2 & 1/2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate (2.5 blocks)
3/4 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 & 1/4 c. unbleached flour
1 & 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 & 1/3 c. water
3/4 c. heavy cream (whipping cream)
4 TBS unsalted butter
2 tsp sea salt
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
6 TBS butter, softened
4 1/2 - 5 c. powdered sugar
4 TBS Ghirardelli Sweet Chocolate Cocoa powder
2 TBS reserved salted caramel
2 TBS whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350. Line 5 dozen mini cupcake molds with paper liners (or 24 full size).
Melt the chocolate in microwave. Cool slightly.
Cream butter, sugar & vanilla in large mixing bowl until light & fluffy. Add eggs & cooled chocolate; blend well. Mix flour & baking soda together in small bowl. Add dry ingredients alternately with water in two batches each.
Using spring-hinge melon baller, scoop 1 TBS of batter into each mini cup (should be 2/3 full). (For full size, fill liners 2/3 full, about 1/4 c.)
Bake mini cupcakes 8-10 minutes or until centers test clean. (Bake full size 18-20 minutes.) Remove from pans to wire rack & allow to cool completely.
While cupcakes bake, prepare caramel.
In small saucepan, combine butter cream & salt. Heat until butter melts completely, whisking to blend. Set aside.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, do not stir. If necessary, use a wet pastry brush to wash down any crystals on the side of the pan. Boil until the syrup is a deep amber color, about 5 to 6 minutes. Watch carefully, as syrup goes from amber to burned quickly!
Remove the sugar from the heat and carefully whisk in the butter cream mixture. The mixture will bubble. Whisk until completely combined. Transfer the caramel to a dish to cool; refrigerate until it becomes "spreadable", whisking occasionally.
Using tip of sharp knife, cut a small circle out of the center of each cupcake to make a "well" for the caramel, reserving the cutouts. Using cake decorating tool, "inject" caramel into the cupcake center, leveling off with the top of each cupcake. The caramel may settle into the cupcake. If it does, pop the reserved circles back into the cupcakes.
For frosting, stir reserved caramel into whipping cream. Whip butter in large bowl of electric mixer. Add about half of the powdered sugar & the Ghirardelli powder, beating well. Add the caramel whipping cream & the vanilla, whipping until combined. Add remaining powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Add more whipping cream as necessary until desired consistency is achieved. Pipe on to caramel filled cupcakes using cake decorating tool.
Chill at least 2 hours to allow flavors to develop.