The perfect drunken cupcake, these salted caramel whiskey cupcakes are made of a soft whiskey vanilla sponge topped with a swirl of salted caramel buttercream frosting and a whiskey caramel filling.
✏️ Recipe creation
I love using alcohol in my desserts, especially a good liquor cupcake. Whiskey and bourbon are great paired with sweet caramel and vanilla so I was super excited to create this alcoholic cupcake.
Originally, I made this using a caramel buttercream, but with the addition of the caramel sauce it was a little too sweet. Instead, I added salt to the buttercream, and this cut the sweetness in a great way, balancing boozy, salty and sweet – yum!
These soft brown sugar cupcakes are infused with alcohol for a delicious whisky kick. The salted caramel frosting adds sweetness that goes perfectly with the whisky caramel sauce topping too!
These liquor cupcakes are great for parties and celebrations, everything from Birthdays to Christmas.
They’re especially great at St Patrick’s Day using Irish whiskey! St Patrick’s Day is the perfect opportunity to make an Irish whiskey cupcake if I’ve ever heard one. Serve these beauties alongside my Bailey’s Irish cream cupcakes and green matcha cupcakes for a St Paddy’s Day cupcake dessert table.
They’re also great around the Christmas holiday season and Father’s Day for a sweet boozy gift!
This cupcake recipe calls for the following ingredients:
- Unsalted butter
- Light brown sugar
- Plain flour (all-purpose)
- Baking powder
- Vanilla extract
- Whiskey (e.g. bourbon)
Salted caramel buttercream:
- Unsalted butter
- Icing sugar (powdered confectioners’ sugar)
- Salt (optional)
- Whiskey (e.g. bourbon)
See the recipe card for quantities.
I love using an Irish whiskey like Jamesons or the all-time classic whiskey Jack Daniels, but you can use any brand you like. Your favourite bourbon, scotch or Irish whiskey will be great in this recipe!
I use brown sugar to add to the caramel sweetness of the cupcake, but you can instead use a white sugar (i.e. caster / granulated sugar).
Instead of plain flour, you can substitute this for self-raising flour and reduce the amount of baking powder to ½ tsp.
For the frosting, I use an unsalted butter then add in the salt myself so I can control the saltiness of the buttercream. However, you can instead swap in a salted butter and exclude the extra salt. Different brands have different levels of salt though.
Instead of caramel, you can use a toffee, fudge, butterscotch or dulce de leche sauce. I love swapping in this salted rum dulce de leche sauce when I’m out of caramel.
- Room temperature ingredients mix together better than cold ones. Take your butter and eggs out of the fridge to come up to room temperature before you start baking. For me, this takes about 30mins to warm up.
- I recommend sieving your flour, baking powder and powdered icing sugar for this recipe for a smooth batter and frosting.
- When measuring your ingredients, it’s best to use weights rather than cups for better accuracy.
- I prefer using vanilla extract to vanilla essence. As it’s less processed, it has a purer vanilla flavour.
- I usually use a store-bought caramel in a tin as it’s easier, but you can also make your own from scratch, like in this caramel recipe by broma bakery.
- When using store-bought caramel, you want the one that comes in a tin or jar where possible, as these are often thicker than the squeezy bottles or syrupy ones used for coffees. I use the Carnation caramel usually.
I use the following equipment for this recipe:
- Muffin tin / cupcake tin
- Cupcake liners or baking cups
- Electric hand mixer or stand mixer (or whisk / fork)
- Medium mixing bowl
- Rubber spatula or wooden spoon
- Weighing scales
- Measuring spoons
- Wire cooling rack
- Piping bag and piping tip e.g. Wilton 6B (optional)
To make cupcakes, I usually use a 12-hole muffin tin and either paper liners or baking cups. If you use baking cups, you can place them on a baking tray instead of in a muffin tin.
I usually use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer for this recipe - it’s nice and easy! You can instead use a whisk, spatula or fork to make both your batter and frosting though. It might take some elbow grease, for the frosting especially, but it’s definitely do-able!
I use a piping bag with a Wilton 6B tip to pipe a starred ring of frosting onto my cupcakes. However, you can instead fill a plastic freezer bag with your frosting and cut off the corner to pipe big round rings.
