Butter Pecan Caramel Cupcakes

For my birthday I invited all of my friends to toast me at the Bourbon bar in Brooklyn. It took me a long time to think of the type of cupcake would go best with Bourbon but then it became crystal clear. Caramel will match the caramel tones in the Bourbon and butter pecan will pair great with the smoky notes.

Vanilla Cake:
2 3/4 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
½ cup butter flavored shortening
3 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add the shortening, eggs, milk and vanilla and turn the mixer on low. Once the flour is combined turn the mixer on high and beat for at least 5 minutes so that the batter gets fluffy.

Pour the batter into the cupcake liners and bake for at least 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool the cakes in the pan for 5 minutes transfer them to a wire rack and cool completely.

Once the cupcakes are cooled, cut a cone into the top of each cake. Cut off the point of the cone to form a cap for the whole in the cakes. Fill each cake with cooled caramel. Place the cap back on top of the caramel to seal. Cover with a mound of icing and sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Caramel:
1 cup sugar
½ cup cream
1 teaspoon sea salt

Heat the sugar in a heavy medium size saucepan on medium heat. Swirl the sugar occasionally until it liquefies and turns golden brown. Quickly add the cream and salt and return the mixture to the heat. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Let it boil to combine about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Butter Pecan Icing:
½ cup egg whites
1 cup sugar
3 sticks butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons butter flavoring
½ cup chopped pecans

Combine the egg whites and sugar in a metal bowl. Beat with a balloon whisk to combine. Place the bowl over a pot filled with water and heat on medium heat. Keep beating the eggs to dissolve the sugar and the mixture will start to thicken and turn white. When the grit is gone from the eggs, about 20 minutes later, transfer the egg whites to a stand mixer and beat on high to form soft peaks.

Fold the room temperature butter into the eggs and continue to beat on high. Add the salt, vanilla and butter flavoring and beat one last time to combine.

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