends, I can attest to ahhhmazingness of these caramels. Somehow, magically, they do indeed taste like apple cider. (Or maybe not so magically….you do use an entire quart of the stuff and boil it down to a mere 1/3 cup to infuse the caramel with cider flavor).
I actually had made these for our pumpkin carving party, but because of the unpredictable nature of intern year (and medicine in general), I was 2 hours late to my own party…. so instead, I have been enjoying these myself for the past 2 weeks. (Good thing I’m not the dentist in the family…) I also insist that everyone who comes to our house tries at least one – and the response is always the same….”ahhhhmazing.” So before cider is gone until next fall, make these. You won’t regret it.
Apple Cider Caramels
Makes 64 caramels
- 4 cups apple cider
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, or less of a finer one
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
Boil the apple cider in a 3- to- 4- quart saucepan over high heat until it is reduced to a dark, thick syrup, between 1/3 and 1/2 cup in volume, stirring occasionally. This took about 1 hour on my stove.
Line the bottom and sides of an 8- inch straight- sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment, then butter. Set it aside. Stir the cinnamon and flaky salt together in a small dish.
Once you are finished reducing the apple cider, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter, sugars, and heavy cream. Return the pot to medium- high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 252 degrees, about 5 minutes. Do not take your eyes off it as it burns quickly.
Immediately remove caramel from heat, add the cinnamon- salt mixture, and give the caramel several stirs to distribute it evenly. Pour caramel into the prepared pan. Let it sit until cool and firm—about 2 hours, though it goes faster in the fridge. Once caramel is firm, use your parchment paper sling to transfer the block to a cutting board. Use a well- oiled or buttered knife to cut the caramel into 1-by-1-inch squares. Sprinkle with additional flaky sea salt if desired. Wrap each one in a 4-inch square of parchment or waxed paper twisting the sides to close. Caramels will be somewhat on the soft side at room temperature, and chewy/firm from the fridge.
Caramels keep, in an airtight container at room temperature.
Source: Smitten Kitchen
Sometimes I take for granted that certain things are not common knowledge. Now I’m not talking about fancy medical terms, chemistry or physics here, I’m just talking about day-to-day life stuff that you can’t actually put a finger on when, or how you learned it – you just know it and therefore assume that others must too. Well turtle sundaes were an example of such knowledge. I mean I literally have no idea when I discovered a turtle sundae, but I definetely just assumed it was common knowledge that they consist of pecans, hot fudge and caramel. Well let me tell you folks, this is not the case.
The first time I suggested that John get a turtle sundae – he didn’t know what it was! Blasphemy! After he ordered it and thought it was amazing, he was shocked to discover that almost every major ice cream shop in America makes some type of turtle sundae! How did he go so long without discovering this? Well I’m guessing it’s because he only recently started frequenting ice cream shops on a regular basis (perhaps because his wife has an unhealthy obsession with ice cream.) Imagine that :-).
When I was trying to figure out what type of birthday cake I wanted to make for John’s brother, the only request I got was “cheesecake”. Well the list of cheesecake possibilities was quite overwhelming, but I decided on this one because I was hoping that the love of turtle sundaes would run in the family. I was really looking for something that incorporated all parts of the turtle sundae into the cheesecake (not just as toppings), and I couldn’t really find one, so instead I put together a few of the things I liked best about different recipes. The results were well worth it. The crust is to-die-for and I think it would probably work well in a variety of recipes. After eating a slice of this, my sister-in-law who is from Turkey exclaimed that cheesecake may be America’s greatest invention :-). Be fairly warned, it is really hard to eat more than a sliver of this because it’s quite rich, but if you find yourself with leftovers, I think this would freeze wonderfully.
P.S. Sorry I’ve been MIA from the blog lately. Surgery clerkship has gotten the best of me. It’s true what they say – you really do work 14 hour days, but for the most part I’ve really been enjoying it. Future surgeon? We shall see….
– Make 1- 9 inch round
For the Crust:
- 1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
- 2/3 cup finely ground pecans
- 3 T. packed brown sugar
- 6 T. melted butter
For the Filling:
- 4 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened (I used 2 regular, 2- 1/3 less fat)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup PLUS 1 teaspoon flour, divided
- 2 T. heavy whipping cream
- 1- ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ cup milk chocolate chips, melted and cooled
- 1/3 cup ice cream caramel sauce (Will be posting a homemade and easy recipe soon)
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
For the Topping:
- 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream PLUS 1-2 tablespoons depending on preference
- Pecan halves and additional caramel topping for garnish
To Make the Crust:
- Pre heat oven to 400 F. Wrap 9-inch spring foam pan with heavy duty foil or parchment-foil paper (this is all I had and it worked wonderfully). Be sure to wrap both sides of the pan because you don’t want any water seeping through the cracks when you bake it in a water bath.
- Mix all crust ingredients until combined. Press into 9 inch pan, pressing firmly and evenly. Bake at 400° for 15-18 minutes. Let cool completely before filling.
To Make the Filling:
- In a large bowl beat cream cheese and sugars until well combined. Then beat in 1/4 cup of flour, vanilla, and eggs until well combined.
- Remove a heaping cup of cream cheese mixture and combine with melted chocolate. Pour mixture over cooled crust.
- Combine pecans, caramel sauce and flour (not pictured here because I forgot it, but add it to stop caramel from leaking). Drop pecan mixture over chocolate layer.
- Pour remaining plain cream cheese mixture over top and spread evenly. Place spring foam pan in a large, deep pan and add about 1 inch of water to larger pan to create a water bath.
- TURN OVEN DOWN to 325º and bake for about 1 hour 20 minutes, or until the top appears dull. Carefully remove springfoam pan from water bath, and cool for 10 minutes. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
To Make the Topping
- Place chocolate chips in a heat-proof measuring cup. Bring cream to a boil over medium heat. Pour hot cream over chocolate chips and stir to combine. Pour ganache over cooled cheesecake and spread evenly. *NOTE: if you would like the ganache to drip down the sides, like the effect in this cake, add another tablespoon or 2 of cream to the mixture and make sure it is still very warm when you pour it over the cake.
- Top ganache with pecans, and drizzle caramel sauce before serving.
Inspired by Taste of Home