Salted Caramel Cupcakes [Vegan]

©. Jaymi Heimbuch

These are super moist and light, with a surprisingly airy texture. The frosting is the rich part, a thick, sweet and creamy decadence. The sprinkle of Fleur de sel on top is the perfect salty counterpart to the sweetness. As a friend proclaimed after trying them, "They're so fluffy and un-vegan tasting." So in other words, you can feed these delicious cupcakes to your non-vegan friends and totally get away with it.

salted caramel cupcakes photo

You can try a gluten-free option by using cup-for-cup style multi-blend gluten-free flour. Usually gluten-free cup-for-cup flour blends (my favorite is Authentic Foods Multi-Blend Flour) work great for quickbreads, muffins and crusts, and it may work well here too. I didn't try that with this recipe, so if you do try a gluten-free flour, let us know how it turns out.

This recipe is inspired by Parade. Makes 12 frosted little-piece-of-heaven cupcakes.

Ingredients for the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup natural cane sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsweetened original almond milk (or rice milk)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Ingredients for the frosting:
1/4 cup vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/8 cup unsweetened original almond milk (or rice milk)
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Fleur de sel, for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 12-cup tin (or two 6-cup tins) with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt and mix to combine. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the almond milk, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined, taking care not to overwork the batter.

salted caramel cupcakes photo

3. Fill the cupcake liners with batter until about two-thirds full. Be careful not to over-fill the tins. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in a cupcake comes out dry. Remove the tin and let cool on a wire rack.

4. Meanwhile, it's time to make the frosting. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the vegan margarine. Add the dark brown sugar, almond milk and salt. Whisk together, and allow it to come to a high simmer. Reduce heat to low and let the mixture simmer for three to four minutes, then remove from heat. Add the vanilla, stir, and pour into a large mixing bowl. Let it cool to room temperature.

5. When the caramel mixture has cooled, it's time to add the sugar. Using a mixer on low speed, slowly add in the powdered sugar a little at a time. Continue to add powdered sugar until the frosting is at the desired thickness. It should be thick enough that a dollop placed on a plate holds it shape without spreading out too much. Using a pastry bag (or a butter knife) frost the cupcakes.

salted caramel cupcakes photo
salted caramel cupcakes photo

6. Now for the pièce de résistance. Sprinkle a little Fleur de sel on top of each cupcake. And tah dah! Salted caramel cupcakes, vegan-style.

salted caramel cupcakes photo

7. Enjoy!