Feb 04

My collection of cookbooks has become so pervasive that I can no longer contain them all in the kitchen and still have room for the pots and pans.  I have resorted to shelving most of the books upstairs in our library, and keeping only a few on hand in the kitchen. There is enough space next to the fridge for about ten books, and this is where I often keep my most beloved.

Elizabeth Falkner’s cookbook Demolition Desserts has held a spot in this space for the last month, primarily because it is where I discovered the recipe for candy bar cupcakes, but also because it is an unusually creative and inspired compilation of dessert recipes.  I became enamored with this book when I dabbled around with some of her multi-component creations and found the results deliciously satisfying and impressive.  Yet when I stumbled upon this relatively simple recipe for cupcakes, and made my first batch, I was altogether besotted at the first bite.

It starts with a brown sugar cupcake, its moist, butterscotch flavored interior stuffed with a soft dab of buttery caramel.  The crowning jewel of this understated cake is a debaucherous frosting of chocolate peanut butter buttercream that is the velvety equivalent of biting into a sophisticated Reese’s cup. To embellish an already decadent confection, crushed peanuts and flecks of coarse sea salt adorn the top of the cakes and create an addictive balance of sweet, salty and crunchy.

The saving grace of this recipe is that it only produces enough batter and icing for twelve cupcakes, which is an appropriate amount to share with friends and not have too many lingering around afterwards.  Beware that the icing also yields just enough to generously frost all twelve cakes, lest you get distracted and consume a spoonful or two with your spatula. You will find there is not enough left to finish the icing.

Perhaps after trying this recipe you will come to the same conclusion I have. Despite the cupcake bakery trend, that seems to have swept the nation over the last five years, there is nothing that quite compares in either flavor, texture or price to what you can produce in our own kitchen with a few basic ingredients.  These candy bar cupcakes will surely convince you that some of the best food finds are those that you produce with your own two hands (and a little help from a great cookbook).

Candy Bar Cupcakes

from Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition Desserts


Brown Sugar Cupcakes

1.5 C plus 2 Tbps All Purpose Flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp kosher salt

8 Tbsp butter, softened

¾ C dark brown sugar

¼ C plus 1 Tbps granulated sugar

2 large eggs

½ tsp vanilla extract

¾ whole milk

Method: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners, then spray the liners with a nonstick grease. Beat butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs. Sift the dry ingredients together, then add this to the mixture alternating with the milk in three batches.  Add the vanilla.  Equally divide the batter between to fill the twelve cupcake liners, then bake the cupcakes for about 30 minutes or until the tops are slightly firm and spring back when touched. Allow the cakes to cool completely before filling and icing.

Caramel Filling:

¼ C water

1/8 tsp cream of tartar or fresh lemon juice

1 C granulated sugar

2 Tbsp light corn syrup

1 Tbsp butter

1 C heavy cream

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp vanilla extract

Method: Heat the water, sugar, cream of tartar and corn syrup together in a covered small saucepan until it reaches a vigorous boil. Remove the lid, then cook the mixture over medium high heat until it turns a dark amber color. Immediately remove from heat, add the butter and slowly pour in the cream. Whisk the mixture over medium heat until it reaches a boil, then remove again and add salt and vanilla. Refrigerate caramel until it has softly solidified.  Fit a small piping bag or plastic bag with a medium round piping nozzle, then fill the bag with half of the caramel. Pipe a teaspoon worth of caramel into the center of each cupcake through the top.

Peanut Butter Frosting:


8 Tbsp butter, softened

2.5 C powdered sugar

½ tsp salt

1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp whole milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Chocolate Peanut Butter Addition:

4 oz milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

3 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

½ C heavy cream

3.5 Tbsp peanut butter


¼ C peanuts, coarsely chopped

1 Tbsp fleur de sel

Method: Beat the butter, sugar, milk, vanilla and lemon juice together for about two minutes or until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Set aside ½ C of this buttercream.

Meanwhile add both chocolates to a medium size bowl and heat the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Stir in the peanut butter and allow the mixture to cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes.  Fold the chocolate mixture into the reserved ½ C of buttercream and use this frosting to ice the cupcakes. Garnish the top of each cake with a sprinkle of peanuts and a few flakes of sea salt.

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