I’ve flirted with the idea of going gluten-free a couple times but I’m too much of a carb addict. Who can refuse a good slice of warm sourdough bread or a delicious pain au chocolate for breakfast (mmm, chocolate. another thing I can’t resist.)?
Look, I get it. There are some people for whom gluten-free is a must. Totally understand. And for those who choose to go gluten free for other reasons I don’t judge. My life philosophy is always you do you and I’ll do me. And for me that means a hell of a lot of gluten-filled carbs. Sorry not sorry.
I’m not gluten-free, but there are plenty of people in my life that are. This includes one of the twins’ teachers. So whenever there is an event that requires bringing food/treats into her class my girls insist that the treat be gluten-free so that she can indulge as well. Sure, kid, I’ve got tons of time on my hands so let’s add another layer of complication . . .
In the past I’ve sent in various flavors of macarons (more on those in another post. God, I love macarons.). But this time, when a gluten-free dessert was called for, I wanted to mix it up. I’ve tried a couple gluten-free recipes in the past that have not given me the results I was looking for (I’m looking at you, gluten-free brownie cookies. . . .). They were dried, flavorless, strange texture. Just wrong. All wrong.
I found a few that looked promising, but when I came across this one for salted caramel cupcakes, my oldest daughter called off the search. Now, I love salted caramel as much as the next person. Probably more now that I think about it. But my oldest? She has a caramel obsession. Something has caramel on it, near it, under it, whatever – she’s eating it. If I make caramel and have some left over it rarely makes it into the fridge. Once when I took my girls to a high-end candy shop, what did she pick out as her treat? A jar of salted caramel sauce. What nine-year old does that? Weirdo.
Anyway, once she saw this recipe, she was done. That was it. Nothing else would do. And, to her credit, these cupcakes turned out damn good. If I hadn’t known they were gluten-free I wouldn’t have guessed.
The key to making these caramel cupcakes gluten-free was using gluten-free flour. I haven’t worked with gluten-free flour a ton (in the past I’ve used almond flour, rice flour, etc. to make gluten-free things) and when I have used it I haven’t been totally thrilled with the results (I’m looking at you, brownie cookies again because you really sucked). But in this recipe it worked fine. So my faith in gluten-free flour has been restored. Thanks you gluten-free salted caramel cupcakes. Maybe next I’ll try red velvet or peanut butter – the possibilities are endless . . .
Now the recipe does call for you to make your own caramel. I’m not one of these cooks who thinks making everything from scratch is a must. I often make my kids’ birthday cakes from a mix and a can of store-brought frosting — they only care that it’s sugary, so why would I waste energy on those heathens? And for the most part when I make quiches, pies, etc. I use store-brought crusts or pie dough.
But when is comes to caramel, homemade just blows the store-bought stuff out of the water. Try it once and you’ll be a convert. Promise. There’s just nothing like it.
Look, I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s painless to make. But it’s not that complicated. It just a lot of attention. One moment it’s doing fine but you stop stirring and the next it’s burnt or crystallized. Or you throw in the butter too early and it bland because the sugar didn’t brown sufficiently. Basically it’s like playing chicken with the sugar. Can you keep stirring and wait long enough for the sugar to be just the right beautiful dark brown color but not burnt?
Paying attention is so worth it. The result when you get it right? Amazing. And in a recipe like this, where the caramel is the star, it’s a must. So get your arm ready for some serious stirring. Tell the kids to shut the hell up and not bother you for 15 minutes because unless someone’s bleeding or something’s caught on fire you’re not taking your eyes off the pot of sugar. If you give them a spoonful of warm caramel sauce and maybe one of these gluten-free caramel cupcakes if they’ve been good, I promise they will happily give you space the next time you need to make caramel. Now if I could just find a way to get them to leave me alone long enough to go the bathroom in peace . . .
These gluten-free cupcakes are a little slice of salted caramel heaven. A light cupcake made with gluten-free flour and topped with a home-made salted caramel butter cream topped with (yup, you guessed it) another drizzle of caramel.