(adapted from Annie’s Eats)
Yield 2 dozen cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
For the caramel:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the frosting:
12 ounces cream cheese, cold
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 tablespoons caramel sauce
2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
pinch of coarse salt
For the chocolate sauce:
(original recipe here)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup water
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
chopped roasted pecans
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and hot water and whisk until smooth. In another medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to blend.
Combine the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth and the butter is completely melted. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is cool, about 4-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let cool in the pan about 5-10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the caramel:
Spread the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place over medium-heat, watching carefully. When the sugar begins to liquefy around the edges, use a heatproof spatula to gently stir it towards the center. Continue stirring very gently until all the sugar is melted, taking care not to over stir. Measure out the heavy cream in a liquid measuring cup and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream. Set aside. Once the caramel reaches a deep amber color, immediately remove the sauce pan from the heat. Carefully pour half of the heavy cream into the saucepan in a steady stream down the edge of the pan, whisking constantly. The mixture will steam and bubble violently. Stir until the cream is well incorporated, then whisk in the remaining cream. Stir in the salt and the vanilla. If any sugar has hardened, place the saucepan over low heat and whisk until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
To make the frosting:
Combine the cream cheese, butter, and caramel sauce in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar and salt at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag with a large round tip. Pipe a swirl of frosting over the top of each cupcake. Use the tip of a small offset spatula or a small spoon to scoop an indentation out of the center of the frosting.
To make the chocolate sauce:
Whisk together the sugar, water, cocoa powder, corn syrup, and salt in a small saucepan. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. Remove the pan from the heat once the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the chopped chocolate and set the pan aside for 1 minute, then whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract. Transfer the sauce to a heatproof container and refrigerate until completely chilled.
Top the frosted cupcakes with another dollop of caramel, chocolate, and chopped pecans.