I have been waiting and waiting for someone to choose this cupcake flavor.  In fact, I was thisclose to choosing it myself, but as luck would have it, the birthday girl just a few days before me chose it for herself.  (Nice work, Sarah!)  It hardly seems possible that I have never made a chocolate-caramel cupcake before, but it’s true.  I ended up using my usual favorite chocolate cupcake as the base and added a salted caramel filling.  This was the part I was most nervous about because caramel can be so touchy.  Cook it too long and you may not even be able to chew it, but cook it too little and you might have a gooey mess, at least when it’s filling a cupcake.  I used a Martha Stewart recipe as a starting point but followed my instincts to be sure that the caramel wasn’t going to be rock hard or totally burned.  Thankfully all my caramel making experience has paid off because the filling was just right: deeply caramelized and chewy, neither too hard nor too soft.  I topped it off with a salted caramel buttercream and garnished with my beloved homemade caramels.

Oh man, this is one rich cupcake.  The caramel buttercream in particular is very rich and you don’t want to overdo it.  As written, this is primarily a caramel cupcake but if you want to tip the flavor balance more in favor of the chocolate, you could use a bit less buttercream, chill the frosted cupcakes, and then drizzle with a bit of ganache.  Only do this if you’re as crazy as I am, because I think that sounds awesome :)  Either way, if you are a chocolate-caramel lover, this is the cupcake for you.


For the cupcakes:
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup sour cream

For the filling:
2½ cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
¾ cup heavy cream, warmed
2¼ tsp. sea salt, preferably fleur de sel

For the frosting:
1¼ cup sugar, divided
5 tbsp. water
5 tbsp. heavy cream
Generous pinch of sea salt, such as fleur de sel
5 large egg whites
3¾ sticks (30 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature

To finish:
Vanilla bean caramels


  • 01

    To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and hot water and whisk until smooth.  In another medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk to blend.

  • 02

    Combine the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan set over medium heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth and the butter is completely melted.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is cool, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture until smooth.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated.

  • 03

    Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Let cool in the pan about 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

  • 04

    To make the filling, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.  Heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has melted into a syrup.  Stop stirring and gently swirl the pan, using a pastry brush dipped in water to wipe down any bits of sugar stuck to the sides of the pan.  Continue to boil, swirling occasionally, until the mixture is a deep amber color (but not burned!) and it registers 340˚ F on the thermometer.  Very slowly pour in the cream in a slow, steady stream down the inside edge of the pan, stirring constantly until smooth.  Remove from the heat and stir in the salt.

  • 05

    Let the caramel filling mixture cool just until very slightly thickened and cool enough to handle.  Carefully transfer the mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a small tip and inject a small amount of filling (about 1 heaping tablespoon) directly into the center of each cupcake.  (I find it easiest to use the injection method when the cupcakes are still slightly warm.)

  • 06

    To make the caramel buttercream, place ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a medium saucepan.  Mix in the water.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Stop stirring and let the caramel cook, gently swirling from time to time, until it is a deep amber color (test a drop on a white plate or bowl if necessary), watching it carefully to avoid burning.  Remove the mixture from the heat and slowly whisk in the cream and then the salt.  Set aside and let cool.

  • 07

    Combine the egg whites and the remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  (The bowl should be cool to the touch.)

  • 08

    Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (or longer – don’t worry, it will come together!)  Blend in the cooled caramel until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

  • 09

    Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a large decorative tip (I used an Ateco #829).  Pipe a swirl of frosting on each cupcake.  When you are ready to serve, top each cupcake with a salted caramel if desired.  (Depending on the specific caramels you use, they may slowly dissolve after being in contact with the frosting for a prolonged period of time, so adding them just before serving may be best.)


  • This looks like it could easily be one of my favorite recipes of yours, ever! Looks truly amazing!

  • Tara

    I think these were made for me! They look gorgeous!!

  • UWStretch

    I’d love to try this, but I’m too afraid considering I haven’t replaced the saucepan I scorched that last time I tried making a caramel dessert. :-) They look divine.

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    Annie, these are so pretty! Lovely idea!

  • You had me at salted caramel:)

  • Lee

    How much caramel do you add to the frosting?

