Love and Olive Oil

Black & Gold Dark Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

Dark Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

If you want to indulge in something incredibly rich and decadent, I can think of no better way than this cupcake. The moist chocolaty cake is paired with a caramel spiked dark chocolate buttercream, a chocolate on chocolate combination that can’t be beat. Using the Special Dark cocoa powder gives the cupcakes themselves an almost coal-black appearance, a richness of flavor, and a decadence that regular cocoa just can’t compete with.

Dark Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

I attempted to infuse the cakes themselves with caramel. Hoping for a gooey caramel center suspended in the cake, I plopped some caramel candies into the batter before baking. Makes sense, right?

Well, it didn’t quite turn out as I planned.

Caramel Bottoms - not quite as planned

Instead of a gooey center, the caramel sunk and spread out on the bottom, and then solidified, making for a solid caramel ‘crust’ on the bottom of the cupcake. You couldn’t eat it with the rest of the cupcake, so it was basically like eating a cupcake followed by a caramel candy. I only added the surprise caramels to half of the cupcakes, so you never knew whether your first bite would sink in smoothly in the moist cake, or would it be stopped suddenly by a chewey block of caramel? It’s like cupcake roulette.

Next time? The caramel-filled concept was a good one, but it needs work. I think maybe using a liquid caramel topping instead would work – a dollop on top of the uncooked batter before going in the oven. Or, go the filled route. Bake the cupcakes sans-caramel, and then pump them full of gooey goodness after they’re good and baked.

Black & Gold Dark Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes.

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1 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup special dark cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, room temperature
1/3 cup special dark cocoa powder
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk or soymilk
2 tablespoons caramel topping


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pan with paper liners.

Whisk together the coconut milk, sugar, oil, and vanilla extract and beat till foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and beat until no lumps remain (or very few remain).

Pour into liners, filling each with 1/4 cup of batter. Optionally add a dollop of caramel sauce to each cup. Bake 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

For frosting, cream butter until smooth and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add cocoa powder and beat until incorporated. Add 1 tablespoon soymilk and mix to combine. Add confectioners’ sugar 1/2 cup at a time and mix until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes total. Add caramel topping and mix well. If frosting is too thick, add more soymilk and beat until fluffy. If frosting is too soft, add more sugar and again, beat until fluffy. You want the frosting to keep it’s shape when piped on to the cupcake, but still fluffy enough that it stays light and soft when eaten. Top with a drizzle of caramel sauce if desired.

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  1. I can’t find special dark cocoa where I live. So can I substitute it with normal cocoa? If so what amount should I use?

    • Yes, substituting should be fine, but your cupcakes won’t be the same dark brown color as the ones here, rather much lighter. Amounts should be the same though. Or if you can find any dutch-process cocoa, that’s basically what the special dark is. It’s a bit harder to find but so worth the effort!

  2. These look great! will definitely try :D about the caramels – I remember reading somewhere that if you coat chocolate drops/caramel/fruit in flour or the dry mixture only of your cake, muffin or cupcake, they are more likely to stay suspended up in the cake – haven’t had a chance to try this yet tho :)

  3. I have an obsession with late night baking, and this is what I decided to make last night. Instead of putting in caramel pieces though I cut a cone out of the top and put caramel sauce in the middle. And oh my word…. they were delicious! The middle was a little bit soggy from the caramel, but they were seriously divine. This is such a great recipe. Thank you!

  4. These look delicious but I would definitely opt for butter over margarine – I’ve read too much negative information about margarine to ever cook with that again.

    I think I will try these but will go the dulce de leche route :-)

  5. These cupcakes are amazing! I would love to recreate them as gluten-free and vegan. I’ll keep you posted if I’m successful. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. pan = pot :P

  7. I agree with Shannon, dulce de leche would be wonderful… and it might work better than the caramel candies as it is liquid and as such, the possibilties of sinking are lessened. (sidenote: Quick dulce de leche recipe, fool proof and easy – take an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk, drop it in a pan of water on a low boil. flip the can over every half hour, ensuring it is always covered in water, for 4 hours -i´ve done this and contrary to popular belief the can has never exploded). Maybe prebaking a small amount and then adding the rest of the mix could help?

  8. I just got finished baking a quadruple batch of these cupcakes. It actually only ended up making 38 cupcakes total. I did fill them about 3/4 of the way full and baked them for 18 minutes. Any less full and they were too flat. I only taste tested a slightly warm one and it was fabulous! They are such a deep and dark color. Very pretty!

