Steamed Salted Caramel Cupcakes, or Salted Apam Gula Hangus, or Werther's Original Cupcakes: How to Make Cupcakes in a Steamer | Cupcake Project

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Steamed Salted Caramel Cupcakes, or Salted Apam Gula Hangus, or Werther’s Original Cupcakes: How to Make Cupcakes in a Steamer

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Q: What do you do if your oven is broken and you need to make cupcakes?

A: Steam cupcakes, of course.

My oven was not broken, however I decided that it would be fun to try to make cupcakes in the steamer. For those who might be interested in trying alternative ways of making cupcakes, I present to you my report on reasons to and reasons not to make cupcakes in the steamer:

Advantages of Making Cupcakes in the Steamer

1. Steamed cupcakes have a nice, spongy texture.

2. If your entire oven is in use (or you don’t have a working oven), you can still make cupcakes.

Disadvantages of Making Cupcakes in the Steamer

1. Unless you have a giant commercial steamer, you can only make four cupcakes at a time. Note: I told Bride and Groom 2.0 that I will not be making steamed cupcakes for their wedding. It would take forever!

2. Because the cupcakes are not in a cupcake tin, they spread out and don’t have as nice of a shape.

Verdict: To Steam or Not To Steam, That is the Question

I do not plan on steaming cupcakes again. It could happen, but it just doesn’t seem worth the effort. If you have steamed cupcakes or have any good reasons why you would steam cupcakes, please let me know in the comments.

It All Started With Fleur de Sel

The steamed cupcake began its life with a comment by Food Vagabond on my post about dulce de leche. The Vagabond suggested an alternate way of making dulce de leche that involved fleur de sel. I had actually never heard of fleur de sel. It turns out that it’s a very expensive kind of salt ($15 for a tiny bag at the two stores I found it in). The Vagabond’s email review of it, however, had me sold:

“I prefer fleur de sel for almost any use (other than salting the pasta water maybe!) since I discovered it, because I love the taste and the ‘crunch’ – doesn’t dissolve immediately like normal salt but doesn’t remain rock hard like, well, rock salt. ”

I had to buy some! Since I had just made dulce de leche, I wanted to use it for something else. I decided to opt for salted caramel.

Steamed Caramel Cupcakes – Apam Gula Hangus

In doing my research on caramel cupcakes, I found that steamed caramel cupcakes are popular on the streets on Malaysia. According to Inside Nyanya’s Kitchen, the actual name is apam gula hangus – literally translated: burnt sugar steamed cupcake. I added the fleur de sel to mine to make it a salted steamed caramel cupcake or a salted apam gula hangus. Cultural insensitivities aside, saying that name out loud makes me laugh. Go ahead, say it.

Where’s the Frosting?

None of the recipes I found for apam gula hangus called for frosting. This simply would not do. There has been much debate about what makes something a cupcake. I posted about the difference between a cupcake and a muffin very early on in the project. More recently, I Heart Cuppycakes and Quirky Cupcakes posted something about the difference. Even more recently, Tempered Woman’s husband called my beer cheese cupcakes into question as not being cupcakes (this post is
definitely worth a read, btw, as it’s hilarious.) I did not want these cupcakes debated.

The short of it is, I thought these cupcakes had better have some frosting or I was going to get lots of crap.

I opted for a salted caramel frosting. I used it in two ways. I poked holes in the cupcakes and drizzled lots of caramel inside of them. Then, I put the caramel in the fridge until it hardened more and spread it on top. It still ended up looking more like a glaze. Whether glaze counts as frosting is up for additional debate. I say, “Yes!”

The Steamed Salted Caramel Cupcake (Salted Apam Gula Hangus) Review

These cupcakes tasted exactly like Werther’s Originals.

I had to go for the Asian commercial since these are Asian-inspired cupcakes. I have no idea what these people are saying, but if the candy makes you smile like it does this child, you would surely love these cupcakes. Bride 2.0 even said it was like the candy in cake format and I didn’t even prompt her for the quote.

The Steamed Salted Caramel Cupcake (Salted Apam Gula Hangus) Recipe

I got the recipe for this cupcake from Pusiva’s Culinary Studio. I have reprinted the recipe below. The only change from the original was to add the fleur de sel. A VERY important point about this recipe is that it did not state how many cupcakes it would make. As it turns out it, it only made 6 cupcakes. Definitely double it if you would like more than 6.

