The cake itself has been a favorite of mine for years. It is a moist, gooey chocolate cake that is fully loaded with salted caramel, meringue frosting, and toffee. It's my most requested cake for birthdays and other celebrations. I normally bake this in a 9 x 13 cake pan so all the ooey-gooey-goodness can be optimized... but this time I thought I would try it as cupcakes.
For the holidays, I kept seeing sugar cookies pinned all over the place with the melted snowmen decorations, so I thought why not? That could work on cupcakes... And it worked spectacularly!
1Preheat the oven to 350 F and make sure that the rack is in the middle. Prepare your muffin tins with liners and set aside.
2Whisk together cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3On medium speed, beat the butter until smooth.
4Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the sugar. Continue beating until light and smooth.
5Decrease the speed back down to medium-low and beat in the eggs and yolks one at a time. After the last egg has been fully incorporated, beat in the vanilla.
6In a small sauce pan, bring the water to a boil. Once it's boiling, remove from the heat. With the mixer still going at low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture one cup at a time.
7Slowly drizzle in the hot water, about a tablespoon at a time, and beat until the batter is smooth. Divide the batter into your lined muffin tins, about 2/3 full.
8Bake until the centers spring back when pressed gently - anywhere from 23-27 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may want to rotate the pans about half way through. Once they're done, remove them from the oven and place them on the counter. Let them cool for 7 minutes.
9After only 7 minutes of cooling, the cakes should be really warm still... too warm to frost. Using a small dowel or a skewer, poke one hole in the center of each cupcake. Drizzle a small amount of sweetened condensed milk over the hole (about 1/2 teaspoon for each cupcake). Then let the cupcakes finish cooling another 10 minutes.
10Remove the cupcakes from the tins and transfer to a wire rack. The sweetened condensed milk should be completely absorbed into the cake. Carefully drizzle your caramel sauce onto the top of each cupcake (about 1/2 teaspoon each) right on top of the milk.
11Sprinkle tiny pinches of kosher salt on top of the caramel sauce. Set aside to make the frosting.
12In a saucepan, stir together the water, suga and cream of tartar. Cook over medium-high heat unti the sugar fully dissolves and it starts to bubble (watch carefully so that it does not start to turn color if you want a very white frosting).
13In your mixing bowl, whip the egg whites and vanilla into soft peaks. Carefully drizzle in the hot sugar-water and continue whipping until you get stiff peaks.
14Using an offset spatula, frost the cupcakes on top of the caramel. Since we're going for the effect of messy, melted snow, imperfection is encouraged for this step.
15For the snowmen, carefully cut the tip off an end of each marshmallow and microwave them for about 10 seconds (if you're watching them, you'll see them just start to inflate at 9 seconds depending on the power of your microwave). Then place them, cut side down, onto the cupcake. Use your colored frosting to pipe on a scarf around the base of the marshmallow, then use the black frosting to pipe on eyes, mouths and branches. If you have left over Halloween sprinkles, which I did, you can use those for the noses. I think that rolo's might work well for hats if you want to go that far, but I didn't have any. The best part is, you're going for messy here - so no need to worry about if they are matching or pretty.
16Once the cupcakes are decorated to your liking, take your pulverized Heath bar (or toffee) and carefully dust around the edges of the cupcakes to simulate dirt. And enjoy!