salted caramel cupcake

I remember flipping through a magazine when I was a child and staring at an ad for Chanel No. 5. My mother peered over my shoulder and commenting on the celebrity model said, “That’s Catherine Deneuve. She was voted the most beautiful woman in the world.” I scrunched up my face and in disbelief and replied, “In the world? In the whole world? How can that be? There are millions of women in the world.” My mother, clearly frustrated with my sarcasm said, “Oh come on, you have to admit, she is beautiful.”
But that wasn’t my point. I was frustrated that she’d let someone else, shape her definition of beauty.

solo caramel cupcakeeggs and salt

As a kid, I knew that my aunt with her kind spirit, quirky glasses and houndstooth jacket was beautiful. I knew that my teacher who went out of her way to buy ingredients so that we could make our own butter in class was beautiful. I knew that my childhood friend who showed great courage in the face of adversity was beautiful too. I also knew none of them looked like the actress in the magazine.Yet here was this anonymous outside force telling us how we should define beauty.

caramel cupcake on salt
caramel cupcake above

I sometimes laugh about how firmly people believe in their perceptions about beauty without considering how radically those views have changed over time. Plumpness was in vogue and then out of vogue. Being pale was a sign of wealth until the plague, then being tan was in. Victorians associated makeup with prostitution. I could go on and on but you get the point. Social concepts of beauty are fickle at best. One need only walk through an art museum and glance at a few paintings to see the shifting perceptions of beauty throughout history.
Given all of the media hype, I’m curious – how you define beauty? What in your view, makes a person beautiful. And if you have children, what will you teach them about what it means to be beautiful?
While you ponder that thought, try the cupcakes. They’re not perfect looking but to me they’re beautiful. Vive la difference as the say…enjoy.
caramel cupcake close upcaramel cupcake piece
Salted Caramel Cupcakes
187 g (1 c) sugar
118 ml (1/2 c) hot water
115 g (1/2 c) butter
260 g (1 1/3 c) sugar
3 eggs
3 g (1 tsp) vanilla
280 g (2 1/2 c) cake flour
13 g (2 1/2 tsp) baking powder
1 g (1/4 tsp) salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (177 Celsius)
Melt sugar in a sauce pan over low heat. Stir constantly, until the sugar melts into a golden brown syrup. Stir in hot water taking care not to burn yourself. Stir until lumps are gone. Set aside and let cool slightly. Pour 60 ml or 1/4 cup of the syrup into a measuring cup. Add enough cool water to make 237 ml or 1 cup of liquid. Stir and set aside. Leave the remaining syrup in the pan.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the 3 eggs and the vanilla. Sift together the dry ingredients. Stir in alternately with caramel mixture.
Pour batter into cupcake pans and bake about 20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The time will vary depending upon your oven but be sure not to open the oven door for at least 15 minutes to prevent collapse.
Cool completely and frost with salted caramel frosting.
Salted Caramel Frosting
Remaining caramel sauce
70 g (6 tbs) butter
60 ml (1/4 c) heavy cream
1 g (1/4 tsp) fleur de sel or other fine salt
345 g (3 c) sifted powdered sugar
3 g (1 tsp) vanilla
Return remaining caramel mixture to the stove and heat until hot and melted. Add 30 g (about 3 tbs) of butter and stir. Add about 60 g (1/4) of heavy cream or until it gets to a lightness you desire. Stir in salt and remove from heat.
Beat powdered sugar with the remaining 30 g (3 tbs) butter, the vanilla and the caramel mixture. If desired, you can also add a bit more salt to taste. Beat at high speed until you have a smooth creamy and spreadable frosting.
Note: For accuracy in baking, it is best to use a digital scale (about $20) and measure in grams. Cup measures are approximations and are provided for convenience.
Bon appetit!


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  1. The photos are amazing, as always πŸ™‚
    I love that certain romantic note your photos have πŸ™‚
    I recently had a cupcake with salted sunflower seeds and honey and it was great, so I think salted caramel works great, too πŸ™‚

  2. I like to think that people are like stained glass windows, it’s all the different colored parts that make the whole so beautiful. So I think that having one ideal of beauty is impossible b/c beauty itself is more than just physical beauty, it’s what radiates from inside someone.

  3. Oh I am trying so hard to ignore societie’s interpretation of beautiful. I’m young myself and feeling so much pressure to look a certain way. In my eyes beauty is happiness and happiness is beautiful and that should be the end of it.

  4. Not perfect? These are seriously beautiful! I agree with the last commenter. I feel totally pressured to look and act a certain way. Sometimes I don’t even know who I am. Do you have any advice for me? How do I not care what other people think?

  5. People who are real are beautiful, I live by this parable:

    “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off; and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand”

    – The Velveteen Rabbit

  6. As I was reading this post, it occurred to me that I wrote a post about what I find beautiful. I searched it on my blog, and discovered that it was a post inspired by the same question that you posed in 2009. What do I find beautiful? I wrote: In a very profound way, I find magical feelings of inspiration and overwhelming admiration whenever I feel kindness from people. For me kindness, compassion and generosity are the some of the most beautiful things that I’ve ever ‘witnessed’ in my life.

