Folks, let me tell you, Swiss Meringue Buttercream is a very intimidating icing. I recognize that. But it is worth every ounce of work that goes into it. And once you get into the habit of making it often, it's really easy. Everyone who has tried these has told me that it is the best icing they have ever tasted!
For those of you who are all, we don't need no stinking links, here is the recipe which I
MAKES 12 CUPCAKES (I actually got 12 cupcakes and 16 mini cupcakes out of this)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
CARAMEL SWIRL BUTTERCREAM
MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, at room temperature (I only used 1 1/2 sticks butter)
For the cupcakes:Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil liners. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the sugars and butter together until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in 2 additions, beating on low speed until just combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20-22 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.
For the frosting:In a heavy-bottomed, high-sided saucepan, cook the sugar over medium-high heat until it begins to melt around the edges, about 5 minutes. Stirring with a clean wooden spoon, continue to cook until the sugar is melted and has turned golden amber, about 3 minutes longer. Carefully pour the cream down the side of the pan in a slow, steady stream (it will bubble and spatter), stirring constantly until completely smooth. Stir in the salt. Pour the caramel into a small heatproof bowl and let cool completely before using. (The caramel can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week; bring to room temperature before using.) In a large, clean heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over (but not touching) simmering water in a saucepan and heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is very warm to the touch (about 160°F on an instant-read thermometer), about 2 minutes (It always takes about 5 minutes for me). Remove the bowl from the saucepan. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg white mixture until it is fluffy, cooled to room temperature, and holds stiff peaks (the mixture should not look dry), about 6 minutes. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the salt and the butter, a few pieces at a time, beating well after each addition. If the frosting appears to separate or is very liquid after all the butter is added, continue to beat on high speed until it is smooth and creamy, 3-5 minutes more. Add the caramel drizzle (I only added about 1/2 cup) and beat until combined (or almost combined for a swirling effect), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Frost the cupcakes with the buttercream. (The frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days - if they last that long; bring to room temperature before finishing.) Top each cupcake with a caramel candy, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt (which I omitted), and serve. I topped each cupcake with leftover caramel that I put into a plastic sandwich bag and snipped a very small corner off to "pipe" the caramel in pretty spirals. So good!