Feb 7, 2011

Mud Turtle Cupcakes

As you can imagine, when my very nice dentist put in a temporary crown and told me that I couldn't eat caramel, the first thing I thought of was these cupcakes.  How was I going to test gooey, caramely cupcakes if I couldn't eat caramel?  I made one cupcake for myself, topped only by ganache and pecans, neither of which was on the dentally forbidden list, and felt sorry for myself. To make myself feel better, I put one cupcake in the freezer, where it awaits me coming home with a permanent crown and permission to eat caramel once again.

These little cakes can't really be on the Quick and Easy list because of the piping, smoothing, caramel-making, pecan-placing, etc. But the cupcakes themselves are nice and easy. Just mix up cocoa, eggs, and sour cream. (You know they're going to be good).

Then everything else (flour, sugar, butter, etc.) is mixed together until you get a nice, smooth light brown mixture. If you're feeling daring, you can taste it.

I wanted to be sure not to overbake these little cupcakes, so I took them out after 16 minutes--perhaps still a bit underdone in the middle, but I figured the continued heat from the cake itself would take care of that. I think I could have baked it one minute less and it would still have been okay. If I were testing, I'd try them at 14, 15, and 16 minutes. I think I could get into this testing idea!

The caramel was the maiden voyage for my new Thermapen. I did the same thing I always do with caramel. I wait just seconds too long. I see that the temperature has somehow gone above 360, and goes even higher after I turn off the heat. Now, however, I've written "LOWER" in the margin of the cookbook, because Woody has advised me to write more notes to myself in my book, and I always take Woody's advice, even though I was brought up not to deface books.

Adding the cream causes the caramel to "bubble up furiously," just as advertised. And the butter melts in easily.

I even pipe the ganache "mud" over the top of the cupcakes in a little circle, leaving the middle bare for the caramel placement. The caramel looks and smells so delicious that I'm undergoing a serious bout of self-pity. On the other hand, it doesn't stay as soft as I'd like to it be. Although it softens easily in the microwave, I can tell that it's not going to remain as soft as I'd like it to be on the cupcake. It would surely rip my temporary crown right out of my mouth. How embarrassing to have to return to the dentist with the crown stuck to a big hunk of caramel. Apparently temporary crowns fall off with alarming regularity, or so I assume based on the many hits I got on my Google query regarding what to do when your temporary crown falls out.

Based on the caramel's consistency, I thought it would be a bad idea to pipe it, so I just used a spoon to place a glob of approximately one teaspoon in mid-cupcake. I reminded myself they were supposed to be turtles, and part of their turtle-y charm would be based on a casually careless look.

Top with five--no more, no less--previously toasted pecans. That should be enough to get a piece of pecan in every bite. If the caramel were softer, the pecans would stick better. I tell myself to quit obsessing about the danged caramel.

And finally, more caramel and more chocolate ganache (mud, if you prefer). I love the picture in the cookbook of the little girl looking completely entranced as she gazes at the cupcake she's getting ready to eat. We took a plate of cupcakes to our neighbors, who have two small boys. They looked equally entranced.

I loved the cupcake I'd made for myself without caramel.  It was moist and chocolatey, and you can indeed get a piece of pecan in every bite if you carefully plan your attack. I'm sorry not to be able to sample the caramel, but I can see it's not really "soft sticky," although it's plenty sticky. The ganache is delicious, but bears very little relation to mud. This is not a bad thing. I hope that someone requests these cupcakes to give me a chance to try them again.

Karen: "Yummy. It's the best cupcake I've ever had. A wonderful chocolate treat."
Jim: "It's pretty messy. I'm spilling cake all over the floor. The caramel is very chewy. I sound like I'm complaining, but I'm not. The cake is light, but still chocolatey. It's very good."
Gabe and Nat: "Thanks for the cupcakes!"


doughadear said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
doughadear said...

These are the most adorable cakes and I'm sorry you couldn't sample the carmel version. Turtles are awfully good so I can just imagine how good these must me.

Jenn said...

Marie, you made me laugh with your comments about crown. I have to remember that one when I make this as I have several crown myself :(. The cupcakes looks awesome. And btw, I COVET your fancy thermometer there. I've been wanting one in red.

evil cake lady said...

Great job with the photos this week, Jim!

Marie, too bad your temporary crown prevented you from sampling the caramel! If you did bring your crown (stuck to a blob of caramel) back to your dentist, at least bring along some cupcakes, too! Your turtles look very fancy with their foil liners and piped ganache.

Lisa said...

Oh boy, you sure know how to make a cupcake! I love all of your rich additions to this. I have a sweet treat linky party on my blog that will be going on until this evening and I'd like to invite you to come by and link your cupcakes up. http://sweet-as-sugar-cookies.blogspot.com/2011/02/sweets-for-saturday-3.html

Monica said...

Oh man, these look good. And the caramel and chocolate is not one of my fav combos, but THESE LOOK GOOD!

Jim said...

Thanks, ECL. It was an easy subject.

Mendy said...


Looks really great Marie! I agree with Jim that this can get pretty messy.

Got my quail eggs! Whole Foods had them (Columbus Circle.)

Unknown said...

This looks scrumptious. Love the white Thermapen! We shouted out to you here as well: http://www.facebook.com/Thermapen?v=wall

Happy baking!!

Mendy said...



O.K., cracking the quail eggs is really no big deal. But separating them! Ack! That's the hard part!

Any ideas on what to do with the egg whites? A prize should go to anyone who can keep them yolk free!

Jenn said...

Mendy, how many did you lose? (egg whites blend with yolks).

I'm going to call whole foods to see if they have quaill eggs. Otherwise, adventure to asian grocery store!

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

marie these are drop dead stunning perfection!

Mendy said...


Jenn, I did not lose any yolks, but they bled into the whites. The whites really stick to the yolks and I had to manhandle them a lot to separate them.