Today is my dear hubby's (DH) birthday and I've been thinking about a special birthday cupcake that will knock his socks off for over 2 weeks! He's a baseball nut...I mean fan and what better way to celebrate his love of baseball than coming up with a "Crackerjack" cupcake. That's exactly what I did.
I married this wonderful guy after only knowing him for two weeks and he's been my rock for almost 43 years. I even knew of his love for baseball because when a mutual friend was setting up on our first date, he told me he wouldn't be calling me (the night before) until the game was over to set up the time he'd pick me up. Most women would have felt slighted by this remark, but my intuition told me--this one is worth waiting for.
When I was pregnant with our first daughter, "back then" we didn't know ahead of time the sex of the baby, and we came up with both a boy and girl's name. Matthew HENRY for a boy and Erin (a homophone of AARON) for a girl--get it...Hank Aaron, my DHs all-time favorite baseball player and home run champion (he refuses to recognize Barry Bonds!) Even the day before Erin was born, I had started with early signs of labor, but he was so excited about a double header with the Washington Senators he had tickets for (it was their last season in Washington before moving to Texas) so I had him drop me at my mother's. Erin held off coming into this world until the next day so her dad could have his special day: )!
Our grandson, Ari is also a baseball nut and Chuck has taken him to see the Cincinnati Reds' ballgames each year since he was 3 months old! Even our granddaughter, Maddie got her first taste of the sport when PopPop took her to a Mets' game this year--big smiles too for America's past time.
Caramel Popcorn & Peanuts (aka Crackerjacks)
22-25 cups popped popcorn (about 1 cup unpopped)
4 cups salted peanuts (I used Virginia peanuts, but you could also use dry-roasted)
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
5T Karo light syrup
10T (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
Preheat oven to 200F-degrees. Spray 2 large baking pans with a nonstick spray. Set aside.
Several years ago, I bought a Cuisinart Popcorn Maker and it's been one of the most used items in my kitchen. I make this Caramel Popcorn with Macadamia Nuts at Christmas to give as gifts and having this small appliance has made it so easy to have fresh popcorn that only uses 1 T of oil for approximately 12 + cups of popcorn!
In a 3-quart sauce pan, combine the sugar, Karo syrup and butter. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then lower temperature and let simmer for 4 minutes or until it has become light in color.
Add the salt, then, the baking soda. The mixture will foam and turn a lighter color. Immediately pour over the popcorn/peanut mixture.
Divide mixture between two large baking pans and place in the preheated oven. Every 20 minutes, stir the mixture and rotate the pans.
After about 1 hour 10 minutes, remove from the oven and let cool completely.
While the Popcorn/peanut mixture is cooling, start the cupcakes.
Browned-butter Vanilla Cupcakes
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees. Line a muffin pan with cupcake papers.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, browned
After the butter has browned, place in a glass dish and cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Butternut flavoring
1/2 tsp. Caramel flavoring
1/2 cup sour cream
2 3/4 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
3/4 cup whole milk
Place browned butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment. Beat on med/high speed until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until combined. Add extract and flavorings and sour cream. Beat for 3-4 minutes until light.
Measure dry ingredients and add alternatively with the milk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
Scoop into a paper-lined muffin pan and bake 18-20 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when touched lightly.
Make Homemade Caramel (or used store-bought, but homemade is easy and sooooooo much better!)
Use an apple corer to remove the center of the cupcake so it can receive the caramel.
Make the Swiss Buttercream:
Replace part of the "plug" to cover the caramel hole. Then pipe a large dollop of buttercream on top.
The finale...add a cluster of Caramel Popcorn/Peanuts on top. I found the cupcake papers with the baseball decorations at Williams-Sonoma.
There maybe a lot of components to these cupcakes, but you can easily do the caramel popcorn and caramel the day before. For my DH's special day it was fun creating the cupcakes I've been thinking about. I just wish the grands were here to help eat them! Enjoy!