You can also use the piping tip of your choice! I’m a big fan of this starter set of cupcake piping tips by Wilton. Or just slather on your frosting with a knife and/or a teaspoon – easy as that! You can also use a teaspoon to drizzle the caramel sauce on top instead of using the frosting as a well and filling it.
- To measure your ingredients, it’s best to use weights rather than cups for better accuracy.
- I like using digital scales for weighing my ingredients as it's easy and accurate. I quite like KitchenAid or Salter scales.
- It’s best to use measuring spoons. Cutlery teaspoons and tablespoons have different volumes to the measuring ones!
- When using a stand mixer, I like to use the paddle attachment with a low speed for the batter as it helps reduce the chance of overmixing. For the frosting, I use a medium speed.
- It’s a good idea to scrape down the sides and bottom of the stand mixer bowl every so often so you get an even mixture.
- Remove your freshly baked cupcakes from the hot tin and transfer them to a wire cooling rack. This helps to prevent moisture gathering on the outside of your cases, which could make them to peel.
First, preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C (fan) / Gas Mark 4 / 350°F.
In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Sieve in the flour and baking powder, mixing until only just combined. Stir in your vanilla, milk and whiskey and spoon your batter into a cupcake tin lined with cupcakes cases.
Bake for 15-20mins until golden and springy, then transfer to a rack for cooling.
Make the buttercream while your cupcakes are cooling. Beat the butter until fluffy then sieve in half your icing sugar and beat until smooth. Repeat with the other half of icing sugar and beat in the caramel and salt.
Pipe your frosting onto your cooled cupcakes in a ring.
For the topping, stir together you remaining caramel and the whiskey. Spoon your sauce into the ring of frosting and enjoy!
Your whiskey caramel cupcakes should last up to 4 days at room temperature stored in an airtight container.
If it’s quite warm where you live, you might want to store your cupcakes in the fridge so the buttercream doesn’t melt. They should last up to 5 days in the fridge, but might start to dry out!
You can also freeze your boozy cupcakes (frosted or unfrosted) for up to 3 months before defrosting and eating. It’s best to label your frozen treats with what they are and when they were frozen so you don’t forget about them!
💭 Top tips
- For a super smooth sponge batter, cream together you butter and sugar thoroughly to start with.
- Try to fill each cupcake case with your batter to just over the halfway point. Too much and you’ll get muffin tops, but too little and you’ll have mini cupcakes!
- You’ll know your whisky cupcakes are cooked when they’ve risen, turned a golden colour and an inserted skewer or toothpick comes out clean from the centre.
- For creamy frosting you’ll want to beat your butter until it’s pale, light and fluffy before adding your other ingredients. This could take several minutes with an electric mixer and longer by hand.
❔ Recipe FAQs
Whiskey is an alcohol spirit distilled from fermented grain mash, e.g. using wheat, rye, barley, and corn, and then aged in wooden barrels. Bourbon and scotch are types of whiskey.
Caramel is an amber-brown confection that can be made by heating sugar and water or cream. Other ingredients can be added, such as butter, salt and vanilla too. The consistency can vary from a chewy solid to a runny sauce.
Your cupcakes should last for up to 4 days stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
Yes! You can freeze your cupcakes wrapped in a layer of cling film and foil for up to 3 months.
Yes, you can make your cupcakes ahead of time and freeze them. Alternatively, you can make the cupcake sponges a few days in advance (freeze if longer) and then make the buttercream frosting later to finish them off.
This could be caused by a few things. You might have scooped in too much baking powder, e.g. instead of using a levelled scoop from a measuring teaspoon.
Another reason could be that you opened the oven partway through baking which caused your oven temp to drop rapidly and sinkhole your cupcake.
To get rid of air bubbles in your frosting, beat it on a low speed using a paddle attachment before using it. The whisk attachment can sometimes add too much air.
Alternatively, you can stir it with a spatula or wooden spoon by hand for a few minutes.
No, cake flour is actually different to both plain flour and self-raising flour. It has a different composition and your cupcakes will have a different consistency if you use cake flour.
If you’re not a huge whiskey fan, you can also try other liquors. For example, why not swap the whisky for brandy or rum?
Or if you’re after even more whiskey flavour, you can add ½ tablespoon whiskey to the caramel frosting for a salted caramel bourbon frosting.
