Saturday, November 29, 2008

Caramel Cake - Daring Baker's Challenge

Since my dad's birthday falls in November, as soon as I saw this recipe, I knew this would be his birthday cake, and I was quite excited and also quite apprehensive. This cake represented many firsts for me - my first caramel syrup, my first browned butter, my first cake with icing... in fact it was only my second cake! So I was pretty nervous about it, and I warned my parents to have some ice cream as a back-up in case disaster struck!

Luckily, the ice cream was unnecessary.

Much to my surprise, the cake turned out wonderfully. I knew it would probably taste good no matter what, but the batter held together, the cake rose the way it should, and in general, it was absolutely incredibly delicious. My aunt even asked me to make it for her birthday too (which isn't until April so I might be ready to tackle it again by then).

The recipe comes courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon, of the blog eggbeater, which is a great resource for people who love to bake. The original recipe can be found here.

Co-hosting this month's challenge are Dolores ( , Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo:, and Jenny of Foray into Food ( You can check out their sites for all the rest of the completed challenges.

Below is the recipe, along with some pictures and my notes about anything special I did, or additions I made (we weren't allowed to change the recipe but we could infuse things into the caramel syrup and we could decorate the cakes however we wanted, so there was some room for experimentation). I ended up infusing the caramel syrup with crushed amaretti, which I love, and then adding some slivered almonds on top of the frosting to go with the amaretti. The almonds were actually a really nice touch, because the frosting was so sweet and rich that the nuttiness provided a nice contrast and helped me eat even more of it!!

The recipe contains 3 parts - the cake itself, the caramelized buttercream frosting, and the caramel syrup, which goes into both the cake and the frosting. I made the caramel syrup 2 days ahead and the frosting 1 day ahead, which helped me stress out less on actual cake-baking day. My notes come in purple after the double asterisks.


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

Preheat oven to 350F **or 180º C

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)
** A small handfull of amaretti, crushed thoroughly
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. ** I was very worried about this, so I took some extra precautions. I wore oven mitts when I poured the cold water in, but more importantly, I put a colander over the bowl and poured the water through that. This was highly effective in stopping any water from leaping up and burning me.

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.} **Here, I poured in the amaretti.

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

**I made half this recipe and it was more than enough to give the cake a very generous coat of frosting. However, it does say the frosting will keep for 2 months, so if you want to make extra, I can't imagine that it would be a bad thing!
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)

My final recommendation - we had the cake with frangelico (an Italian hazelnut liqueur), and it was absolutely heavenly. Overall, a wonderful birthday dessert!


TeaLady said...

I love the almond slivers on the cake. Great idea. Looks yummy

kimberleyblue said...

Those almonds are a great idea! Your cake looks super good - great job!

Jen said...

Almond would be great with the flavor of the cake. I'm glad you family like it so much.

Claire said...

Great job! The border of almonds is wonderful. Hey...anytime you get a request like that, fill it! :-)