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George Caramelin Cupcakes

George Caramelin Cupcakes

Photo credit: Larry Klein, Pork Cracklins

Cooks&Books&Recipes Featured Cook Sheri:

There was no question in my mind when it came to which recipe to make first from Doron Petersan’s Sticky Fingers’ Sweets: 100 Super-Secret Vegan Recipes: the George Caramelin (yes, an ode to George Carlin), one of the winning cupcakes on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. It’s not just that it’s a winning recipe–it also sounded irresistible.

The cupcake starts with chocolate cinnamon cake. Vegan cakes are usually very good and very moist. Most contain some sort of oil, like this one does. It also has a bit of coffee to deepen the chocolate flavor and some coconut milk (the drinking kind, not the kind in the can) for richness and a nice light crumb. I love the hint of cinnamon in the cake.

The recipe says it will make eighteen cupcakes, but I made twelve using regular-size cupcake liners and six using larger liners. I’m guessing I could have gotten at least twenty normal-sized cupcakes out of the batter. And they bake up beautifully, with a nice poofy top.

I should mention that if you’re serving these cupcakes to anyone under the age of 21 or anyone who is alcohol-adverse, stop here. The frosting and the caramel filling have a lot of booze in them! The cake is delicious on its own, or with a bit of powdered sugar on top to finish it off.

The bourbon caramel sauce is a standard wet caramel (cook sugar and water together until it’s brown). But then in goes bourbon–a lot of bourbon. I used Eagle Rare. I suggest starting with half the amount of bourbon if you’re not a fan of very boozy sweets. The caramel is good on its own, but the bourbon adds a vanilla, smoky component that works really well with the chocolate cake. I had quite a bit of caramel left over and have been eating it on top of ice cream (thus canceling out the vegan part of the equation!).

I used a small knife to cut out a little hole in the top of each cupcake, then filled it with the caramel. My caramel might have been a little too warm still, because it just soaked right into the cake. No matter–cake soaked with bourbon caramel sauce isn’t a bad thing. I just filled the excess hole with more frosting.

Vegan frosting is often a challenge. There’s nothing that even comes close to a real buttercream, so many vegan frostings end up being cloyingly sweet or oily (or both). The great thing about vegan frosting is that it’s really stable and pipes out nicely. I found this frosting to be a nice balance between the fat and the sugar–not too sweet, not too heavy. It uses a mix of shortening and vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance), along with sugar, vanilla bean paste, and . . . more bourbon. The additional bourbon is not so much to make it boozy, though. I think the bourbon makes the frosting a little lighter and a little less sweet.

The finishing touch after piping the frosting on the cupcakes is more bourbon caramel sauce. Again, leave this off if you want a less boozy treat. Some simple candied pecans go on top for a spectacular-looking dessert. No questioning the reason this was a winning cupcake–delicious!



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George Caramelin Cupcakes

Featured Recipe From: Sticky Fingers' Sweets: 100 Super-Secret Vegan Recipes

Yield: 18 cupcakes


For the Chocolate Cinnamon Cake

  • 1¾ cups plus 1½ tablespoons (9.2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups plus 3 tablespoons (10 ounces) sugar
  • ½ cup plus 2 teaspoons (2.2 ounces) cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups coconut milk (recommended: So Delicious)
  • 2/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • ½ cup brewed coffee, cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar

For the Vanilla Bean Bourbon Frosting

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (recommended: Earth Balance)
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (recommended: Earth Balance)
  • 4 ½ cups (1 pound, 4 ounces) powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 4 tablespoons bourbon

For the Bourbon Caramel Sauce

  • ¼ cup vinegar or lemon juice
  • 2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2/3 cup bourbon
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (recommended: Earth Balance)

For the Candied Pecans

  • 2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (recommended: Earth Balance)
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup pecan halves or pieces


For the Chocolate Cinnamon Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Set the bowl aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, oil, coffee, and vanilla.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until just incorporated.
  5. Fold in the vinegar until you begin to see streaks. See Note on page 28 for reference. Do not overmix the batter.
  6. Fill 18 lined cupcake cups three-quarters full and bake for 16 to 19 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Place the cupcake tins on a cooling rack to cool completely, then turn the tins upside down to remove the cupcakes.

For the Vanilla Bean Bourbon Frosting

This is going to change the way you feel about bourbon. No bad memories of painful mornings after. This topping is going to make you a fan.

Makes enough frosting for 18 cupcakes

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the shortening and margarine with the paddle attachment until completely combined. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure that all ingredients are mixed thoroughly.
  2. On low speed, slowly add the sugar a little at a time.
  3. Once the sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla paste and bourbon, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix on low until the liquids are incorporated.
  4. Scrape the bottom of the bowl, and mix on medium-high speed until all ingredients are combined and frosting is fluff y, about 2 minutes.

For the Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Makes 2 cups

  1. Rinse out a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, preferably stainless-steel, with the vinegar or lemon juice. This will help to remove any residue left behind that could interfere with the candying process.
  2. In the saucepan, stir together the sugar and water.
  3. Cover and bring to a boil.
  4. Remove the lid and insert a candy thermometer.
  5. Turn the heat down slightly and let the mixture boil until it starts to turn brown and just reaches the soft-ball stage (no more than 240ºF), about 20 minutes. Do not stir during this step!
  6. Remove from the heat and stir with a whisk.
  7. Add the bourbon and salt and continue stirring.
  8. Once the bubbling stops, add the margarine and whisk until melted and distributed.
  9. Let cool completely and pour into a clean squirt bottle or glass jar.

For the Candied Pecans

  1. Place the margarine in a microwave-safe bowl and melt it in the microwave.
  2. Stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon. The mixture will be slightly grainy.
  3. Toss the pecans into the mixture and pour onto parchment paper or a baking sheet to cool and harden.

Assembly Required:

Once your cupcakes are cooled, use a plastic drinking straw or a small paring knife to make holes in the center of each cupcake. Squeeze the cooled but pourable bourbon caramel sauce into the cupcake until it is filled but not overflowing, about 1 tablespoon per cupcake. Pipe a dollop of vanilla bean bourbon frosting on top of each cupcake. Drizzle the top with more bourbon caramel sauce and sprinkle with candied pecans to garnish. Voilà! A winning masterpiece.

Making the caramel sauce for this cupcake is no joke. Please follow the directions carefully and take precautions. Sugar at its boiling point gets upward of 300ºF, and it splatters a lot while hanging out there. Get yourself some good oven mitts that come up midarm. Put the dogs and cats in the other room and put the babies in their playpens. This could get messy, but you will thank me later.

© 2012 Doron Petersan
—From Sticky Fingers' Sweets: 100 Super-Secret Vegan Recipes, by Doron Petersan (Avery)

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