I got the salted caramel frosting recipe from Vanilla Garlic. He used it on Apple Cardamom cupcakes which make me drool just looking at them.

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Steamed Salted Caramel Cupcakes, or Salted Apam Gula Hangus, or Werther’s Original Cupcakes: How to Make Cupcakes in a Steamer

Servings 6 cupcakes. Double if you would like more.


Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 t fleur de sel or any salt of your choice
  • 1 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/3 cup milk

Salted Caramel Frosting Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons of butter
  • 3/4 cup of sugar or vanilla sugar
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt I used fleur de sel


Cupcake Instructions

  1. Melt the sugar on very low heat. When the color turns golden brown, immediately remove from heat and pour in the boiling water. (Note: This takes 10-15 minutes) Return to the heat and stir until the caramelized sugar dissolves in the water. Stir in fleur de sel. Remove from heat and cool completely.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Mix cooled caramel syrup, egg, sugar, melted butter and milk. Stir well until sugar dissolves. Combine the wet ingredients to the sifted flour mixture. Whisk gently until it is lump free. Pour the batter into cupcake liners until 3/4 full. Steam on high for 15 minutes. (Note: Be careful not to burn yourself when removing the cupcakes from the steamer. I used tongs.) Let the cupcakes cool.

Salted Caramel Frosting Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a large, deep heavy-duty saucepan. Stir in the sugar and and stir until golden brown. (Note: Do this on low to medium heat. The first time I did it, I did it on high and everything burnt. This should take about 10 minutes.)
  2. Take off the heat and pour in half the cream and whisk like a crazy person until the caramel is smooth. Whisk in the rest of the cream and the salt.

Cupcake Assembly

  1. Poke holes in the cupcakes and drizzle copious amounts of the caramel into them.Chill the rest of the caramel in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Once it is thicker, spread the caramel over the cupcakes.

Another Way to Bake Cupcakes Without an Oven

For another way to bake cupcakes without an oven, check out the crockpot cupcake experiment.

Love it? Share it!

27 comments on “Steamed Salted Caramel Cupcakes, or Salted Apam Gula Hangus, or Werther’s Original Cupcakes: How to Make Cupcakes in a Steamer”

  1. Hi Stef,

    Steaming cupcakes is totally new to me, so I really enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for the pros and cons of steaming. If I ever get a serious cupcake hankering when my oven is broken, I’ll know what to do. :)

  2. i’m making meatloaf cupcakes with ketchup/worcestershire and cumin glaze for my son’s first birthday. i’ll post a recipe on my food blog ( i get some pictures of it, and i’ll send you the link!

  3. CB says:

    So interesting! I wonder how the cupcakes would hold up steaming in PNCs? They are stiffer so I assume would hold their shape better. Now if I only had a steamer. haha. Great read as always…

  4. I am glad I have introduced another foodie to a delicious something! If you want to learn more about fleur de sel do have a look at and
    Try adding it after cooking to your dishes (on the plate). It is expensive but does taste so much better!
    Btw, never heard of steamed cupcakes before!

  5. Man are you one clever cupcake or what?!?! I love your passion for the science of cupcakery. I apologize for my husband as well ;-)
    I’m a huge fan for the salted caramel (especially in ice cream, drool). Cupcake Bakeshop has a frosting recipe that has turned out really well for me. *in case you’re worried about the frosting vs. glaze controversy.
    I’ll admit~ I personally view frosting as a fundamental food group.

  6. Nikki57 says:

    Very Interesting. I think I need to give them a try purely for the thrill of it

  7. Stef says:

    Susan – Glad you learned something!

    Piano – That sounds interesting! I look forward to seeing your post.

    CB – Good point. I bet that would work better.

    Vagabond – Thanks again for all the tips!

    Tempered – Thanks! I actually thought about using that cupcake bakeshop recipe. Glad to hear a review of it.

    Nikki – Hah! Let me know if you do.

  8. ~M says:

    I wonder if you could make cucpcakes in a crockpot – if you had a large oval one, you might be able to fit 6. I’ve seen quick breads cooked in crockpots, with something (like a chopstick) to keep the lid slightly ajar.

  9. i’d eat those.

    had salted caramel ice cream at Niche the other night. my hubby’s favorite.

