These caramel popcorn cupcakes are the perfect movie night treat! With brown butter corn cupcakes, salted caramel buttercream, and homemade salted caramel popcorn, they're just the right combo of sweet and salty!
Brown Butter - My favorite ingredient of all time is brown butter!! Brown butter is just unsalted butter that has been melted and gently cooked to bring out a toasty, nutty flavor. If you've never made brown butter before, you can check out this post with all my tips for how to make brown butter! But if you're trying to keep things simple, you can just use regular unsalted butter in the cupcakes and frosting!
Cake flour - I always use cake flour in my cupcakes because it makes them super soft and tender, but all purpose flour also works great!
Cornmeal - I use just a little bit of cornmeal to help add some subtle corn flavor to the cupcakes. There are several different types of cornmeal (this is a great article that breaks it down) but for these cupcakes I recommend using either fine or medium ground cornmeal. You should be able to find it next to the flour in the baking aisle! Do NOT use self-rising cornmeal as it will make your cupcakes rise too much.
Sour Cream - The sour cream keeps the cupcakes super moist while also adding a bit of tang! You always want to use full fat sour cream in baking for the best results! You could also use plain full fat yogurt or whole milk!
Flaky sea salt - There's nothing better than sweet and salty caramel corn! I love using Maldon Flaky Sea Salt because it has the best flavor and texture.
Salted caramel - This recipe works best with homemade salted caramel! I've included how to make salted caramel in the recipe card below, but you can also check out my full post for how to make homemade caramel for more details and step by step photos!!
Caramel popcorn - My homemade salted caramel popcorn is the best (if I do say so myself), but you can use your favorite store bought caramel corn if you prefer.
The complete list of ingredients and amounts is located in the recipe card below.
How to Make Cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 12 cup cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
Whisk the cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the brown butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth.
Then whisk in the eggs and vanilla until fully combined. Add in the sour cream and whisk until smooth.
Gently fold in the flour mixture until fully incorporated.
Pour about ¼ cup of batter into each cupcake liner (they should be about halfway full).
Bake at 350°F for 18-22 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Remove from pan and let brown butter cupcakes cool on wire rack.
Frost the cooled cupcakes, then garnish with homemade caramel popcorn and extra caramel drizzle!
Tips for the Best Baked Goods
Use room temperature ingredients! Always make sure ingredients like butter, eggs, milk, yogurt, etc. are at room temperature before baking (unless the recipe indicates otherwise)! This ensures they'll incorporate into the batter more easily and leads to overall better texture. Remove all ingredients from the fridge 30 minutes to an hour before baking for best results.
Measure your flour correctly! It's most accurate to use a kitchen scale, but if you're measuring by volume you want to spoon and level! Fluff up the flour a bit with a spoon, and then spoon flour into the measuring cup. Once it's overflowing, use the back of a knife to level it off. Don't ever pack flour into the measuring cup or you'll end up with way too much! Improperly measured flour can lead to dry, dense baked goods. [Measure cocoa powder the same way!]
Use an oven thermometer! Just because your oven says it's 350, doesn't mean it is! If you oven hasn't been calibrated recently, it can be as much as 30 degrees off, which will negatively affect all baked goods from cakes to macarons! An oven thermometer is the easiest/cheapest way to ensure your oven is always at the proper temperature.
Make sure you baking powder is fresh! Baking powder is important for helping baked goods rise properly, but it has a relatively short shelf life once opened, so it's one of the few items I never buy in bulk! To test if your baking powder is still fresh, add a small amount to boiling water. If it bubbles it's still good to use, but if not it's time to toss it!
Cupcake Decorating Tips
- Make sure you let the caramel popcorn cupcakes cool completely before frosting!!
- For these big beautiful caramel frosting swirls on these caramel popcorn cupcakes, I use the large round tip from this decorating kit. The tips are much larger than standard sizes and so fun for decorating cupcakes!
- After frosting garnish with caramel popcorn and a drizzle of homemade caramel sauce!
These popcorn cupcakes are best eaten immediately! The caramel corn will start to soften and lose its crunch the longer it's in contact with the frosting. Store the frosted cupcakes in the fridge for up to 3 days, but wait to garnish with popcorn until right before serving.
I personally prefer homemade salted caramel for these cupcakes, but you can use your favorite store-bought caramel sauce if you prefer!
No, but I recommend it! The brown butter takes both the cupcakes and frosting to the next level! However, you can substitute unsalted butter if you must.
Tips for Success!
For best results I always recommend using weight measurements (especially when baking) because it's the most accurate. Kitchen scales are super affordable and also reduce the number of dishes you have to do! However, all my recipes also include US customary measurements for convince. Use this chart to convert measurements for common ingredients!
Substitutions: In all my recipes, I've included substitutions that I know will work, but I cannot guarantee results if you substitute ingredients that I have not recommended. [For example, granulated sugar and honey are indeed both sweeteners but they have very different properties so they can not always be swapped 1:1. Using honey in a cookie recipe that calls for granulated sugar will yield a giant mess.] In the recipe card you'll find links to the specific ingredients/brands that I use.
A note on salt: I almost exclusively use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt because it's the best all-purpose salt for cooking and baking. If you're not using kosher salt, consult this handy guide for a conversion chart! When in doubt, if you're using table salt just reduce the amount by half for baked goods. When cooking, I prefer to under-salt because you can always add more! If you've over-salted, adding a little bit of acid (like lemon juice) can help.
More Caramel Recipes You Might Like!
If you make this recipe, please leave a star rating at the bottom of the page! This provides helpful feedback to both me and other readers. And if you want more delicious, scratch-made recipes you can subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook!
Caramel Popcorn Cupcakes
- 1 ¼ cups cake flour, substitute all purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornmeal, substitute all purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup unsalted brown butter, melted
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup sour cream, substitute plain yogurt or whole milk
- I highly recommend making the salted caramel and the brown butter for the buttercream the night before so that they both have time to fully cool!
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 12 cup cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
- Whisk the cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the brown butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth.
- Then whisk in the eggs and vanilla until fully combined. Add in the sour cream and whisk until smooth.
- Gently fold in the flour mixture until fully incorporated.
- Pour about ¼ cup of batter into each cupcake liner (they should be about halfway full).
- Bake at 350°F for 18-22 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Remove from pan and let brown butter cupcakes cool on wire rack.
- In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth.
- Add in the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time until fully combined and smooth.
- Set the mixer to low speed and slowly drizzle in the salted caramel until it's fully incorporated into the buttercream.
- Then beat on high speed for 3-4 minutes or until the buttercream is super light and fluffy. If needed, add in cream 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
- Frost the cooled cupcakes, then garnish with homemade caramel popcorn and extra caramel drizzle!
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.