  • TheMrsatSuccessAlongtheWeigh

    I can’t wait to be able to taste again because this is the FIRST thing I want to eat!

  • Yum! I love the flavor combo of salted caramel and chocolate. In fact, I’ve been mulling over how best to incorporate them into a cheesecake. Thanks for sharing another great cupcake idea.

  • Anna Friguglietti

    this sounds amazing! I’m definitely going to try them, with ganache as well :)

  • Emilie @ Emilie’s Enjoyables

    I have a serious obsession with salted caramel right now so this post could not have come at a better time :)

  • Jaclyn Shervin

    Oh man, this is definitely going in my “recipes to try” folder!

  • Making caramel always freaks me out. I’ve burned my fair share. Anyhoo, these look delicious! Love the caramel pressed on top!

  • I’m pretty sure that everyone who reads this today is going to drool all over their keyboard.

  • annieseats

    All of it that is made with the recipe.

  • I have been craving some salted caramel, may have just found the answer!

  • The only way I can think to describe these cupcakes is decadent! The cupcake shop downtown sells a salted caramel chocolate cupcake, and it’s the flavor that I’ve been most interested in trying. These I’m sure are so much better – I can’t wait to try them!

  • Nicole

    This is the cupcake recipe I’ve been waiting for. It sounds SO good! I’m a huge salted caramel & chocolate fan. My mom is a huge fan of the flavors too & it just so happens to be her birthday this weekend. I know what I’ll be baking for her! Thanks!

  • Shannon Holleran

    These look AMAZING! Thanks for the great cupcake idea!

  • Ooo I like the little salt jar! Is this where you keep fleur de sel?

  • Oh man, these look insane. I especially love the caramel garnish on top. And yes, once again we prove that we share a brain :)

  • Fabulous. Those cupcakes look incredibly, utterly, perfectly fabulous. Happy Friday!

  • These are lovely, Annie! The cupcakes are gorgeous, especially with the meringue frosting. Beautiful photos too. Thanks for sharing! Have a great weekend.

  • annieseats

    No, it’s just for the photo.

  • Beverly

    Yummmmm!!!! How do you always manage to have your frosting stay so high? Mine start out that way and after a few hours the frosting seems to flatten/spread. Any suggestions? Thanks.


  • annieseats

    The shape and consistency of the frosting depend entirely on the recipe you use. I’d recommend a different recipe :)

  • gina marinara

    I can’t wait to make these myself although I might just make the frosting to eat with a spoon lol. Beautiful pictures, although I wish you would have included one showing the carmel inside as well :)

  • Karin

    this sounds delicious!! I’m new to baking, so it might be a stupid question, but would it be possible to just put one of your homemade caramels into the cupcake batter and have it melt while it bakes (for the filling), or would this just be a huge mess?

  • OMG…I almost made this for my birthday cake, too!! Mmmm, these look absolutely fantastic. It also helps that I’m in deeply, madly, truly in ove with salted caramel-ANYTHING!!

  • kyle bea

    Anything with salted caramel makes us happy

  • annieseats

    That’s actually not a bad idea but you’d have to experiment to see how it would turn out. If I were going that route, I’d probably freeze the caramels beforehand to prevent them from melting too much. Even so, I think making the filling as written would probably have a better consistency than the candy in the middle. Enjoy!

  • The cupcakes look great – love the caramel/chocolate combination idea.

  • oooh, i made similar cupcakes a while ago and i called them “omg cupcakes” because i thought they were so good. i think this is the best flavor combination around!

  • Yum. These look decadent and delicious! I love the homemade caramel piece on top!

  • Oh yum! These look amazing!!! Salted Caramel is my new love!!

  • Emmybradley

    Thank you for posting this! I am making this for my Oscar party on Sunday and I’ve been searching for a good recipe all over the web. Thanks for posting it just in time!!

  • Suzanne Perazzini

    Chocolate and caramel is my favourite food combination. It brings a little bit of heaven to earth.

  • I’m a huge chocolate and caramel lover so these are definitely for me – love that thick swirl of buttercream on top!

  • Stephanie

    I love all of your cupcakes but want to learn more about piping icing correctly, techniques and tools you use/recommend. Any chance you’ll post on this in the future?

