Those are some manly-looking cupcakes, aren't they? Plus, they're far more interesting than the usual chocolate cake with chocolate or vanilla icing--the icing is a salted caramel buttercream. I made these for my brother's birthday, and although he hasn't had much of a sweet tooth since the age of 7, he ate two of them and took a few more home. That's high praise.
Salted Caramel Buttercream
2 sticks butter
8 ounces or 1 package of Philly cream cheese
5 to 6 cups powdered sugar
1 cup salted caramel (Below)
Bring butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours.
Sift 3 cups of powdered sugar into the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat to combine. Add 1 cup of the salted caramel and beat to combine.
Sift 2-3 cups of powder sugar, in 1 cup increments and beating between each, until you arrive at the thickness and sweetness you desire.
(From Smitten Kitchen)
1 cup sugar
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) salted butter, the better you can get, the better it will taste
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature
If you only have unsalted butter, a pinch of salt.
Melt the sugar over medium to moderately high heat in a larger pot than you think you’ll need–at least three quarts (I used six), whisking or stirring the sugar as it melts to ensure it heats evenly. Cook the liquefied sugar to a nice, dark copper color. Add the butter all at once and stir it in. Before turning off the stove pour in the heavy cream (and salt if you're adding it) and turn off the heat (the sauce will foam up quite a bit when you add it; this is why you want the larger pot.), whisking it until you get a smooth sauce.
Use it right away or pour it into a jar and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. When you take it out, the caramel will likely have thickened a bit but a few seconds in the microwave brings it right back to pouring consistency. We microwaved it covered, in 10 second increments.