I don’t like peanuts, but strangely enough, I like peanut butter. (Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t tell you! It’s probably just my odd tastes…) On toast, in sandwiches (the classic American PB&J with strawberry jam is great), cookies etc, I love it. Recently, I was thinking about making cupcakes when it occurred to me, why not incorporate my love of peanut butter into cake? I was bored of the same old vanilla sponge, time after time, and it seemed a good chance to experiment a little and try out some flavour combinations of my own. Normally, I’m a stickler for recipes, but I decided that it was time to branch out and bring some of my own ideas to life, and thus, my peanut butter and caramel cupcakes were born.
I don’t know how many people would agree, but I love the combination of salty and sweet; from salted caramel to dark chocolate with sea salt, I just find it matches beautifully. The tang of the salt isn’t particularly savoury, it just emphasises the flavours inherent in the sweetness, adding depth and a new dimension to something which might otherwise be ordinary. This is what I wanted to incorporate into my own baking, a richness of flavour without being too overbearing, so I tried pairing peanut butter and salted peanuts with sweet caramel and cake.
The base of the cupcake was normal vanilla sponge cake batter, flavoured with two tablespoons of dulce de leche (a type of caramel made with milk). The frosting was a basic buttercream, with the addition of 3/4 of a cup (or 3oz) of smooth peanut butter. In this attempt, I feel that the frosting was a little on the heavy side due to being under-whipped – in future, I will definitely be mixing my buttercream for longer, to give it a lighter texture. However, the flavour was good and not too sweet, which buttercream has a tendency to be. To decorate, I used a large star-shaped nozzle to pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes and finished them with chopped salted peanuts and a drizzle of dulce de leche.
The overall result was a light cake with a richly peanut-flavoured frosting and the occasional crunch and saltiness of the chopped peanuts, all balanced out by the sweet caramel drizzle. This was actually my first attempt at making my own recipe (albeit based on the basic sponge cake), and I am pleased at how well they turned out, even if I say so myself! A lovely little pairing of salt and sweet, peanut butter and caramel looks set to stay…