  • Sara{wherethecookiesare}

    OMG. Usually the whole salted caramel thing intimidates me and seems like so much work, but these really seem worth it. I wish someone would make them for ME!

  • Denise

    When will the Annie’s Eats cookbook be released? : )

  • annieseats

    Yes, I have mentioned it many times, but this will be an upcoming post topic.

  • Moore or Less Cooking

    Annie, these look fabulous! I have to make them! Nettie

  • Rachel Jackson

    Wow, these look and sound absolutely fabulous! Salt, chocolate, and caramel could only be heaven.

  • The frosting on these cupcakes look incredible! I love Caramel and Chocolate, so these are right up my alley. If I worked with you, I might choose this cupcake too :)

  • Kels

    Annie, how do you make the frosting look like that? I mean what do you use to get that beautiful swirl?

  • Margielarrazabal

    Beautiful blog… These cupcakes look so pretty! I wish I had the patience to take time and practice making them look like yours.

  • Karin

    Great, thanks! I might try it and will let you know how it turns out!

  • Mercedes

    I am obsessed with anything salted caramel and these look delicious!

  • The Gatherum’s

    Wow, I just made this recipe. Yum and yum. Love all that carmel. I found it amazing how all three carmel recipes started pretty much the same, but small differences of cooking temp or the timing of adding the remaining ingredients gave it such differing end results. It was cooking and science all at the same time.

    Your recipes are amazing and I love all that I have tried. Your chocolate cake is the best recipe I have ever had, since I don’t usually like chocolate from scratch. Better than a cake mix too. Reading how you adapt others recipes really inspires me to adapt some of my own favorites. In fact, I even adapted the frosting in this recipe after I made it to better fit my family, since it’s flavor/ texture was too buttery. Perhaps I misread the recipe (known to happen), but all worked out well and once again your cupcake is another big hit in our house. .

  • The Gatherum’s

    Just made this recipe. Love it. If you love carmel, then this is the recipe for you.

  • annieseats

    So glad you enjoyed them!

  • I can never get enough of the salted caramel combo! It’s amazing!

  • Wow, so artistic and obviously delicious! I was watching Cupcake Wars today on TV and it totally reminded me of you :)

  • sugarplumblog

    Oh wow, these look incredible. I love salted caramel!

  • I would LOVE to see the inside of that cupcake. Sounds outstanding.

  • Ellie

    These look too pretty to eat!

  • Hokiecav

    I thought the buttercream frosting was a bit too buttery. I usually make my buttercream frostings with some powdered sugar. Do you ever do that?

  • annieseats

    You are referring to an American-style buttercream. This is Swiss meringue buttercream.

  • Ah well, it’s still a nice touch.

  • Jesslh09

    I’m getting ready to head to the store to buy the ingredients to make these and noticed that caramel is not listed in the ingredients other than under “To Finish”. What kind and how much caramel do you use for the filling and frosting?

  • Jesslh09

    Wow so everyone at work just laughed at me because of my previous comment about why caramel wasn’t listed as an ingredient. They nicely explained that I will be actually making the caramel and can’t just buy it and melt it. Oopss.. you can guess how these will turn out :)

  • Vanessa

    I need to use up the caramel sauce I made last week (following the same method outlined in this recipe) and would love to add it to these cupcakes! How much of the pre-made caramel sauce should I add into the frosting?

  • annieseats

    I don’t know a quantity, you’ll have to experiment. Enjoy!

  • Samantha

    Do these cupcakes need to be refrigerated due to the egg whites in the frosting? This always confuses me. I never know which frostings are okay to sit out and which ones must be refrigerated. Can you please help?

  • annieseats

    The reason the egg whites are heated above 160˚ F is to kill the bacteria, so it is okay at room temp for a day or so. Beyond that, I refrigerate.