    Beauty like the memory of a good salted caramel cupcake endures. These cupcakes look dangerous.

  7. Love thought-provoking posts like this :). I guess I can’t escape the influences of my society in defining what is conventionally “beautiful,” but I also recognize many other forms of beauty outside of that definition and those are usually much more compelling than the first kind :). Your cupcakes are indeed beautiful and certainly delicious!

  8. I’ve been thinking about beauty lately too, about the women that I look at and think: she is SO beautiful. And they’re usually ones with strong souls, hearty laughs, willing hugs, women who are comfy in their own skin. But then there are others who have gone through so much and are utterly beaten down by life, but they seem so gorgeous to me because they keep getting up, keep trying, keep finding something to make their hearts happy. There are pretty people in this world and then there are beautiful. I’ll take the gorgeous-hearted ones ANY day. πŸ™‚

  9. My October issue of Real Simple magazine had a very interesting statistic in that made me very sad. Only 12% of women (surveyed?) think of themselves as beautiful. I wish women felt empowered enough to feel those things about themselves that would emulate the feeling of beauty within themselves. Not only that but the confidence to proclaim such a statement. Each and every one of us is beautiful in our own way and we all have every right to let the world know that we are.

    Your cupcakes are beautiful too. πŸ™‚

  10. I’ve been making a lot of caramel sauce lately, but it hasn’t made it as far as a recipe. We eat it right away, on applesauce or on ice cream.

    I’ve had quite a few drastic turns in what I find beautiful, or perhaps more accurately, what I don’t find beautiful – I’m sure this is the case for everyone. I’ve always been quite critical, but more of personalities that I don’t find beautiful rather than exterior facades.

    And although time has smoothed the embarrassment I carried on myself at the same time as a scoliosis brace, I can still remember every negative encounter like it was yesterday. Kids can be cruel:)

  11. I find beautiful anything that moves me and makes me think. We all have different ideas of beauty but as someone who believes in God, I have come to understand that anything He creates is beautiful.

  12. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – that well known saying always applies! What I think as beautiful someone else might think as ordinary. Although our world around us gives us only 5 seconds to make an impression and that is usually with the way one looks I’d still like to think that it goes beyond that for most of us. Right now truly beautiful are these cupcakes! Lovely post El!

  13. That is so weird, I just made some salted caramel chocolate cupcakes 2 days ago and also made them for the bakery I work at. Great pictures!! You put a lot more salt on top, I like it! πŸ™‚

  14. I think of beauty as a state of mind. Happy girls are the prettiest said someone. I think there is some truth in there: happiness does make people look more beautiful, self-confident, smiling, content and relaxed. Beauty is the closest one can be to his/her nature, instinct, soul. I am happier than ever now, and feel much more beautiful than when I was thinner, more made up and put together. I feel real.

    You cupcakes are beautiful because they are real. Unfortunately, they are also far from here.

  15. How many cupcakes does this recipe make? I am loving the thought of these.

    I think my investment in my scale has improved my level of baking immeasurably. (Pun intended.)

  16. I agree with you on beauty… Even I could never understand how some people were labelled as most beautiful… but i go know that those cupcakes are gorgeous! And would taste divine too..

  17. I’ve always thought class, grace and elegance created beauty. You don’t need to have lots of money to have those things either.

    Catherine Deneuve certainly was a beauty on the outside…I’ve always thought so.
    Funny, I think so many of the older actresses had that quality…not so many now.
    I do love salted caramels. How can this cupcake help but be perfection??

  18. Oh my,,,you had me at salted caramel!! And the cupcakes are beautiful πŸ™‚ As for beauty, as they say it is in the eye of the beholder…and cliched but true, it comes from the inside.

  19. Amen! It’s refreshing to hear from someone who gets that cultural notions of beauty change often, and what really matters is the heart behind the person.

  20. Ah, beauty. It’s an elusive thing to describe and reminds me a bit of when I try to describe the contours of an especially lovely cloud that changes as I try to define what makes it unique and noticeable. To me, something is beautiful when all of its components, parts, characteristics work together to create that which leaves the impact. Remove one of the parts, and it’s not the same. What is it that’s said about the sum of parts being greater than the whole? So that could mean with humans, a particular expression, captured in a second, make up or none, age no matter, all the things often often attributed to beauty not necessarily considered. Elusive. Just like a lovely cupcake on a computer screen first thing in the morning when I’m holding a cup of coffee. Thanks for the “think.”

  21. I’ll be the first to say that beauty comes from within, and I know that for a fact. But I’m a product of society as well and am susceptible to conventional notions of ‘beauty’. A zit-free complexion, a certain build, delicate features…and I constantly judge myself base on these irrational standards. It’s a neverending battle…

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