Apparently caramel cake is a southern thang. I had been collecting recipes for this cake for a while, always a bit wistfully, waiting for an excuse to make it.
I finally tried it out for our church bake sale, selling it by the slice. It became my new BFF and I even made it myself for my birthday last November. (I couldn’t trust anyone else to get the frosting just right, don’t ya’ know.) And if I am deadnburied, feel free to make this on my birthday and remember me with fondness, while biting in to the soft caramely goodness.
This particular version came from Americas Test Kitchen book, “Best-Ever Recipes, special collectors edition”. This one recipe was worth the magazine itself. Hubby has a habit of picking up any baking magazine he finds that looks promising. He will even rifle through the pages, seeing if it looks like something that would make my skirts fly up, or my boat float or whatever. He knows me that well.
I will share the recipe here with you. It is, in a nutshell, a vanilla cake with a warm, caramel icing, which you have to keep scooping up onto the cake until it hardens enough. Or perhaps I don’t wait long enough for the icing to cool before frosting…
EASY CARAMEL CAKE
- 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temp. (good chance to use your homemade stuff)
- 4 large eggs, room temp.
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 1/4 cups )(11 1/4 oz) all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) white sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt (really? Can’t just round it to 1 tsp. Well, I do.)
- 16 tbsp. butter, softened and cut into 16 pieces.
- 2 cups (14 oz) dark brown sugar
- 12 tbsp butter, softened and cut into 12 pieces, (divided)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups (10 0z) powdered sugar
For the cake:
- preheat your oven to 350. grease and line with parchment, 2 8″ or 9″ round cake pans. (calls for 9″. Mine are 8″)
- Whisk buttermilk, eggs and vanilla together and set aside.
- Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Using a hand mixer, beat in the softened butter, a few tbsp. at a time until pea size pieces remain. Yes, this is an unusual practice, you are not reading this wrong.
- Add half the buttermilk mixture and beat about 1 minute, until light and fluffy. Slowly add the remaining buttermilk mixture and beat in for about 15 seconds, until incorporated in. Use a silicon spatula or spoon to scrape the sides down and give a final stir. Pour into the prepared pans.
- At this point, if you have them, pin the cake strips around the pans. I like to put the pans on a larger baking sheet and place them both in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. Mine took a little longer because I was using smaller pans. I check them with a straw thing to make sure they are done.
- At this point, I like to pop them into the freezer while I make the frosting for 2 reasons. First, being so cold, it firms up the icing faster. Then it is easier to frost a cold, firm cake as opposed to a softer one that tears easier and makes crumbs.I freeze them right in the pans, just covering with plastic wrap or slipping them into bags. Then when ready, I slide a knife around the perimeter, turn it upside down, tap it and out it comes!
- Heat the brown sugar, 8 tbsp. (1 cube) of the butter (saving the rest for later. Don’t forget and use it all like I did once), and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan, supposedly around 4-8 minutes. Mine never took longer than 4 minutes. Perhaps my medium heat is higher than theirs.
- Whisk in the cream and heat until the bubbles reappear, about 1 more minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Transfer this hot frosting to a mixing bowl and, using a hand held mixer at low speed (really? Yours has a low speed? Mine only has fast and faster), slowly add in the powdered sugar. Beat the dickens out of it, about 5 minutes, so you better time it, until it is light brown and only just warm, not hot.
- NOW you can add in that last bit of butter, the 4 tbsp. that has been quietly waiting its turn. Beat it in, 1 tbsp at a time, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- If your cakes have been chillin’ in the freezer, get them out.
- Place one of the cakes on plate or platter (making sure you have removed the wax paper or parchment) and pour 3/4 cup of frosting over the top. Spread it out and top with the second cake. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Easier said than done, but stick with it. I put it on the sides with upsweeping motion and then keep going around scooping it up from the puddles it is trying to form on the platter and reapplying it to the sides.
The writer said she/he had trouble with the icing hardening before they could get it frosted, so they kept tweaking the recipe until they got it right. I have never had that problem, so I guess they did get it right. I probably should let it cool a little more before applying. Some day I may not be in such a rush to get a cake frosted and might try that idea out.
I think this will be a big hit at your next party or special occasion. (Such as “Hey, its Downton Abby night tonight, lets bake a cake!”)