  • guest

    I made these and had the following results – the homemade caramel on top is totally worth it. check your thermometer first to see if it’s off at all. mine was and i had to make them twice. the buttercream is delicious – very buttery as it’s swiss meringue buttercream, so not sugary, more buttery. If you don’t like buttery you won’t like this frosting. The chocolate cupcake didn’t have a deep dark chocolate colour or flavour – it was a bit bland. I don’t know if it’s because I used regular grocery store cocoa as the cupcakes in annie’s photo are a lot darker. I have had better success with Ina Garten’s chocolate cupcake recipe. The caramel filling was ok the first day but then became a bit grainy on day 2 – you could taste the sugar crystals. I would prefer a runnier filling. Also, i ended up coring the cupcakes and filling because when I injected without coring the the caramel just got soaked into the cupcake, i was expecting a little well of caramel. coring fixed that – but then my caramel was grainy (perhaps not cooked long enough? it seemed as though it was though, so not sure what went wrong.) If I make these again I will go with a more liquid caramel centre.

    anyway, all of that to say that these are decadent and rich and they were a HUGE hit, even with the flaws I felt my batch had. (I’m sure annie’s were perfect!)

  • ParkersMama

    I am making these for my son’s birthday party tomorrow! Does anyone have any recommendations how to make the Swiss meringue buttercream taste a little more American? I have been reading comments saying it is very buttery, not like what most of us are used to tasting. Also, I will be making the caramels to top, but instead of cutting them into squares I would like to drizzle the caramel over the buttercream. How do I make sure the caramel is thin enough to do this without being too warm (I don’t want to ruin my pretty buttercream)? Thanks in advance for any help! I can’t wait to try these!

  • annieseats

    Make a different buttercream recipe (American style) and use a caramel sauce rather than caramels.

  • KP

    I tried this recently with an American Buttercream recipe and it was over the top sweet because of the caramel. I’ve made regular Swiss Meringue in the past and it was way to buttery tasting but I also made a Lemon Swiss Meringue and it was heaven. Perfectly silky with hardly a buttery taste at all. My guess is the caramel would take away from that overpowering butter in this recipe as well. I’m anxious to try this one.

  • Julie

    Just made the caramel sauce and I don’t know why but it is VERY gritty. I wiped down the sides with a wet pastry brush as instructed but it’s still super gritty. It didn’t turn dark amber, just sort of a tepid tan color. Not at all happy with the sauce. It will be going in the trash

  • annieseats

    If it is gritty, it was not cooked properly. Either the sugar did not melt or it burned so much that you had burned pieces in the sauce. Sorry to hear you had a hard time with it.

  • I made these and they were incredible! I cheated a little and used the leftover filling and caramel toppers and added it to a german buttercream for the frosting b/c I can’t handle Swiss, but all else was heavenly and universally praised!

  • Rachel

    I made these on my second attempt; the first time, I burnt the filling, because I didn’t watch the thermometer closely enough. Other than that, these are deliciously salty and sweet! Loved them!

  • Katie

    How far in advance can you make these cupcakes? Do you recommend frosting them the day of the party, or can they be frosted a day ahead of time? Do you think you can at least make the frosting the day before a party and then put them together the day of? Thanks!

  • annieseats

    Please see the FAQ page. Thanks and enjoy!

  • shelly

    Hi Annie. Can i use any other cocoa powder, other than “Dutch -process cocoa powder”????

  • annieseats

    Please see the FAQ page. Thanks!

  • AmyT

    I was thinking about making these, but adding espresso powder to the hot water (about 2 tsp), because I prefer a deeper chocolate taste too. Annie has this in some of her recipes I believe, and it’s definitely worth buying. I found it at Whole Foods.

  • Was looking for a new and different caramel frosting recipe for my roommate’s birthday cake – and it turned out great, thank you! Used my own tried and true chocolate cake recipe and a batch of this frosting. The yield was almost enough to cover a 9″ 2 layer cake (it was covered enough though, no worries). I topped it with a caramel drizzle and some gold sugar (the birthday girl wanted a little bling and crunch). It turned out great – thanks for posting a great recipe! This will definitely be a frosting I will be experimenting with in the future… Again, thank you!

  • Cathy Tolentino

    I’m planning on making these for Thanksgiving. I’ll be making the cupcakes the day before. Do you recommend making the frosting the day of? Or can I make it ahead and just refrigerate?

  • annieseats

    You can make ahead and refrigerate. Just don’t add the caramels (if you are using them) until just before you serve. Enjoy!