A few weeks ago, I spied this post on the (always entertaining) blog Internet Food Association. The idea of bourbon combined with caramel, buttercream and cake was pretty much irresistible to this boozehound. I decided to try my hand at my own version. They turned out pretty darn good - not too big, not too sweet, and just rich enough.
For the cupcakes, I used Nigella Lawson's phenomenally simple fairy cakes recipe. If there's an easier recipe in existence for making cupcakes from scratch, I've yet to find it. One batch of the recipe yields twelve small cupcakes, and nine medium-sized ones. (Skip the Royal Icing, obviously, unless you're skipping the buttercream!)
The buttercream was Gourmet's brown sugar buttercream - I first made this frosting as part of their legendarily (at least in my circle of friends) delicious blackberry brown sugar cake. It takes time (you'll be dropping butter into your mixer for about 15 or 20 minutes), but it's not difficult. The frosting keeps well in the fridge for up to a week, and is good for two batches of the fairy cakes.
The one piece of special equipment you need is a candy/deep-frying thermometer. The buttercream starts with a base of whipped egg whites, into which you stream piping hot sugar syrup. If the syrup isn't at the right temperature (about 248 degrees Fahrenheit), the frosting will be either grainy or soupy.
Finally, look up any recipe for caramel sauce (mine was an improvised version that used milk instead of cream), and stir a tablespoon of bourbon in at the end.
To assemble, let the fairy cakes cool completely, then frost generously with the buttercream. Drizzle with as much caramel as you like (you may want to place the cakes on parchment paper or aluminum foil while you do this, for the sake of your countertops), and eat. Cakes will keep - stored in an airtight container, at room temperature - for a few days.