  10. Stef says:

    M – Intersting. I may have to give crockpot cupcakes a go sometime.

    CW – I’ve never tried the ice cream flavor. That would be yummy on some apple pie.

  11. pumpkinpie says:

    Your cake looks similar to the delicious golden cake made in giant bamboo steamers at our favorite dim sum restaurants here in Hong Kong. Mmm!

  12. pumpkinpie says:

    Now that I think about it, most people in Hong Kong don’t even have an oven. Everything is cooked in a wok or steamer. There are cake shops here but their American-style cakes taste terrible. It is a bad sign when you walk past a bakery and there is no enticing smell. Baking at home is a challenge because the humidity is very high, so maybe steamed cake is the way to go.

  13. Stef: THAT’S WHAT IT WAS ON!!! You are a smartie!! It was more like an apple cobbler…not pie…but almost the same thing.

  14. Cakespy says:

    WOW, I never knew you could do this! It looks wonderful, I wonder if it makes them more bagel-y (in terms of being chewier)?

  15. Stef says:

    Pumpkin – Interesting. Thanks for sharing!

    CW – Hah! Go me!

    Cakespy – They weren’t chewy at all. They were very airy.

  16. Chris says:

    Playing with salts is fun.

    Yeah they are pricey, but it isn’t like you use a cup at a time.

  17. hi stef,
    thanx for dropping by my blog! i followed your blog all throughout your trials and tribulations in preparation for the wedding cupcake project and was so happy to see how it all turned out! i’m a big fan….love all your experiments!

  18. YvonneM says:

    Hi Steph, good job on the steamed cupcake. I’m from Malaysia and couldn’t resist posting a suggestion for frosting. Coconut! Many of the local steamed cakes have coconut as an ingredient – coconut milk blended with other ingredients or grated coconut (with a little salt and sugar) to top the cake.
    Your frosting of salted caramel is an inspired complement to the apam!
    Well done!

  19. Stef says:

    Chris – Yeah, more fun with salt is definitely in my future. :)

    Airy – Thanks! I love to know that people are reading and enjoying. It always makes my day!

    Yvonnem – Oooh.. that would be so yummy! Too bad Bride and Groom 2.0 have banned coconut. Perhaps after this wedding I’ll give it a try.

  20. Ok, that’s it! i HAVE to make these cupcakes. Let’s blame it on pregnancy, because that makes it acceptable. My sesame-sized child NEEDS these cupcakes. However, i would really rather bake them. Do you have any suggestions as far temp/time in the oven? Thanks!

  21. Stef says:

    Piano – Hmmm… I honestly don’t know how these would work baked. The recipe is really designed to be steamed. What you might consider doing is making a basic yellow cupcake and drizzling the salted caramel inside it and putting it on top. You could also cut a hole in the cupcake and just dump some caramel right in there. Then again, you could just try following the recipe and baking it at 350 for 20 min. I will not promise results though.

  22. Anaylli says:

    These look delicious!! Anything that tastes like Werther’s (man i haven’t had those in so long!) has go to be amazing…

  23. Anonymous says:

    My steamer is a 3 tiered electric one. I also have latex baking trays, so I’m thinking i could cut one into 3 and steam 12 cupcakes at a time. I am definitely going to try this!

    Lisa (i dont have a blogger thing)

  24. Caroline says:

    hahahaha, the vid isn’t asian, it’s in swedish :D Probably some goofers who dubbed the original commercial, cause it says something about that the candy has morfin and sleeping pills in it so the kids aren’t as messy.. Tralala, my english sux xD

    and this was kind of an unnecessary post, but now you know :]

  25. Anonymous says:

    these sounds so interesting! i’m actually of indian descent and we are no stranger to steamed cakes (various different “appams) we have a contraption we use to make idli (a disk shaped steamed cake, i wonder how well it would hold up with a cupcake liners perhaps silicone liners? I can’t wait to try these!

  26. Naomi says:

    This is similar to making Boston Brown Bread which is steamed in used tin cans. Maybe this would work better than cupcake liners for keeping the cupcakes uniformly round and maybe even a bit bigger. Just a thought. I live in Vietnam where there are no ovens and will definately try your recipe.

  27. Lyanna says:

    Hey Stef,

    I’m a Malaysian baker and I just wanted to say how thrilled I am that you added a Malaysian-based cupcake to your list. Cheers! :)


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