Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers November Challenge: Caramel Cake

Slice of Caramel Cake

Six months ago I was perusing Tastespotting I was struck by all of these amazing cheesecake pops. Dozens of cheesecake pops each more fabulous than the next. Why was everyone making cheesecake pops? What was going on? Clicking through I discovered that these people were all members of a group called the Daring Bakers.

The Daring Bakers started in November of 2006 when Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice decided to challenge themselves by baking pretzels for the very first time using the same recipe. They each went ahead and posted about it. And it grew from there. Today there are thousands of Daring Bakers around the world who challenge themselves every month with a new recipe and this month I had the honor of serving as a co-host along with Dolores of Culinary Curiousity and Jenny of Foray into Food...

Being a relative newbie to the DBs, I was so excited when Dolores sent out the call for co-hosts. Planning our challenge was well, a challenge. After all, the Daring Bakers are spread throughout the world. We're talking both hemispheres here. Different things are in season. So much to consider. We just completed the fabulous October Pizza Challenge, so after that savory fix it seemed time for something sweet. When Dolores suggested Shuna Fish Lydon's Caramel Cake recipe I was totally sold. Bring on the sugah!

courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon as published on Bay Area Bites

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 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, and cream the mixture 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.

Let me just say that this frosting is AMAZING. I was a little wary because as much as I go for sweet treats I don't like things to be overwhelmingly sweet. I took down the sugar a bit in the frosting as I usually do with this type of butter cream. Basically I just add and taste until it's sweet but not too sweet. The frosting recipe made a ton extra and it does keep very well and I'm pleased to say that I used it as a topping for apple cake (yum), carrot cake (double yum), and banana cupcakes (yum, yum, yum). I would definitely make it again.

Daring Bakers November Challenge: Caramel Cake

The cake was excellent as well. I was worried it might be too heavy, but it absolutely melted in my mouth. Recipe was straightforward though if you are unfamiliar with caramel I would highly recommend perusing David Lebovitz's Ten Tips for Making Caramel.

I can't wait to do the recipe again. I was hoping to have a chance to make the cake as cupcakes this month, but alas, the camera dropping incident happened. A cupcake version still begs to be made so stay tuned.

A Peek Inside the Caramel Cake

If you are up for an extra challenge try out this recipe for Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels. Perfect for gift giving!

from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111

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.

For gorgeous and creative takes on Caramel Cake and Caramels check out the DB's blogroll. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Daring Bakers! Here's to many more years of Daring Baking!


Maryanna said...

Great job on your cake! What a great challange.

Dolores said...

Thank you, thank you, thank YOU for hosting with me and Jenny this month. It's been an honor and a pleasure ot work with you. You can bet that if/when I'm in your part of the world, we have a date to break bread (or bake cake) together.

Oh, and the frosting? Worthy of licking off someone you love... :)

Anonymous said...
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Clumbsy Cookie said...

Very nice cake and thanks for co-hosting this month!

Shaheen said...

Nice looking cake, Alex. Thank you for hosting! A enjoyed this month's challenge. :D

Gretchen Noelle said...

Thanks for helping to host this month's challenge. I really enjoyed the cake and have none left to enjoy. Maybe I shall have to make it again? :)

Helene said...

Thank you for co-hosting the challenge Alex. It was lots of fun!

Janet said...

Thanks for co-hosting the DB challenge this month. Your caramel cake looks so light and fluffy :)

CookiePie said...

Thanks for hosting! Your cake looks beautiful!

glamah16 said...

Thanks for cohosting. I can so the frosting on bananna cupcakes.

Anonymous said...

This was my first DB challenge. Thank you so much for hosting such a great one! Your cake looks it okay to want to lick the computer screen?


Anonymous said...

Your cake looks great! Thanks for hosting this month!

chef_d said...

Thank you for this challenge!

Dharm said...

Thanks for cohosting this great challenge! Was a lot of fun although a little too sweet...

Anonymous said...

Your cake looks delicious! Thank you for the lovely challenge.

Esther said...

Thank you for hosting this month and for such a great a choice. It worked very well gluten free and the cake part at least will be come one of my regulars. The frosting was great too but I think will be a more occasional use.

Jodie said...

Thanks for hosting. Your cake looks great!

Lot-O-Choc said...

Great job thank you for hosting a delicious and scrumcious challenge! Looks excellent.

Unknown said...

Great job! I loved this icing...the browned butter really added to it. And you're was perfect for other things. I had it on banana muffins and graham crackers.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Totally wonderful challenge and cake and frosting!!! Wonderful host you are!

Sheltie Girl said...

Thank you so much for a wonderful challenge. My family thoroughly enjoyed this cake!

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Anonymous said...

Thanks for hosting the challenge! I'll definitely be returning to this recipe.

Jaime said...

thanks for co-hosting! it was a lovely cake!

Bumblebutton said...

Like you, I will be making this cake again! Thanks so much for voting this cake in--yum! Loved the frosting too!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for hosting a great challenge! Unfortunately, (I'm posting this to all the hosts, so I'm sounding like a broken record) I made a huge boo boo.

Apparently, when I posted my caramel cake and candy challenge, I accidentally checked 'private'. I just remedied the situation so my post is now viewable to all. I can't believe it took me this long to figure it out!!

In any event, loved this challenge, thank you again!

Brownie said...

Thanks guys! Everyone did such a fabulous job with this challenge. I'm so impressed with you all!