Caramel Cake Cupcakes Inspired by The Help | Cupcake Project

Caramel Cake Cupcakes Inspired by The Help

Have you read The Help yet?

If you haven’t, do it now – before the movie comes out. I promise there are no book spoilers in this post.  The only spoiling going on here is the spoiling of your guests when you serve them these caramel cake cupcakes.

One of the main characters in The Help is a maid named Minny. Like some covet clothes from Sex and The City, I wanted to taste Minny’s caramel cake.

Minny near bout the best cook in Hinds County, maybe even all a Mississippi.  The Junior League Benefit come around ever fall and they be wanting her to make ten caramel cakes to auction off.  She ought a be the most sought-after help in the state.

Since I can’t buy caramel cake from Minny and I don’t have a maid that makes caramel cake (I did have a cleaning lady growing up who made incredible stuffed peppers, but that’s not quite the same thing), I had to find the recipe that Minny would have used – and turn it into a cupcake.

I succeeded.

When I served these caramel cake cupcakes to St. Louis local food blogger and friend Andrew, he tweeted:

This is just the sort of thing that someone would have said about Minny’s caramel cake, so I knew that I must have done something right.

About Caramel Cake

When I first started researching, trying to find Minny’s recipe, I didn’t know anything about caramel cakes.  I quickly learned that the caramel cakes are not cakes flavored with caramel (I was a bit surprised about that).  Rather, they are a sweet white or yellow cake that is typically served as a layer cake with caramel between the layers and on top.  What makes or breaks caramel cake is not the cake itself, but the quality of the caramel.  I dare say that even a boxed yellow cake, if topped with the proper caramel, could make for a notable caramel cake.  But, if you are going to spend thirty minutes making caramel, you might as well take the time to make your cake from scratch. The cake recipe is a single bowl recipe – super easy!

Converting Caramel Cake to Caramel Cake Cupcakes

Because with a layered caramel cake you would get to taste caramel in the middle and on the top of your bite, I felt that only using caramel icing on a caramel cupcake would not provide the correct cake to caramel proportion.  To remedy this problem, I opted to use the caramel as both an icing and a cupcake filling.
With this decision, I may have taken things a bit too far. The caramel to cake ratio was almost 1:1 (far higher than Minny’s cake would have been, and a bit too sweet for me), but caramel fans went crazy for it.  It’s like eating cake and candy at the same time.  If I were making these again just for me, I’d skip the filling, but for a crowd pleasing show stopper, fill ‘er up!

Caramel Cake Cupcake Recipe

I got the caramel cake recipe from Debbie of  My Yellow Bluff.  Sure, Debbie is from Georgia – not Mississippi – but the story of how she got the caramel cake recipe made me think that this recipe is just the sort of recipe Minny would have used:

My mom, SaSa, has a passion for baking cakes, and she worked for years to get this recipe just right.  “Taste this,” she’d say to me.  “I want it to be as good as Mrs. Carroll’s caramel cake.”  Mom patterned her caramel cake after a lady in the church who baked a variety of cakes for sale.  Her caramel cake was always a crowd pleaser at any event.  Instead of the sugary-sweet-“hard”-caramel icing of many caramel cakes, Mrs. Carroll’s cake smacked of greatness with a smooth, buttery, creamy caramel icing.  Mom tested her version time and again.  Finally, one day I said to Mom, “That’s it.  You’ve mastered the icing.  I can die happy now.”  The forkful of caramel cake melted in my mouth.  Like Mrs. Carroll’s cake, we loved it from our first taste.

Huge thanks to Debbie, SaSa, and Mrs. Carroll for this wonderful recipe.  My adaptation of their creation is below.  The only major change that I made (other than converting the recipe to cupcakes) is to use all butter rather than Crisco and margarine.  I know that Crisco would have been more authentic.  Minny even tells her employer that Crisco is “the most important invention in the kitchen since jarred mayonnaise.”  But, I don’t like baking with partially hydrogenated oils.