There’s also different flavors of whisky you can use, for example the Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey or even try their apple flavor!
I like the caramel and whiskey flavour combo in these cupcakes, but you can also give them a chocolate twist. Chocolate caramel whiskey cupcakes would be delicious! Try adding cocoa powder - 1 ½ tablespoon to your cupcake batter and 1 tablespoon to your frosting.
Toppings and decorations
I like creating a caramel filling for these cupcakes, where the sauce sits in the well created by a ring of frosting. You can instead frost your cupcakes with big swirls and drizzle the sauce on top instead.
Another option is to drizzle melted chocolate on top or use fun sprinkles. Getting some four leaf clover sprinkles for St Patrick’s Day is especially cute!
You can also sprinkle on some brown sugar. They’re cute like real sprinkles but will also give your cupcakes more of a caramel taste. Alternatively, sea salt flakes look great too!
I often sprinkle a little golden lustre dust on top of my finished cupcakes to add a bit of sparkle too.
Another topping you could use is a small piece of toffee or fudge sitting on the whiskey caramel sauce.
To make gluten-free whiskey caramel cupcakes, swap the plain flour for gluten-free flour. I recommend using a gluten-free plain flour blend, such as King Arthur's measure for measure flour or Freee from Doves Farm.
You should also add ½ teaspoon of xantham gum to the whisky cupcake batter if your flour blend doesn’t already include this in the ingredients.
For gluten-free cupcake success, add an extra 1 teaspoon oil and 1 teaspoon milk to the batter. Beat your batter really well and let it stand for 20mins before pouring it into your cake tins and baking.
You might also need to bake your cupcakes for an extra 5-10mins.
🧁 Other goodies
Looking for some other goodies to make?
If you love a boozy bake (I definitely do!) then check out this Bailey's chocolate cake, Bailey’s chocolate cheesecake, whiskey almond cookie bars or Bailey’s cupcakes. You can even swap the frosting in this recipe for Bailey’s buttercream instead.
If you’re a cupcake addict like myself, why not check out these funfetti cupcakes, chocolate orange cupcakes or vanilla raspberry cupcakes.
You may also like:
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Salted Caramel Whiskey Cupcakes
Rate this recipe here:
- Piping bag* optional
- Piping tip (e.g. Wilton 6B) optional
- 115 g (½ cups) unsalted butter room temp.
- 115 g (½ cups) light brown soft sugar
- 2 eggs
- 115 g (1 cups) plain flour** all-purpose
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon milk whole or semi-skimmed
- 1 ½ tablespoon whiskey (e.g. bourbon)
Salted caramel buttercream:
- 115 g (½ cups) unsalted butter room temp.
- 150 g (1 ¼ cups) powdered icing sugar
- 65 g (4 ½ tablespoon) caramel
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Whiskey caramel sauce:
- 75 g (5 tablespoon) caramel
- ½ tablespoon whiskey (e.g. bourbon)
- Preheat oven: 180°C / 160°C (fan) / Gas Mark 4 / 350°F
- Cream together the butter and sugar, either using a spatula, electric hand mixer or stand mixer, until light and pale.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time until fully combined.
- Sieve the flour and baking powder into the mixture, gently folding in until just combined.
- Stir in the milk, vanilla and whiskey until only just spread throughout the mixture.
- Line your cupcake pan with 10 cupcake cases and divide the batter evenly between them (each case should be no more than ⅔ full).
- Bake in the oven for 15-20mins or until the cupcakes are golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean from the middle. Transfer the cupcakes to cool on a wire rack while you make the frosting.
Salted caramel buttercream:
- Beat the butter (either by hand, using an electric mixer or stand mixer) until pale, light and fluffy. This could take several minutes.
- Sieve half of the icing sugar into the butter and beat until combined, then repeat this with the remaining half of icing sugar.
- Add in the caramel and salt, mixing until only just smooth.
Assembly and decoration:
- Once your cupcakes have fully cooled, add your buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a nozzle of your choice (e.g. large open star) and pipe a large ring onto each cupcake.
- For the sauce, stir together the caramel and whiskey until smooth. Dollop a teaspoon of the whiskey caramel sauce inside the piped ring of frosting on each of your cupcakes, then enjoy!
Nutritional information is an estimate based on an online nutritional calculator, actual values may vary.
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