November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Caramel Cake

This month, the Daring Bakers made Shuna Fish Lydon's Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting. The recipe was chosen by Dolores from Culinary Curiosity and her co-hosts: Alex of Blondie and Brownie, Jenny of Foray into Food, & Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.

According to Shuna:

This is one of those cakes that is truly about baking. It may sound strange because aren't all cakes about baking? What I mean is that getting this cake to bake is about balancing fat with acid and protein JUST RIGHT. Gluten free flours are going to have a hard time getting this cake to work. Not impossible, for nothing is impossible these days with all the chemical (natural and icky) at our fingertips, but very very tricky. One hint for the gluten free baker-- liquid Lecithen is your friend.

It would be very easy to get various other flavours in the caramel cake but what's tricky is making sure the flavour does not screw up the liquid-fat-flour ratio too much. Ideas/flavours: Browned Butter, vanilla bean, rosemary, burnt orange, warm spices, etc. Just remember: various flavouring ingredients and agents carry with them their own acidity and moisture contents...

Flavour imparting ingredients can be poached in the caramel once it's done. Even a cold steep would be good with some highly aromatic ingredients, like coffee beans or rosemary. One could make scented sugar and use that in tandem with the sugar in the recipe.
But I will say this about flavours: you will hide and lose the subtlety of the caramel flavour in the cake and that's what this cake is about.

As most people commented on the DB website, this cake is really sweet. To offset the sweetness, I sprinkled the top of the iced cake with a tad less than 1/2 teaspoon of kosher was like a salted caramel! Yum!

See the tiny brown specks? That's browned butter!

I didn't do anything fancy with my cake. Simply iced the single layer. I did, however, have one problem with it. The cake stuck to the pan, then it stuck to the cooling rack. Oh well...that's what icing is for, I guess!


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.


10 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup Caramel Syrup
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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I didn't add vanilla to mine.)
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 vanilla. 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


Cynthia's Blog said...

But did you like the cake? I really did. I am more of a savory girl myself, but this cake was such a nice change of pace. It really was.

KELLY said...

I love the rich caramel flavor of the icing, and the cake is very moist. It is a little sweet for me, but the salt on top helps that.


Gretchen Noelle said...

Sometimes simple is best - your cake looks terrific!

Engineer Baker said...

Frosting hides all sins, doesn't it? And I should have sprinkled salt on top - it really was quite sweet. Wonderful looking cake!

Anonymous said...

I like the salt topping! I added quite a bit of kosher salt to my frosting, and it really added to the flavor.

Ruth said...

Your cake looks beautiful. And your caramel looks dark and delicious.

Heather B said...

Your cake looks fabulous! Great job!

Bex said...

Your cake looks soooo good!

TeaLady said...

Your cake looks perfect. I think just frosting part of the cake made it better since the frosting was so sweet. Great job.

Dolores said...

When a cake sticks, frosting is absolutely your friend. And I'm glad you found a solution to "super sweet." Thanks for baking with us in November.