Caramel Cake Cupcakes Inspired by The Help

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Caramel Cake Cupcakes Inspired by The Help

Ingredients

  • 1/2 C unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 C flour
  • 1 C sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (The first time that I made this recipe I misread it and used 2% milk instead of sweetened condensed milk. The cupcakes still turned out fine. They were just a lot denser and the recipe made only nine cupcakes. But, if you want to make these tonight and you don't have any sweetened condensed milk in your cupboard, just use milk.)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • caramel icing (see my post on caramel icing for the recipe - prepare the caramel icing while the cupcakes are cooling so it's still warm and easy to work with)

Instructions

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, cream butter and sugar.
  2. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  3. Add flour and sweetened condensed milk alternately into the mixture.
  4. Add vanilla.
  5. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.
  6. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until cupcakes bounce back when touched lightly are are slightly browned on top.
  7. To make filled cupcakes: When cupcakes are cool, use a paring knife or a cupcake corer (I'll have more info on the cupcake corer in an upcoming post) to cut a chunk out of the center of the cupcake. Fill the entire hole with caramel. Immediately eat the part of the cupcake that you removed (it will be our little secret).
  8. Frost the tops of the cupcakes (right over the filled hole) with the remaining caramel.
  9. Serve while the caramel is still hot and gooey or wait until it hardens some. Either way, people will be asking you to bring them to their next gathering.
http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2010/09/caramel-cake-cupcakes-inspired-by-help.html

 

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35 Responses to Caramel Cake Cupcakes Inspired by The Help

  1. Hillbilly Betty / Waylon Aussies September 6, 2010 at 3:52 am #

    Oh my stars and garters, I’m dying to try this cupcake! I adore caramel cake and could eat it until I get sick. My mother in law makes me a special caramel cake with a chocolate-mayonnaise cake for my birthday. (She also made one for me after I gave her a grandchild! :-) )

    I also am a big proponent of using butter instead of Crisco, so that is a plus too. Now I just need to hit my next weight loss goal so that I can celebrate with such a worthy treat!

  2. gale Reeves September 6, 2010 at 6:46 am #

    I loved the book, “The Help.” Thanks for sharing this recipe. My sister in law loves caramel cake; she gets hers from the bakery. I don’t know if I can compete with the bakery, but this recipe offers inspiration! I’ve tried the ‘two pan’ caramel process once before. I made something harder than a sugar daddy candy, if you remember those. That was NOT what I was trying to make. :)

  3. Traci September 6, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    These look divine!

    And I’m just glad you didn’t decide to try making Minny’s pie ;)

    I got the opportunity to meet Kathryn Stockett and Octavia Spencer, the actress who is playing Minny in the movie, last May as part of my library’s Community Read celebration. She’s the cutest, tiniest, little blonde southern lady and she speaks sooooo eloquently. I can’t wait til she has a new book and I definitely can’t wait for the movie version of The Help. (Oh, and FYI to people who are audiobook fans — the audiobook of The Help was almost better than the book because it was a multiple-cast reading and produced SO well!)

  4. Joy September 6, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    I love, loved that book. I have been wanting to try a caramel cake for a while. Great recipe.

  5. Pink Little Cake September 7, 2010 at 6:38 am #

    What an interesting book! I go for the butter instead of the crisco. I do have a caramel addiction. I will try these cupcakes for sure.

  6. Jenny September 7, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    Hi Stef!
    Been following your blog for some time (I’m a classic lurker) – great work! I was at IFBC recently and got a cupcake corer (as well as a flower-shaped cupcake pan – the slots were flower-shaped, not the pan). I won’t use these myself, but I’m more than happy to give them to you if you can put them to good use. I’m a baker too, but cupcakes aren’t my fetish. Figure I could share with someone who might appreciate them more than our local Goodwill. Game? Drop me a note (the contact me link at the bottom of my site – didn’t know if these comments would strip out my address).

    Jenny

  7. ruthhill74 September 7, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    That book is the next book on my list to read! What a great recipe. Thanks for sharing!!

  8. Marisa September 8, 2010 at 7:12 am #

    My goodness these look scrumptious! Although I think it’d take a lot of self control on my part to not devour the entire bowl of caramel icing before I spread it on the cupcakes. *ahem*

  9. Eliana September 8, 2010 at 9:41 am #

    You just reminded me that I must pick up this book. I have heard nothing but great things about it.

  10. Kamaile September 8, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    Mmmm…these look fabulous. I’ve loved your recent book recommendations too.

  11. Jennifer September 10, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    Oh wow these look SO fabulous! I love a good southern caramel cake! Great book rec, thanks!

  12. Sara September 11, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    Gorgeous – I love these! I so need to eat some. :)

  13. The Urban Baker September 12, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    oh how I loved that book! while reading it I made my caramel cake. but , mini caramel cakes – now that’s what I am talkin about! these look amazing!

