Not all cakes are planned. Well, at least, not in advance. Yesterday as I was leaving school a colleague mentioned it was another colleague’s birthday today. And since we have a joint meeting every Wednesday, she was going to bring a cake. So I immediately said: I’ll bring a cake!
But which cake?
Luckily, the Baked Boys came through with a fantastic-sounding caramel cake. And since I’m on a salted caramel kick – it was the flavor of the summer! – it seemed like a match made in heaven.
I made the frosting in a bit of a rush this morning before leaving for school and it did not attain the right consistency. I had not quite the right amount of cream cheese, so I added another firm dairy product and I think that was my mistake. So the frosting was pourable, not spreadable. But still delicious! And then the addition of the salted caramel sauce put the cake beyond the pale.
In fact, a friend who benefitted from one of the last pieces made up a new word to describe the cake.
Antique Caramel Cake
From Baked Elements
Yield: One 8-inch, 2-layer cake
Baked note: if you want to ratchet the sweetness level a bit (to approximate a true Southern delight), we suggest poking holes in the layers a few minutes after they come out of the oven and drizzling them with warm Classic Caramel Sauce – it will seep into the cake.
For the Caramel Cake:
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar
For the Caramel Frosting:
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
5 ounces (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
For the Assembly:
1/4 cup Sweet and Salty Caramel Sauce (see below)
Make the Caramel Cake
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Butter two 8-inch round cake pans, line them with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, 1 minute. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl again and add the flour in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.
In a small bowl or cup, dissolve the baking soda in the vinegar and beat it into the batter until just incorporated.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 32 to 37 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until the cake tops are slightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the racks and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.
Make the Caramel Frosting
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the brown sugar and 2 ounces (1/2 stick) of the butter until melted and combined. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 10 to 15 seconds. Remove from the heat, whisk in the cream, and transfer the mixture to a bowl to cool completely. (Note: to cool the mixture quickly for immediate use, you can stir or whisk the mixture vigorously to release excess heat or you can nestle the bowl with the mixture in a larger bowl filled halfway with ice.)
Once the brown sugar mixture is nearly cool, place the remaining 3 ounces of butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until it is lump free. Add the cream cheese and salt and continue beating until mixture is smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again for 15 seconds. Turn the mixer to low and stream in the brown sugar mixture. Scrape down the bowl again, add the confectioners’ sugar, and beat until smooth. If the mixture feels too loose, refrigerate it for 5 to 10 minutes until it firms up.
Assemble the cake
Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface and evenly spread about 3/4 cup frosting on top. Place the next layer on top, then trim and frost it the same way. Frost the sides of the cake with the remaining frosting, drizzle with the caramel sauce (either in a zigzag or circular pattern), and refrigerate the cake for 15 minutes to set before serving.
The cake can be stored in the refrigerator, covered with a cake dome or in a cake server, for up to 3 days. Allow it to come to almost room temperature before serving.
Sweet and Salty Caramel Sauce
From Baked Elements
Yield: 1 1/3 cups
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (you can find this in the international aisle of bigger grocery stores here; although I detest the stuff, it’s worth the purchase for this recipe alone!)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel (de Guerande, if you’re super fancy)
1/4 cup sour cream
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/4 cup water. Stir the mixture gently so you don’t splash any of it up on the sides of the pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and, without stirring, cook over high heat until the mixture is dark amber in color (keep a close eye on the caramel at all times, as it goes from golden brown to black and burnt very quickly) or just shy of 350F on a candy thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and slowly add the cream (be careful, as it will bubble up) and then the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool.
The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 10 days.