Ultimate salted caramel cupcakes are made with a box cake mix, filled with a rich caramel sauce, and topped with a homemade caramel buttercream frosting. These are the best cupcakes for parties or when you want a sweet and salty treat. They are simple to make but so pretty to look at!
I love how this cupcake recipe uses caramel in the batter, frosting, and a garnish to make sure every bite is full of flavor! Caramel may be an ingredient you don’t use often, but it can be incorporated in a variety of ways when baking. You can also use leftover homemade salted caramel sauce to drizzle over banana cream pie, turtle thumbprint cookies, or pumpkin bread pudding.
Caramel lovers go crazy for these brownies, dutch caramel apple pie with ice cream, and pecan pie caramel cheesecake. This star ingredient can also be used for hot chocolate bombs, hand pies, and cookie bars.
What do I Need for this Recipe?
- Cupcakes Ingredients:
- white cake mix – so much easier than using all-purpose flour and all of the other ingredients.
- instant vanilla pudding – goes great with the caramel filling and makes the cupcakes moist.
- eggs – allow the eggs to come to room temperature before adding them to the batter.
- sour cream – balances out the sweetness and adds moisture to the little cakes.
- vegetable oil – canola oil can also be used.
- milk – we used whole milk, but most varieties will work.
- Salted caramel – store-bought is the easiest or you can make your own.
- Frosting Ingredients:
- salted butter – allow the butter to soften before mixing it.
- vanilla extract – adds a subtle vanilla flavor.
- 6 cups confectioners’ sugar – makes the frosting thick, fluffy, and sweet.
- salted caramel – adds additional caramel flavor.
- heavy cream – makes the texture creamy and helps get the right consistency.
- flaky sea salt – we love Maldon’s. It’s coarse sea salt but is flaky so it’s perfect for desserts and adds the best balance to the frosting. Do not substitute table salt, it’s not the same.
Sea salt flakes, caramel sauce, ice cream
- Mixer – a stand mixer with the (paddle attachment or whisk attachment) or use an electric hand mixer
- Cupcake corer – you can also use a small sharp knife
- Piping bag – for frosting
Variations and Substitutions:
- Mini cupcakes – to make these mini-sized, use a mini muffin pan. Just watch the baking time as it may need to be reduced.
- Homemade cupcake recipe – if you don’t want to use a box cake mix, use this classic vanilla cupcake recipe instead. Those who would rather have chocolate, go with my moist chocolate cupcakes recipe instead.
- Homemade caramel sauce – we used store-bought, but you can also make your own to fill the cupcakes. An easy way is to melt candy caramels in a small saucepan with a little cream over medium-low heat. Once they have fully melted, let the mixture cool slightly before adding them to the cupcakes. You can also make a simple salted caramel sauce by stirring ½ teaspoon of sea salt flakes into 1 recipe of homemade caramel or 1 jar of store-bought caramel sauce.
- Frosting – we love the caramel flavor that is in the frosting but these would also go great with swiss meringue buttercream.
- Layer cake – this recipe will also make two 8 or 9-inch round layers.
PREP: Line a muffin tin with liners and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Step 1: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cake mix, pudding, eggs, sour cream, oil, and milk on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to scrap down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Step 2: Scoop the cupcake batter into the muffin cups, filling it no more than ⅔ of the way full.
Step 3: Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with only a couple of crumbs. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.
Step 4: After they have cooled, carve out a small hole in the top of each cupcake.
Pro Tip: Do not scoop the cupcakes all the way to the bottom. You want to carve out just mid-way, so it fits about a teaspoon of caramel.
Step 5: Fill with a teaspoon of caramel sauce
Step 6: In a large bowl, beat the butter and vanilla together on medium-high speed.
Step 7: Add half of the powdered sugar at a time. Beat on medium-low speed until thick and fluffy. Then add the salted caramel while the mixer is running and whip until it’s smooth.
Step 8: Mix in the whipping cream. Transfer the frosting to the piping bag.
Step 9: Pipe swirls of the salted caramel frosting on top of the cupcake. Repeat until all are decorated.
Step 10: Drizzle with additional caramel sauce and serve.
- This recipe makes an ultra-big batch of frosting so you can pipe them high. For a smaller layer of frosting, halve the recipe.
- We love using box cake mix because it’s easy and you don’t have to worry about using multiple bowls for wet and dry ingredients.
Did you know that caramel is basically milk and sugar heated together?
Keep leftover cupcakes in the refrigerator in an airtight container or cupcake cases for up to 1 week. They can also be frozen for up to 2 months. If you are making this caramel cupcake recipe ahead of time, we recommend frosting them just before serving or no more than 24 hours in advance. You can pre-make the icing, then whip it once more so it’s fluffy. You just don’t want to the frosting to make the fluffy vanilla cupcakes soggy, and we want it to keep it’s shape.
Fill your cupcake liners about ⅔ to ¾ full with batter. Overfilling the liners can cause the batter to spill over the edges and create a domed top.
Tap the pan gently on the counter a few times to settle the batter after the cups are filled.
If your cupcakes always seem to come out with a dome, try lowering the oven temperature by 25 degrees.
Salted Caramel Cupcakes
- 1 – 15.25 oz. box white cake mix
- 3.4 ounces instant vanilla pudding
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup sour cream
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup milk
- Salted caramel to fill cupcakes
- 1 ½ cups salted butter softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- ⅔ cup salted caramel
- 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- flakey sea salt such as Maldon’s
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl beat together cake mix, instant pudding, eggs, sour cream, oil, and milk.
- Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins, filling each cup no more than ⅔ of the way full.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out with just a few crumbs. Remove from oven and cool completely.
- When cupcakes are cool, use a serrated spoon to carve out a small hole in the top center of each cupcake. Fill with salted caramel.
- Beat together butter and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy.
- Add powdered sugar, half at a time, and beat until fully mixed (mixture will be thick).
- Add salted caramel while the beater is running and whip until smooth.
- Add whipping cream and continue beating until frosting is fluffy.
- Pipe swirls of frosting over the filled cupcakes.
- Drizzle with additional caramel and sprinkle with flaked sea salt.