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Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

These chocolate caramel cupcakes are moist, filled with caramel, and topped with the most delicious caramel buttercream! It’s truly a match made in heaven.

image of a chocolate caramel cupcake that's been drizzled with melted caramel and chocolate ganache

Making These Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes Together

Let’s walk through each step of this chocolate caramel cupcake recipe to make sure it turns out as amazing as possible!

I’ve also shared a video tutorial on how to make the caramel from scratch below.

Step 1: Make the Caramel

Make the caramel first, because it needs time to cool and thicken before it’s used to fill and drizzle over the cupcakes.

Making caramel from scratch might seem a little intimidating, but I promise it’s easier than you’d think!

Turn the stove to a medium heat and place a saucepan over the element. Once the saucepan has warmed up, gradually pour in 1 cup sugar, adding 1/4 cup at a time.

Wait until the sugar is mostly liquified, then add in the next bit of sugar. As the sugar melts it will slowly deepen in color.

image of granulated sugar gradually being added into a pot to make homemade caramel sauce

I try to stir it as little as possible, and let the heat melt it down. If you feel like the sugar might be burning or getting too dark, remove the pan from heat and turn down the temperature a bit.

Stir as needed until the sugar is fully dissolved and is an amber color. Turn off the heat.

Slowly mix in the butter, then stir in the heavy cream and salt. The mixture will be very thin at this point but will thicken as it cools. Pour the caramel into a separate container and set aside to cool.

image of caramel sauce that's been made and is cooling in a glass bowl

Step 2: Make the Chocolate Cupcake Batter

Next, we tackle the chocolate cupcakes! Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C and line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners.

Add the warm water and espresso powder into a large bowl. Stir together until combined.

Whisk in the melted chocolate and cocoa powder and stir until smooth.

Next, mix in the eggs, oil, vinegar, and vanilla until the batter is smooth. The batter will be thin!

Then whisk in the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

image of chocolate cake batter being made with a whisk in a green bowl

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Step 3: Bake the Chocolate Cupcakes

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake them for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. Remove the pan from the oven.

Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove them and place them on a wire rack to finish cooling.

If you’re in a rush, place the entire pan in the freezer for 30 minutes to accelerate the cooling process.

image of a moist chocolate cupcake being held up to show how nicely baked it is

Step 4: Make the Caramel Buttercream

While the cupcakes bake and cool, make the caramel frosting.

If the frosting seems too thick, add an extra Tbsp of heavy cream. If it seems too thin, add in another 1/4 cup of powdered sugar.

Or if you’re unsure what consistency the frosting should be, check out my frosting consistency guide.

image of caramel buttercream being mixed together in a glass bowl

Once the frosting is made, stir it by hand with a rubber spatula to get it SUPER smooth. Then place it in a piping bag fit with a Wilton 1M frosting tip and set aside.

Step 5: Fill and Frost the Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

If you want to fill the cupcakes, remove the center of the cupcakes using the wide end of a frosting tip or a small knife and fill the center of each cupcake with the cooled caramel.

Then pipe on a swirl of caramel buttercream and chill the frosted cupcakes in the freezer for about 5 minutes.

This helps prevent the buttercream from melting as we drizzle the cupcakes with warm caramel and chocolate ganache.

Once the frosting is firm to the touch, drizzle warm caramel and chocolate ganache over the chilled buttercream and add a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.

image of chocolate ganache being drizzled over a chocolate caramel cupcake

If you don’t have any frosting bags and tips, you can also use a freezer Ziplock bag and trim the corner to have a 2 cm opening.

No matter how you decorate them, they’re going to be absolutely delicious!

image of a caramel filled chocolate cupcake that has been cut open to show its filling

Substitutions and Swaps – Moist Chocolate Cupcakes

Now that we’ve covered how to make these cupcakes, let’s talk about the ingredients!

This recipe uses quite a few ingredients and I know you might not have them all on hand.

Or if you have food allergies or restrictions, I’ve got you covered. Below are some swaps and substitutions that you can make.

  • Chocolate Chips – You can use milk, dark or semi-sweet chocolate to make these chocolate cupcakes. Just be sure it’s a good quality chocolate so it will melt down smoothly.
  • Instant Espresso or Coffee – You can omit the instant espresso if needed, but it really enhances the chocolate flavor in these cupcakes.
  • All Purpose Flour – This recipe turns out best with AP flour, but you can use a gluten free flour blend if needed.
  • Granulated Sugar – I do not recommend reducing the amount of sugar or changing the type of sugar as it will change the texture of these cupcakes.
  • Vegetable Oil – You can use any flavorless oil in this recipe. Canola or sunflower oil would work great!
  • Large Eggs – If you have an egg allergy, try using 2 flaxseed eggs or a vegan egg replacer like this one made by Bob’s Red Mill.
  • Vinegar – This recipe needs a bit of vinegar because it uses baking soda as a leavening agent. The vinegar activates the baking soda and helps the cupcakes rise. You can use white or apple cider vinegar.
image of baked chocolate cupcakes cooling in a cupcake pan

Substitutions and Swaps – Caramel Buttercream Frosting

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place.
  • Heavy Cream – Whipping cream, coconut cream or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat, coconut) will work fine in this frosting recipe if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Vanilla Extract – Other extracts can also be used in place of the vanilla extract if needed.

