Salted Caramel Pretzel Cupcakes are rich and moist chocolate cupcakes with a pretzel crust, salted caramel buttercream, and crushed pretzel topping.
Why These Chocolate Cupcakes Are The Best
- 2 bowls
- Simple ingredients
- No mixer required
- Deep chocolate flavor
The Pretzel Crust
Making a pretzel crust could not be easier.
You'll crush your pretzels into fine crumbs using a food processor or by placing them in a zippable plastic bag and using the back of a spoon to crush them up. You don't need to be too thorough, but making sure that you have no large pretzel pieces will help the crust come together.
After crushing your pretzels, you'll simply mix melted butter and granulated sugar into the crumbs to create a slightly wet mixture. Divide the mixture between your cupcake liners, about 1 tablespoon in each cupcake cavity, before using your thumb or the back of a spoon to push the crust flat in the liners.
Salted Caramel Buttercream
I use Smucker's Salted Caramel Sauce in this buttercream, but you are more than welcome to use a homemade salted caramel sauce if that works better for you! Here is the process for making this 3 ingredient buttercream:
- mix cold butter until smooth
- slowly add powdered sugar to the butter while mixing on low speed
- mix butter and powdered sugar on high speed for 3 minutes
- pour room temperature salted caramel sauce into the buttercream
- mix on high speed for 2 minutes
Using room temperature ingredients will impact the texture of your batter, therefore impacting the texture of your bakes. Room temperature ingredients combine much more smoothly and work together to create lighter, fluffier, and more tender cupcakes.
You absolutely can use store bought OR homemade caramel sauce. Whatever you have, whatever is easiest, whatever you prefer... this frosting is so flexible as long as you use room temperature caramel sauce!
I decorate these cupcakes with a plastic piping bag with a Wilton 4b tip. Use a piping bag with any large tip you'd like OR simply frost these with a knife or spoon!
Cupcake Baking Tips
- Use the right cocoa powder: I can't stress this enough. There is a difference between dutch-processed cocoa powder and natural cocoa powder. This recipe calls for dutch-processed. I use the Hershey dark chocolate cocoa powder. If you do not use the proper type, you could end up with flat, sunken cupcakes!
- Measuring: Gram measurements are provided for accuracy. If you don't have a kitchen scale ($10 on Amazon), make sure you measure all of your ingredients properly. Specifically and most importantly, when measuring flour, spoon your flour into your measuring cups before taking a knife to level off the top.
- Do not overmix: Simply mix your dry ingredients and wet ingredients until the pieces of the dry ingredients disappear into the batter and the batter is smooth. Do not mix after your batter reaches this stage, as the texture of your cupcakes will be altered.
- Filling your liners: Fill your liners ¾ full. The batter should almost reach the top of the liners. This recipe should create an even 12 cupcakes if followed correctly.
- Baking: Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. If the toothpick comes out clean, you have likely overbaked your cupcakes. If you take your cupcakes out too early, however, you'll risk ending up with a gummy texture or sunken cupcakes. You should be able to lightly tap the tops of your cupcakes and have them spring back quickly!
Moist, rich chocolate cupcakes with a simple pretzel crust base, salted caramel buttercream, and crushed pretzel topping. These are incredibly impressive in appearance and taste, but they are TOO simple!
For the Pretzel Crust
- ⅔ cup (65g) crushed pretzel crumbs
- 2 ½ tablespoons (35g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 ½ tablespoons (20g) granulated sugar
For the Cupcakes
- 1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
- ⅓ cup (27g) dark cocoa powder (dutch), sifted
- 1 teaspoon (6g) baking soda
- ½ teaspoon (4g) salt
- ⅓ cup (75g)vegetable oil
- ¼ cup (65g) sour cream, room temperature
- ¾ cup (170g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs (100g), room temperature
- 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract
- ⅔ cup (160g) buttermilk, room temperature
- ⅓ cup (75g) boiling water
For the Salted Caramel Buttercream
- 1 ½ cup (275g) unsalted butter, cold
- 2 ½ cups (300g) powdered sugar
- ½ cup (170g) salted caramel sauce, room temperature
For the Decoration
- ½ cup (22g) pretzels, crushed
- 12 pretzels
For the Pretzel Crust
- Line a 12-cupcake tin with liners.
- Combine fine pretzel crumbs, melted butter, and granulated sugar together with a fork or spoon in a medium-sized bowl.
- Evenly divide the crust into each cupcake liner, spooning about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into each cupcake cavity.
- Push the crust down to flatten and firm it using your thumb or the back of a small spoon.
For the Cupcakes
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk all purpose flour, sifted dark cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt until combined.
- In a large bowl, whisk vegetable oil, room temperature sour cream, granulated sugar, room temperature eggs, vanilla extract, and buttermilk until fully combined.
- Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Alternate adding the dry ingredients and boiling water to the bowl of wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. To do this, add ½ of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and whisk for about 5 seconds before adding ½ of the boiling water. Whisk in ½ of the remaining dry ingredients to the batter before adding the remaining boiling water. Add final portion of dry ingredients to the batter, and mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Make sure there are no pieces of unmixed dry ingredients. Batter will be very thin.
- Divide batter between the 12 cupcake cavities- somewhere between ¼ cup and ⅓ cup of batter. The batter should almost fill the liners, especially with the pretzel crust underneath.
- Bake cupcakes for 18-23 minutes. If you have an uneven oven, turn your tin at the 17 minute mark, as turning earlier will risk deflating the cupcakes. Cupcakes should bounce back when poked in the center, and a toothpick inserted into the center will come out with just a few crumbs.
- Let cupcakes cool for about 20 minutes before frosting.
For the Salted Caramel Buttercream + Decoration
- If using a hand mixer, bring your butter to room temperature before making the frosting. To do this, simply leave your butter out on the counter 1-2 hours before baking. If you forget, cut your butter stick into 1-tablespoon sized pieces. Microwave the pieces laying flat for 10 seconds before flipping the pieces over and microwaving for another 10 seconds. Repeat the process in 5 second increments until the butter is soft but still cool to the touch. You should be able to make an indent without breaking through the butter piece when sticking your finger in it.
- If using a stand mixer, fit it with your paddle attachment. Beat cold butter until smooth- about 2 minutes of mixing.
- Slowly, add your powdered sugar to the butter on low speed. Beat the butter and sugar together for 3 minutes on high speed.
- Add room temperature caramel sauce to your buttercream while mixing on low speed. Mix on high speed for an additional 2-3 minutes until the buttercream is light, fluffy, and velvety.
- Frost cupcakes as desired before decorating with crushed pretzel pieces and topping each cupcake with a whole mini pretzel.
Keywords: Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Cupcakes, Salted Caramel Cupcakes, Salted Caramel Buttercream, Dark Chocolate Cupcakes, Pretzel Cupcakes