Saturday, November 29, 2008

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting - Daring Bakers - November

The hosts for this month are Dolores from Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity , Alex , Brownie of Brownie and Blondie , Jennie of Foray into Food , and Natalie, the alternative baking expert of Gluten A Go-Go .

The challenge this month is Shuna Fish Lydon's signature caramel cake recipe Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich. Additionally, a second option was added - Alice Medrich’s Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels, with LOTS of variation. Guaranteed to keep us all on a sugar-induced high all month!

I'd never tried working with caramel - this would be a challenge into new realms and techniques that I'd never thought about. My baking style has always been - here's the recipe, put it together - into the over - finished, you have cake. This month's challenge gave me an opportunity to learn "technique" - imagine the concept and delve into uncharted territory (for me). At times I felt like Captain Kirk of the Starship Caramelprise - watching out for sputtering caramel for fear of combusting.


10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

So the GF changes to the cake would be:

2 cups of gluten free flour blend (w/xanthan gum) or 2 cups of gf flour blend + 1 1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1/2 - 1 tsp baking powder (this would be the recipe amount to the amount it might need to be raised to & I'm going to check)

I'll let you when I get the cake finished, how it turns out and if the baking powder amount needs to be raised.

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

- makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels -

1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer


Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.

Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.


Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.
(recipe from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert)

Verdict: I discovered something - I'm not a huge fan of caramel in cakes and on the overall found the amount of sugar a little overbearing. I'm glad to have tackled the challenge - I learned something that I'm sure will serve me well in cakes to come. StumbleUpon


Anonymous said...

Geez, it sounds/looks delish! Wow, just say caramel and I will be there with my fork!

RecipeGirl said...

This looks like it was an amazing challenge! Great job :)

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

i love the photo of the sugar cooking. great caramel!

Mary said...

I wasn't a fan either, but it looks like you did a terrific job!

Anonymous said...

Not a fan of caramel??? It's right up there, second only to chocolate! The cake does look spectactular, though :)

April said...

One of the things that I love about the Daring Bakers is that I can learn about new things, if I like them or I discover that I don't. You cake looks great!!

Anonymous said...

You took photos of the caramel almost reaching smokiing point? WOw! I wound't have dared. I was too scared that I won't cook it long enough or maybe overdo it. Great looking cake. :)

kat said...

Yeah, this one was certainly a good challenge. We liked it more than I expected I guess we have a sweet tooth

glamah16 said...

I agree with you. Sugar overload. No way was Im going to attempt the caramels too. But glad we pushed ourselves.

Megan said...

Not a cake that I'll be repeating but i'll sure make that caramel syrup again!
Captain Kirk of the Starship Caramelprise - watching out for sputtering caramel for fear of combusting. Thats a great line! ;)

Marija said...

Lovely cake! Great job!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A pretty cake! Very well done!



Gretchen Noelle said...

Look at the frosting layer - wow! Great job with your cake even though you now know you may not love caramel cakes.

Anonymous said...

I love caramel(despite its dangers around the stove!) and this looks like a special recipe for the festive season coming up...maybe with some spun sugar decoration?

Cakelaw said...

Your cake looks absolutely wonderful, even if it wasn't your thing to taste. I think I learned some more technique too!

test it comm said...

Nice looking cake! Caramel is certainly challenging to make.

Mandy said...

Yours looks gorgeous and I love the photos in the instructions. Great job!

Deeba PAB said... on a sugar high again Giz. Yes, far too sweet for me too, & the hub as well. The kids on the other hand lapped it up!! Just took a look at your beautiful charms & stuff at Vals...very very pretty. Well done...xoxoxo

What's Cookin Chicago said...

That looks heavenly and I'm such a caramel lover. Thanks for sharing :)

shambo said...

My goodness! Does that ever look fabulous! I'd love a sample with a strong cup of coffee. Congratulations!

Lot-O-Choc said...

Mm delicious,you put buttercream in the middle too. Yummy! Great job.

Lori said...

The cake looks so decadent and yummy Giz! I have enver made caramel syrup before so it was new for me too.

Julia said...

YUM! I love caramel! Imagine this with some caramel (burnt sugar) ice cream... Though I do eat gluten, I'm very appreciative of the substitution tips. I know it's most difficult to find good recipes.

Anonymous said...

I loved this challenge, it was so much fun and such a lovely cake, I'm sorry you weren't that keen on it. I love the photo of the caramel cooking and the cake looks so good.

Elle said...

Captain Kirke would be proud of you! Caramel now part of your toolbelt. Lovely cake, but, indeed, too sweet.

Dharm said...

Well Done Captain Kirk!! Your cake looks just great. I really need to get off my butt and start writing some stuff for blogger aid...sorry i"ve been so lax...

Peter M said...

I love caramel and seeing as how we live in the same city...I'd be pleased to eat the leftovers.

Elle said...

Great step by step photos, and the cake looks delicious! Sorry it was too far on the sweet side for you, though. I added extra salt to the frosting which seemed to help out a lot. Hold on to your hat for this month's challenge!

Half Baked said...

Nice job on this month's challenge! Your cake looks great:)

Rosie said...

Beautiful cake Giz - well done!

Rosie x

Ruth Strong said...

Great work on the caramel cake! I love that you made layers

Deborah said...

Your cake looks great, even if you didn't love the final outcome!

Anonymous said...

That caramel scared the hell out of me. Good thing I was wearing oven gloves :)
Yup.. I kind of agree the sugar could be a bit less.

Dolores said...

Captain Kirk of the Starship Caramelprise... I love it! And I'm glad you learned something from this challenge that will serve you in the future, even if the cake didn't meet your expectations. Thanks for baking with us!