This month's Daring Bakers challenge was to make a caramel cake with caramelized butter frosting. In addition, a suggestion was to make homemade caramels to be served with the cake. I made some homemade caramels to go along with this recipe (though not the recipe suggested by the group), adding more texture to this decadent dessert. The cake as a whole isn't overly rich, allowing you to truly enjoy it. The challenge this month was hosted by Culinary Curiosity, and co-hosted by Blondie and Brownie, Foray into Food, and Gluten-a-Go-Go.
This cake is not overly complicated, nor is it pretentious. Its basic flavors are more than enough to support it, so there is no need to add details that could potentially take away from the burnt caramel and butter goodness. It would be remiss to force something overbearing into this cake, which would be easy to do considering the light flavors, so I would suggest you make the cake as-is.
Recipe (originally by Shuna Fish Lydon, her signature caramel cake)
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water, divided
In a heavy pot, suspend the sugar in 1/2 cup of water - it will not fully dissolve. Heat high until the color turns dark amber. Remove from heat, and keeping the pot at an arm's length distance, slowly (and carefully) add the remaining cup of water. Step away from the mixture until it stops bubbling, then place over medium heat, whisking until reduced. When you drop a bit onto a cold plate and rub it between your fingers after it's cooled, it should have a consistency thicker than syrup but thinner than honey. Place into a glass jar to cool, and store at room temperature.
Caramelized Butter Frosting:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner's sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher salt to taste
In a light pan, cook the butter over medium heat until it is browned and emits a nutty aroma. Pour through a small sieve into a stand mixer bowl and allow to cool completely. Using a whisk attachment, begin whisking the butter and add the sugar slowly. Once it begins to form chunks, add cream and caramel syrup a tablespoon at a time. Add more sugar until chunky, and then again add cream or syrup. Continue doing this until all the confectioner's sugar is whisked smoothly into the frosting. Add kosher salt to taste. Can be refrigerated a week in advance. Before using, allow to warm to room temperature and whisk to fluff it.
10 tablespoons, unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup caramel syrup
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup whole milk, divided
Preheat oven to 350ºF and grease a 9-inch cake pan with sides at least 2 inches high. Cut the butter into 10 pieces and place into a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add the sugar and cream together on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy. Add the salt, and turn speed down to medium-low. Slowly add the caramel syrup in a steady stream. Once incorporated, add the eggs one at a time, waiting until the first one is fully incorporated before adding the second. Pour in the vanilla extract and stir until combined. Add the flour and baking powder together, mix, and then separate into three equal portions. Add the first third into the batter and mix until combined. Add 1/2 cup of the milk, mix until combined, and then add another third of the flour. Repeat with the remaining milk and flour. Don't over-mix the batter. Turn off the stand mixer and fold the batter a few times with a rubber spatula to ensure no flour collected at the bottom. Pour into the cake pan and bake for 30 minutes, rotate 90º, and then bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before cutting or adding frosting.
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/3 cups brown sugar, packed
Line a small dish (I used a 9x9-inch square pan) with foil, and then butter that foil. In a heavy pot, combine all the ingredients and heat on medium until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Wait until it comes to a boil, and then place a lid on the pot and allow it to boil for 3 minutes. Uncover and add a candy thermometer. Heat, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 250ºF. Pour into the dish, and wait a few minutes before scoring the top with a knife. Once completely cool (6 or so hours), break along these scored marks and wrap individual pieces in wax paper. Keeps at room temperature for one week.
Cut the cake horizontally into three pieces. Brush each layer off to ensure no crumbs remain behind, and brush each layer liberally with caramel syrup. The syrup is easier to work with when hot, so warm it up in the microwave for 30 seconds if need be. Put the cake back together and add the frosting to your desire. I simply smoothed out the sides, and then piped on a random design on the top. You can crunch up some of the homemade caramels as well and sprinkle them on top. Serves 12-16. After you slice it and place on a plate, drizzle with a little caramel syrup for presentation.