Caramel Pretzel Chocolate Cupcakes

  • Pretzel Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes

    I never got into the whole pretzel-stuffed-into-or-sprinkled-onto-sweets craze, but because I am an approval-seeker, I’ll put out sometimes to win your love and affection.  (I did make the Pretzel Brownie a few years ago, and actual Pretzels that one time- so I’m hoping you’ll hang out with me until 2018 when I’ll come around and agree to use them in a recipe again.  These cupcakes should do more than satisfy your cravings until then.)

    It’s not that I don’t care for the sweet and salty combo, because I’ve been known to demolish obscene portions* of caramel popcorn mixed with cheese popcorn (a thing that Garrett Popcorn used to call the Chicago Mix until it became illegal for them to call it that anymore. Pesky popcorn patent problems.).  When we first moved to Chicago, we endured the rite of passage known as Standing In The Line At Garrett’s along with all the other antsy and bloated tourists, all hating the people in front of us for taking too long to order &/or pay.  When you’re waiting in line for 15 minutes there’s no excuse for you to not know what you’re going to order when you get to the counter.  It’s not a pop quiz that you didn’t get to study for.  (Oh my- I said pop quiz, about popcorn- how perfect is that?)  And while you’re at it, have your wallet ready, too.  After ordering, they are going to tell you that you owe them money, and that shouldn’t be a fucking surprise.

    After getting our bag of Chicago Mix (which it was legally called back in 2007, fact-checkers), The Husband and I agreed it was worth the humanity-hating wait.  And so began my torrid love affair with all things sweet & salty.  (I also started a love affair around that time where I was staying at the Residence Inn near O’Hare, specifically with with nacho chips and cheddar cheese.  Spending a lot of nights alone while commuting for work will test your culinary morals.)

    *Is it fair to call an entire medium bag of Chicago Mix a portion?  Because I’ve done that before.  Eaten a whole bag.  After eating nachos with cheese heated up in the microwave in a sad hotel near the airport.

    Adapted from my Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake recipe…


    3 cups all-purpose flour

    2 cups sugar

    1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

    2 teaspoons baking soda

    1 teaspoons salt

    2 cups hot water

    3/4 cups vegetable oil

    1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

    1 tablespoon instant coffee granules (or 2 teaspoons instant espresso granules)

    1 tablespoon vanilla extract

    1 cup mini chocolate chips- optional (Enjoy Life brand has great mini chips)

    CARAMEL SAUCE (for frosting):

    1 cup light brown sugar, packed

    1/2 cup whipping cream

    6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

    1/4 cup light corn syrup

    3 1/2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)

    1 teaspoon sea salt flakes


    3/4 cup butter, at room temperature

    2 cups confectioners’ sugar

    1/2 cup salted caramel sauce (from recipe above)

    1. CAKE:
      1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Line a mini-muffin pan with mini-cupcake liners, and spray with non-stick spray (or use a regular muffin pan & liners).
      2. In a large bowl, whisk all dry ingredients (flour through salt) together.
      3. In a measuring cup, stir hot water with oil, vinegar, instant coffee/espresso and vanilla together.  Pour into bowl with dry ingredients and whisk until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips if using.
      4. Pour batter into mini-cupcake pans and bake for 12 – 15 minutes (until cake tester/wooden skewer comes out clean).  If using regular sized cupcakes, bake for about 22 – 25 minutes.  Cool on a cooling rack before frosting.
    2. FROSTING:
      1. CARAMEL SAUCE:  In a deep medium saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar, whipping cream, butter, corn syrup, and salt to boil (whisking until sugar dissolves).  Boil for 1 minute without stirring, then remove from heat.  Stir in bourbon (if using) and salt flakes, then allow to cool to room temperature while stirring occasionally.
      2. FROSTING:  Beat butter with a mixer until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Reduce speed to low, add confectioners’ sugar, and mix until completely incorporated.  Turn off the mixer, and then add the salted caramel sauce.  Beat frosting on low to combine, and then increase to medium-high and beat until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes.  (Add more icing sugar if you’d like a stiffer frosting; add a bit more caramel sauce if you’d like it less stiff.)  Spoon frosting into a piping bag with a decorative tip and generously frost cupcakes.


    • Put the pretzels on the cupcakes right before you serve these.  They’ll get a bit soggy if they sit on the frosting for a while, put it that way. 
    • Vegan?  This cake is vegan, if you skip the frosting (but then it’s not really the intended dessert).
    • Too lazy to make caramel frosting?  Well, I understand.  You can use your favorite store-bought frosting, or Nutella instead.
    • More on the home-made caramel sauce: this recipe is totally easy and makes more than a cup, so you’ll have more than enough to use for the frosting AND freeze for later or even just to eat by the spoonful afterwards while you make dinner.
    • Make a cake if you prefer.  Use two 8″ pans, bake for about 30 – 35 minutes, and spread frosting in-between cooled layers & top of cake.
    • Enjoy!


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    April 24th, 2016 | More Sweets Please | No Comments | Tags: , ,

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