2cupssalted caramel sauce(about 20 oz, the thick kind in a jar)
24chocolate-covered pretzel twists
To Make the Cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pans with 24 paper wrappers.
Add the butter and both sugars to the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat them together on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix it in.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and water (or coffee, if using). In a different bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer running on low, add a quarter of the sifted flour mixture. When the flour streaks have almost all disappeared, add a third of the liquid to the mixing bowl. When that’s incorporated, continue to add the drys and wets in an alternating pattern, ending with the dry ingredients.
When the dry ingredients are nearly incorporated, stop the mixer. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and finish mixing the cake by hand. Scoop the batter into the cupcake pans. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Cool completely before decorating.
To Make the Pretzel Frosting:
Place the pretzel twists in the bowl of a food processor and pulverize them until they are fine crumbs.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium spee for 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, salt, and powdered sugar, and beat for 1-2 minutes until you have a light, creamy frosting. Add the pretzel crumbs and mix well. At this point, check the texture. If you want it to be a little thinner, add the milk and mix it in. If you’re happy with the texture, the milk can be omitted.
Coarsely crush or chop the pretzel twists so they’re in small, irregular pieces. Put some pretzel frosting in a piping bag fitted with a large open star tip.
Pipe a ring of frosting around the outer edge of a baked and cooled cupcake. Roll the side of the cupcake in the coarsely crushed pretzels, so the crumbs adhere to the sides. Use a teaspoon or small cookie scoop to scoop up a spoonful of caramel sauce and place it in the middle of the frosting ring. Finally, add a chocolate-covered pretzel to the top of the cupcake. Repeat until all of the cupcakes are assembled.
These cupcakes are best the day they are assembled. The cakes and frosting can be made several days ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator, but the fully assembled cakes have the best taste and texture on the day they are made.