  9. love your site! beautiful cupcakes.

    ever tried baking the cupcakes for a little while and then dropping the caramel in? i’ve tried that with other things.

    happy baking :) look forward to visiting again!

  10. I just finished making these cupcakes for a friend’s birthday tomorrow. Wow are these beautiful, the color is so dark! I have loved everything about this recipe except the chocolate explosion in my kitchen due to a faulty hand mixer. Oops! I hope my pictures come close to showing the true darkness of these delicious cupcakes. I should be posting this recipe, minus the dark chocolate floor! Thanks for a great recipe! Kate

  11. These cupcakes look fantastic! A scrumptious treat!



  12. Those cupcakes look insane!! I love the coconut milk addition. Fab.

  13. Good to know how the caramel worked.

    Otherwise these are just GORGEOUS.

  14. I think some dolce de leche in the centre would be wonderful too!

  15. I’ve heard of the flour technique as well =)

  16. I respect your non-egg recipes and have made and love your cupcakes. However, I more often have eggs lying around the house than I do coconut milk. Is there a substitution I can make?

  17. The carmel was such a delicious and wonderful idea!!

  18. yummy! Im sure they still tasted wonderful!

  19. These cupcakes look awesome. When I want to put a gooey center in I was told to lightly coat it with flour. I never tried it with caramel, but I have tried it with chocolate candy bar in the center. Either worth a shot.

  20. awesome-tastic. the cupcakes look very elegant. and despite the baking mishap i’m sure they taste delicious. luckily caramel sauce is vegan already :)

  21. Oh yum.

    And I think it might be best to fill the cupcakes post-baking. With whatever caramel filling Ben & Jerry’s puts in Karamel Sutra–that stuff doesn’t freeze so you can refrigerate these cupcakes without the center hardening. Though I have no idea what magical caramel is in there.

  22. they still look good to me! Love those flavors together… yummmmm!

  23. The car-bomb cupcakes from Smitten Kitchen are awesome. They’re definitely on my list of best cupcakes. I think these might make it too, though. The chocolate mint cupcakes from this site have, as well as the vanilla bean cupcakes from Bon Appetit. And I am also going to try some great-sounding peanut butter chocolate ones from Bake and Destroy. Someday I will have the perfect list!

  24. oops, ganache, but you get the idea!

  25. They at least look beautiful!

    Deb has a somewhat similar chocolate/caramel filled cupcake on smitten kitchen, filling it with caramel afterward…haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds like what you’re looking for! yum

  26. These look awesome! Quick question: would we be able to sub the canola for olive oil? Would that throw off the taste?



  27. can i just say, i’m up for a game of chocolate caramel roulette any day of the week. :)

  28. I already printed this one out and added it to my list of cupcakes to try. I loved your chocolate mint ones and I’m eager to try these. I think I’ll buy caramel topping and pump it in after the cupcakes have baked. I’ll need the topping anyway to “spike” the frosting! Yay! Another recipe I’m really excited about.

  29. Mmm, these cupcakes sound divine. I kind of like the idea of a chewy caramel crust. It’s like having two desserts in one! And oh, that buttercream sounds lethal. Great job!

  30. Nice try! They do look pretty darn tasty. I think filling them after baking would be your best bet. Not that I’m a cupcakes expert, but that seems like a quality idea.


  31. Wow, these look amazing. The caramel thing doesn’t sound so wonderful. What about using chocolate coated caramel candies?

  32. Guess the whole dropping things into cupcake batter never works like it should. Odd too – those cookie dough cupcakes I made a while back? Perfect the first time. But the second time I made them the cookie dough sunk and left a giant gaping hole in the middle of the cupcake. So strange.

    Yes, yes, homemade salted caramel sounds so divine… one of these days… maybe…

  33. Holy cow wow! That is one gorgeous cupcake! I for one, LOVE the Special Dark Cocoa! I’m tell ya, you should try filling the cupcake with some variation of salted caramel or salted caramel frosting. I’m sure it would pair well.

    PS. I too once had the idea of dropping in a Hershey’s Pumpkin Spice Kiss in the middle of a chocolate cupcake, and then topping it with pumpkin cream cheese frosting. Luckily I did a test batch, because it did the same thing, sunk to the bottom and became rock hard. NOT COOL. Without the Kiss is was a super great combo.

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