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Among the three dessert food groups — chocolate, vanilla, and caramel — caramel doesn’t seem to get any respect. I would always choose caramel over chocolate or vanilla (hello, caramel rolls!) but nobody says that they are addicted to caramel. Chocoholics, yes, but caramelholics?

The process of browning or caramelizing any food, including sugar, makes the dish tastes so much better than food that is not well-browned. Caramel is white sugar that is browned; butterscotch is melted brown sugar. Caramel sauce — the toasted sugar mixed with heavy cream — is the elixir of the gods and makes all desserts taste better!

This cupcake recipe is courtesy of Ruth Sparrow, who books the chefs for cooking classes and writes the witty newsletter for Kitchen Conservatory. Plus, she takes photos and updates our Facebook and Twitter pages. Happily, she never says no to any dessert, including chocolate and vanilla, but caramel is tops!

Pecan-Brown Sugar Cupcakes
1 cup all purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in chopped pecans. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add brown sugar, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and beat until just blended.
Line muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners and with a #16 disher, scoop batter into muffin cups. Bake cupcakes until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 23 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 15 minutes, then transfer to rack to cool.
Caramel Frosting
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
Combine sugar and water in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and syrup turns a deep amber color. Do NOT stir. Remove from heat and carefully add cream (the cold cream against the hot syrup will immediately harden – that is okay!); return to low heat and stir until it is smooth. Whisk egg yolks in medium bowl, then very gradually whisk the hot caramel into yolks, so as not to set the egg yolks. Cool to room temperature.
Using electric mixer, beat butter and salt in large bowl until smooth. Beat in caramel. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Dip cupcakes upside down in frosting than dip in nuts. The nuts can cover the entire cupcake top or roll just around the edges of the frosting. I love toasted pecans, so I do it over the entire top!