Looks can be deceiving: This frosting may resemble plain old vanilla, but one bite proves it’s much more. The addition of dark, slightly bitter caramel and an extra pinch of salt lends sophistication. Top some Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with this for an adult take on a childhood favorite.
Game plan: We used this frosting immediately after making it and again after it had set up, and found we liked it better after it had cooled and hardened slightly. However, if you’re in a hurry, you can use it right away; the frosting just may not be as perky as you’d like.
This can be made ahead, tightly covered, and refrigerated—it will last up to 7 days. Let it come to room temperature before using. One batch will frost 24 cupcakes.
1/4 cupgranulated sugar
1/4 cupheavy cream
1 teaspoonvanilla extract
12 tablespoonsunsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 cuppowdered sugar
Briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. Set aside until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes.
Combine butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar, and mix until completely incorporated.
Turn mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add caramel. Beat frosting on medium-high speed until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until stiff, about 45 minutes, before using.