Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 2 dozen mini-cupcake pans with paper cupcake liners and spray with oil spray.
For the crust: In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, add the hazelnuts, brown sugar and gingersnaps, and pulse until a medium-fine paste. Then, add the butter and liqueur, and pulse until it's a paste that sticks when pinched with your fingers. Place 1 tablespoon of the crust into the prepared pans.
For the cupcakes: In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then beat in the extracts. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour mixture; beat until combined after each addition. Fold in the caramel pieces with a rubber spatula. Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop the batter into the prepared pans three-quarters of the way full. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 11 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pans when cool to the touch.
For the butterscotch glaze: In a saucepan over low heat, combine the brown sugar, evaporated milk and butter, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and allow to slightly cool (it will thicken as it cools). Reserve for assembly.
For the frosting: In the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and salt together until lightened and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and add the confectioners' sugar. Mix until thoroughly combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the caramel sauce, heavy cream and vanilla bean paste. Beat on medium-high speed until light and airy and completely mixed, about 2 minutes). Place in a pastry bag fitted with a small star tip and leave at room temperature.
For the stars: Lay out a large piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet on your work surface and spray with oil spray. In a medium saucepan, mix the granulated sugar, salt and 3/4 cup water; stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves to make a syrup. Increase the heat and bring the syrup to a boil. Lower the heat slightly and swirl the pan once or twice so the syrup colors evenly to a golden blonde. Remove from the heat and transfer to a flat work surface. Dip the tines of a fork into the golden blonde colored caramel and, in sweeping motions, make a star pattern on the parchment paper. Repeat until the desired amount of stars is achieved. Allow the caramel to harden, and then gently lift off the parchment paper and reserve for cupcake adornments.
To assemble: Dip the tops of the cooled cupcakes in the room temperature butterscotch glaze. Pipe the caramel buttercream frosting in a 1-inch diameter rosette on top of the glazed cupcakes, and sprinkle with edible star glitter and turbinado sugar. Then finish by adorning with a radiating star topper.
This recipe was created by a contestant during a cooking competition. It has not been tested for home use.
Recipe courtesy of Hollis Wilder