Substitutions and Swaps – Caramel Filling

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. Just be sure to omit the salt that this recipe calls for.
  • Heavy Cream – To make vegan caramel sauce use coconut milk in place of the heavy cream in this recipe.
  • Salt – I love adding in a bit of salt to balance the sweetness of this caramel and enhance its flavor but you can omit it if needed.

Making This Chocolate Caramel Cupcake Recipe in Advance

You can make these cupcakes in advance! Frosted cupcakes can sit at room temperature overnight or be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container.

They can also last up to a month in the freezer. If you plan to freeze them, I suggest waiting to fill and frost them until they’re thawed.

The caramel can also be made up to a month in advance. Store it in the fridge in an airtight container. When you’re ready to use it, heat it in 10 second intervals until it reaches the right consistency to fill and drizzle over the cupcakes.

You can also make the buttercream ahead of time or save any leftovers. This buttercream frosting will last in the fridge for up to a month in an airtight container.

Be sure to give the frosting a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

You can also store this buttercream in a piping bag in the fridge. I find buttercream keeps its consistency well in piping bags and doesn’t require any mixing after it’s thawed.

image of a platter of chocolate caramel cupcakes that have been frosted with caramel buttercream

Tips for Making the Best Caramel Filled Cupcakes

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better. Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure the flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure the dry ingredients.
  • Mix the cupcake batter until the ingredients are just incorporated. This will ensure the cupcakes are tender and fluffy.
  • Use a large cookie scoop to easily fill the cupcake liners. It also makes sure the cupcakes end up being the same height.
  • Chill the frosted cupcakes in the fridge or freezer before drizzling on the warm caramel and chocolate ganache. This will prevent the frosting from melting.
  • Seal off the top the piping bag with a rubber band to prevent any frosting from coming out the top of the bag and make the piping bag easier to use.
image of an unwrapped chocolate caramel cupcake

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you make these chocolate caramel cupcakes, I’d love to hear what you think of it! Please leave a comment and rating below.

Don’t forget to tag me @chelsweets and #chelsweets so that I can see your delicious creations on social media.

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 12

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

image of a chocolate caramel cupcake that's been drizzled with melted caramel and chocolate ganache

These chocolate caramel cupcakes are moist, filled with caramel, and topped with the most delicious caramel buttercream! It's truly a match made in heaven.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 3 minutes

Ingredients

Caramel Filling & Drizzle

  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200g)
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature (85g)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature (60g)
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt (2g)

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup water, warm (180g)
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso or coffee (3g)
  • 1/3 cup milk or dark chocolate chips, melted (60g)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder or black cocoa powder (30g)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature (114g)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (75g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)
  • 1 tsp white vinegar (4g)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (100g)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (150g)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (3g)
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt (2g)

Caramel Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature (226g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt (1g)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (500g)
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream or whipping cream (15g)
  • 1/4 cup caramel - recipe shared above (80g)

Chocolate Drip - Optional

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (95g)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (80g)

Suggested Equipment

Instructions

Caramel Filling & Drizzle

  1. Make the caramel first, because it needs time to cool and thicken before it's used to fill and drizzle over the cupcakes. Making caramel from scratch might seem a little intimidating, but I promise it's easier than you'd think!
  2. Turn the stove to a medium heat and place a saucepan over the element.
  3. Once the saucepan has warmed up, pour in 1 cup sugar gradually, adding 1/4 cup at a time. Wait until the sugar is mostly liquified, then add in the next bit of sugar. As the sugar melts it will slowly deepen in color. I try to stir it as little as possible, and let the heat melt it down. If you feel like the sugar is burning, remove the pan from the element and turn down the heat a bit.
  4. Stir as needed until the sugar is fully dissolved and is an amber color. Turn off the heat.
  5. Slowly mix in 6 Tbsp of butter, 2 Tbsp at a time. Stir until each addition of butter is fully incorporated before adding the next bit. Then stir in 1/4 cup of heavy cream and 1/4 tsp salt. The mixture will be very thin but will thicken as it cools.
  6. Pour the caramel into a separate container and set aside to cool.

