As I’m sure you’re sick of hearing me say, November was a very busy time. Though I had the best of intentions, I missed the deadline for the Daring Bakers Challenge. It feels naughty handing in my homework late, but after seeing everyone else’s beautiful caramel cakes, and hearing the general consensus of “it was great”, I knew I still had to bake it. And with my Mum’s birthday on the horizon and her being the biggest caramel fan I know, it was the perfect occasion and a wonderful opportunity to catch up.
The November challenge consisted of:
– Shuna Fish Lydon’s famous caramel cake
– Caramelised butter frosting
I wanted to stick to the recipe as it was written, as to not confuse the caramel taste in the slightest. We were also given free reign over the presentation of the cake. I thought about making cupcakes, but I thought my Mum would like a ‘real’ birthday cake that could be cut and shared. Shuna’s instructions were a little daunting, especially those about “balancing fat with acid and protein just right”. It almost made it sound like a science project!
My fears were unfounded though, because the cake came together without any problems, and was just delicious. It was dense, but still intensely moist and had an amazing depth of flavour from the caramel sauce. The icing was quite sweet, it has nearly half a kilo of icing sugar in it afterall, but sea salt was used to balance it out and it turned out to be delicious. I think the cake would also be delicious with the milk chocolate and caramel frosting from this recipe. The leftover caramelised butter frosting would be absolutely delicious sandwiched between two vanilla cookies.
Even though I didn’t make the challenge deadline, I’m still very glad I got to bake the cake. I enjoyed making it, and everyone enjoyed eating it. I served it after a dinner of prosciutto wrapped chicken with quince paste, and potato and zucchini gratin courtesy of Not Quite Nigella.
Caramel Cake with Caramelised Butter Frosting
Recipe adapted from Shuna Fish Lydon
• 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1/3 cup caramel syrup (see recipe below)
• 2 eggs, at room temperature
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• 1 cup milk, at room temperature
• 2 cups sugar
• ½ cup water
• 1 cup water (for stopping the caramelization process)
Caramelised Butter Frosting
• 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 450g icing sugar, sifted
• 4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 2-4 teaspoons caramel syrup
• Sea salt to taste
1. To make caramel syrup, in a stainless steel saucepan with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray crystals with a wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly and dark amber in colour.
2. When colour is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and spatter about. It is very dangerous so wear long sleeves and be prepared to step back. Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced and feels slightly sticky between two fingers (after it has been cooled on a spoon)
3. To make the cake, preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF) and butter one tall 23cm cake pan.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt and cream until light and fluffy. Slowly add the room-temperature caramel, scrape down the bowl and increase speed.
5. Add the eggs and vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again and beat mixture until light and uniform.
6. Sift flour and baking powder together. Turn mixer to lowest speed and add 1/3 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.
7. Take off mixer and by hand, with a spatula do the last few folds, making sure the batter is uniform. Turn batter in to the prepared cake tin. Place cake pan on cookie sheet.
8. Set a time for 30 minutes, then rotate the pan and set the timer for another 15-20 minutes. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for 3 days outside of the refrigerator.
9. To make the caramelised butter frosting, cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl and set aside to cool.
10. Pour cooled brown butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. With the whisk or paddle attachment fixed, add icing sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioners sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste. Frosting will keep in the fridge for up to a month.