A couple of months ago, on a quest for something sweet, I whipped together a batch of chocolate muffins with a molten caramel filling that oozed out the centre when bitten in half. Recently when pictures of my baking started floating around on Instagram, I received a tonne of requests for the recipe. What I have been hiding and am only now ready to admit is that the caramel shamefully came from an unlabelled silver packet lying in the back of the pantry since ages ago. Shameful because mostly a) I didn't make it myself and secretly b) because I have no idea where to get my hands on another pack. So anyway, there began my heartbreaking journey to recreate a recipe for these ooey gooey caramel muffins.

I had the muffin recipe down, but the caramel part turned out to be an unexpected, crazy science experiment. I tried canned caramel, dulce de leche, bottled caramel sauce and four different recipes for homemade caramel. None of them worked! Although still edible, both the canned caramel and dulce de leche were too dense, sinking into a thick glob at the bottom of each muffin, and the other caramels were too thin and dissolved into the muffin once baked. By this time I'd run out of sugar and flour, every surface of my kitchen was littered with muffins that had been split in half and/or picked at and nibbled on, and I had a litre of leftover caramel that would sustain me for a year of ice-cream desserts. My last desperate attempt was to try caramel candies, which I'd read online might work. I tried out two brands, Cadbury and Werther's Originals; the Cadbury caramels, like the homemade caramel sauces, disappointingly melted and merged into the muffins, but when I split open the muffin containing the Werther's Originals (a moment comparable to Moses splitting the Red Sea) I very nearly cried. It had worked. If it weren't for the risk of burning your tongue, you could easily slurp out the caramel from the middle - it was ooey and most definitely gooey, and to top it all off, it was bloody delicious. 

I am, however, still convinced that there is a recipe out there for the perfect homemade caramel that will yield a beautiful muffin with a runny caramel centre. If anyone has any ideas, please share with me! In the meantime, enjoy this recipe using caramel candies - it's good, I promise!

(makes 12)

150 grams butter at room temperature
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
160 grams sour cream
1/4 cup milk
24 caramel chews (I used Werther's Originals)

  1. Preheat oven to 180˚C and line a muffin tray.
  2. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until pale and creamy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beating until combined.
  4. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa, and roughly mix into the creamy mixture. The batter will be very thick at this stage.
  5. Add the sour cream and mix until just combined.
  6. Add the milk and mix until smooth.
  7. Spoon mixture into muffin cases until they are about two thirds full.
  8. Place two caramel chews in the centre of each muffin case and lightly push into the batter to secure it in place (don't push the caramels down to the bottom).
  9. Divide the rest of the batter among the muffin cases, making sure that the caramels are covered. 
  10. Bake for 20 minutes.

The muffins are best eaten warm when the caramel is still lovely and gooey. Once cooled the caramel will begin to harden like toffee so just pop one in the microwave for 20 seconds before eating!