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175 C. Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners and set aside.
  2. Pour 3/4 cup of warm water into a large bowl. Mix in 1 1/2 tsp of coffee or espresso powder and stir until dissolved.
  3. Add 1/3 cup melted chocolate chips and 1/3 cup of cocoa powder. Whisk together until the ingredients are fully combined.
  4. Whisk 2 large eggs, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp vinegar into the cocoa mixture.
  5. Add 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt into the chocolate espresso mixture and whisk until just combined. The batter will be thin, but that’s how it’s supposed to be.
  6. Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. Remove the pan from the oven.
  7. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then place them on a wire rack to finish cooling. If you're in a rush, place the whole pan in the freezer for 30 minutes to accelerate the cooling process.

Caramel Buttercream

  1. While the cupcakes bake and cool, make the caramel buttercream. In a large glass bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat 1 cup of room-temperature butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a hand mixer or paddle attachment until smooth.
  2. Mix in 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 tsp salt on a low speed.
  3. Slowly mix in 4 cups of powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp of heavy cream on a low speed. Once combined, mix in 1/4 cup of cooled caramel sauce. The caramel should still be fluid, but it shouldn't be hot to the touch.
  4. Mix on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the desired consistency is reached. If the frosting seems too thick, add an extra Tbsp of heavy cream. If it's too thin, add in another 1/4 cup of powdered sugar.
  5. Stir by hand with a rubber spatula for a couple minutes to make the frosting SUPER smooth. Place the frosting in a large piping bag fit with a Wilton 1M tip and seal the top of the bag with a rubber band or clip. Set aside.

Chocolate Ganache Drip

  1. Place 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat 1/3 cup heavy cream in a heatproof bowl in the microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute, until it's steaming and just starting to bubble. If you don’t have a microwave or prefer to use the stove top, you can heat the cream over a medium heat in a pan until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat.
  3. Gently pour the heavy cream over the chocolate. Make sure the chocolate fully covered by the cream. Let the mixture sit for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Stir the mixture together until the cream and chocolate are fully combined and mixture is smooth.
  5. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is just slightly warm to the touch.

Decorating These Caramel Cupcakes

  1. Use the wide opening of a large frosting tip or a small knife to remove the center from each cooled cupcake.
  2. Fill each cupcake with a little less than a Tbsp of cooled caramel.
  3. Pipe swirls of caramel frosting on top of each cupcake. Chill the cupcakes in the fridge for 15 minutes or the freezer for 5 minutes to help the frosting firm up.
  4. While the cupcakes chill, warm up the remaining caramel in 10 second intervals until it is thin enough to be drizzled.
  5. Remove the cupcakes from the fridge or freezer and drizzle with warm chocolate ganache and caramel. Add a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, then enjoy!

Notes

Ingredient Swaps & Substitutions

For a detailed list of ingredient swaps and substitutions that can be made in each component of this recipe, please refer to the "swaps and substitutions" section above.

Making Mini Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

If you want to make mini chocolate cupcakes, this recipe can be baked in mini muffin tins! It makes about 40 mini cupcakes, and they only need to bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 F / 175 C.

Tips for Making the Best Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better. Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure and then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Once you add the flour, mix the cupcake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will ensure the cupcakes bake up tender and fluffy.
  • Use a large cookie scoop to easily fill your cupcake liners. It also makes sure the cupcakes end up being the same height.
  • Seal off the top of your piping bag with a rubber band to prevent any frosting from seeping out the top of the bag and make the piping bag easier to use.

Chocolate Caramel Cupcake Variations

To make gluten free chocolate caramel cupcakes, swap in your favorite gluten free flour blend for the AP flour this recipe calls for. Be sure to over-mix your batter and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before baking for best results.

Making These Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes in Advance & Storage Tips

You can make these cupcakes in advance! Frosted cupcakes can sit at room temperature overnight or be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container.

They can also last up to a month in the freezer. If you plan to freeze them, I suggest waiting to fill and frost them until they're thawed.

The caramel can also be made up to a month in advance. Store it in the fridge in an airtight container. When you're ready to use it, heat it in 10 second intervals until it reaches the right consistency to fill and drizzle over the cupcakes.

You can also make the buttercream ahead of time or save any leftovers. This buttercream frosting will last in the fridge for up to a month.

Be sure to give the frosting a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

You can also store buttercream in a piping bag in the fridge. I find buttercream keeps its consistency well in piping bags and doesn't require any mixing after it's thawed.

Nutrition Information

Yield

12

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 696Total Fat 38gSaturated Fat 20gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 16gCholesterol 106mgSodium 317mgCarbohydrates 88gFiber 2gSugar 78gProtein 4g

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