Steve has never been a fan of cake; he prefers pie or ice cream for dessert. We celebrated Steve’s 40th birthday last night with a small dinner party at his friend Kerry’s home. She made an excellent herb encrusted tenderloin roast and I was in charge of dessert. Instead of cake, Steve asked for a bowl of our favorite gelato (Talenti sea salt caramel). That’s easy enough, but a birthday party still demands cake, so I made chocolate espresso cupcakes topped with caramel frosting. The frosting recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated and is easy to make, and even easier to frost with. I added an extra ½ tsp of salt and sprinkled salt on top, to mirror the gelato. They were so delicious, even Steve ate one.
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups Confectioners' sugar, sifted
For the frosting: Heat 8 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, and salt in large saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear around perimeter of pan (see photo at left), 4 to 8 minutes. Whisk in cream and cook until ring of bubbles reappears, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in vanilla.
Transfer hot frosting mixture to bowl and, with electric mixer on low speed, gradually mix in confectioners’ sugar until incorporated. Increase speed to medium and beat until frosting is pale brown and just warm, about 5 minutes. Add remaining butter, 1 piece at a time, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.