  14. CRISTINA September 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    They really look so divine and tempting!!!
    I use real “Dulce De Leche” from
    Argentina. Is close to caramel, but different. Or you can boil (“bain Marie”) a can of condensed milk for 1&1/2 hrs. Home made takes too long.
    I also “wet” the cupcakes with a bit of port wine before adding the dulce de leche and the topping.
    I call them “Happy Hour Cupcakes”.

  15. Stef September 15, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    Traci – Thanks for the tip on the audio book!

    Christina – That sounds really tasty, but as much as I love dulce de leche, it doesn’t have quite the same flavor as caramel. It’s just as good, but different.

  16. Natasha @ Saved by the Egg Timer April 19, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    Funny, I just started The Help last night. When I read about the Caramel Cake, I noted in my head to look up a recipe for it. Perfect! I found your blog today and already have a list of recipe to make :) I am going to make the Cocoa Nib frosting…I am always wondering more things to do with thos elittle nibs. I love how you talk about the quality of ingredients, it really does matter.

  17. Anonymous June 23, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    Since I read The Help I have been dying to make caramel cake. I grew up eating caramel cake as well but I’m not from Mississippi. The women in my family have always boiled sweatened condensed milk cans for about 3-4 hours (with the peper labels removed) and they turn out to be some of the best tasting caramel ever! I long for this caramel taste so that’s how I always like my caramel, it also stays soft and fluffy (easier to spread). Try it, you might just enjoy it =)

  18. Kat September 6, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    Those look amazing! I’ve been searching for the perfect caramel cupcake recipe and hopefully, this will do the trick! Just a question though, are they fluffy? Or more on the dense side? Thanks!

  19. Katy October 8, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    Considering that this recipe doesn’t call for any leavening agents, would it be all right to use self-risen flour instead if all-purpose?

  20. Anonymous October 19, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Is this recipe missing the leavening? I looked up the source recipe and it didn’t post any leavening either. So….. I made the cupcake recipe into a cake and added some powder and soda and it collapsed. I’m ready to start over but don’t want to waste any more ingredients. Please advise :)

  21. Sara Garcia December 18, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    First of all…YUM! I am going to make these for a party this Thursday. Do you think I could freeze them and they would keep ok? I was planning on making them either Tuesday or Wednesday. Thanks for the recipe!

  22. Stef December 18, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    Sorry, it’s taken me LONG time to get back to some of you. But here are my responses:

    Anon – I’ve made that before. It’s yummy!

    Kat – They were fluffy.

    Katy – That would probably be fine.

    Anon – Just leave them out. They are not needed.

    Sara – If you make them on tue. or wed. they will still be perfect on Thur. You won’t need to freeze them. But, yes, they do freeze well.

  23. Elisa December 22, 2011 at 6:08 am #

    Love caramel cake.
    I’m going to try these today and wanted to know if they need to be refrigerated?
    Thanks!

  24. N.G January 31, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

    i’m confused with my understanding of ur recipe.should i use baking powder or backing soda or not?

  25. Stef February 9, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    Elisa – Sorry I never got back to you. For future reference, they don’t need to be refrigerated.

    N.G. – No. This recipe does not call for any.

  26. Anonymous September 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    I just made the cake version and it sure seems to need leaving agent. Has anyone tried the cake with leaving agents? Did it rise better? I bake all the time and have never had a recipe without them.

  27. Anonymous January 23, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    Hi there :) I’ve recently found your blog while searching for some interesting cupcakes recipes. And honestly, I’m delighted with the amount of recipes and ideas. I just love this blog. I decided to try and bake caramel cake cupcakes. And I don’t know what I did wrong, but first they rose so they looked nice and fluffy and next thing I knew they just fell in so that there was a great hole in every muffin. I didn’t need to use a cupcake corer :P Maybe it’s because I used some baking powder? Or my sugar didn’t dissolve properly? What do you think? And if you could tell me how many milliliters or grams is a cup it would be a great help for me. I used a normal glass(250ml) but maybe that was too much? I’m a beginner in baking cupcakes so each advice is very precious :) Thanks :)

  28. Beginning Baker January 25, 2013 at 7:07 am #

    What kind of flour does this call for? Self rising, all purpose, or cake flour? I hate to waste ingredients. Thank you :)

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