Source: Gimme Some Oven
Vanilla Almond Cupcakes w/ Salted Caramel Buttercream
(Adapted from Hello Cupcake and Chow)
1 (18.25 oz.) white cake mix
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) salted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
To Make Cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
Add the cake mix, buttermilk, oil, almond extract and vanilla to a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until moistened, about 30 seconds. Add eggs one at a time, until the batter is well-mixed. Increase speed to high and beat until thick and fluffy, 2 minutes longer.
Pour or scoop the batter into the paper liners until they are 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool on a wire rack.
To Make Frosting (pics above and below):
Briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla (just start with a tablespoon or two), stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. (Be careful, as the mixture will definitely bubble up and possibly splatter a bit as you add in the cream.) Set aside until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes.
Beat the butter ]in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar, and mix until completely incorporated. Turn off the mixer, and then add caramel. Beat frosting on low to combine, and then increase to medium-high and beat until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes. Refrigerate if not using immediately (or to harden the frosting a bit).
***To frost 24 cupcakes as I did (pictured above), I’d recommend making a double batch of the frosting. But if you’re just spreading it on with a knife, one batch should be plenty! :)
Keep a close eye on the caramel as you make it! It goes from clear bubbles to the “amber” color within about 30 seconds, and then will burn pretty quickly thereafter.
Also, if you absolutely, absolutely don’t want to make the homemade caramel, you can substitute in some caramel topping to put into the buttercream instead.