ceF’s signature caramel cake

September 12th, 2008 · 817 Comments

as you know i have a bit of a baking aversion. but before you remind me of how i tend to go on about this little culinary problem of mine, let me just say that it is really most specifically pastry that i run from – screaming. cakes, loaves, pizza dough – even breads, i can do on occasion despite it being a messy undertaking with flour everywhere. when i bake it’s as though a fairly major renovation job has gone down in my house, and i’m still finding drywall dust in every nook and cranny days later. yes, this is what happens when i bake… which is why i rarely bake. except for pastry which i never ever do. ever.

but i made 2 caramel cakes in 3 days.  the first was a birthday cake for angela (and a dare to myself) and the second one was just to see if the first one had been a fluke.  because this cake was a surprisingly good cake.  and it is doable.  you don’t even have to ice it.  it’s merely a caramel glaze that runs over the sides in a grown up kinda rustic looking way.  this cake? is my kinda cake.  and it is now my official signature cake.  from here on in – if it’s your birthday – it’s caramel cake.  if you want carrot cake, you’ll have to go elsewhere.  and i will not apologize.  because i am the friend who will bake you a kickass caramel cake. 

and it won’t be a white cake or a yellow cake with caramel frosting either.  it will be 3 layers of real caramel cake held together with caramel syrup.  because this is the way it’s done in my house when i bake ceF’s official signature caramel cake.

caramel cake
adapted from
desert candy

for caramel syrup:
1 ½ cups sugar plus ¾ cup water
½ cup of water for stopping

for cake:
14 tablespoons (7 oz) unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups light brown sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
½  cup caramel syrup (from above)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ cups buttermilk

for assembly:
the rest of the caramel syrup

for glaze:
1.5 cups heavy cream
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt – or more to taste

Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, have the additional ½ cup water ready on the side. Boil the syrup, watching closely, until it turns dark amber. Remove the pan from the heat and add the remaining water to "stop" the caramel. Stir the mixture with a fork until it comes together, then set aside to cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 F, grease and flour 3 9-inch cake pans. In a bowl cream the butter until smooth, then cream in the brown sugar and salt until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in the caramel syrup. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla, until very smooth and combined. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk, to make a smooth cake batter. Divide cake batter among prepared pans. Bake in the center of the oven (rotating pans halfway through), for 25 minutes, or until firm, golden, and the sides pull away from the edge of the pan. Set aside to cool.

(note – i use convection ovens so this was how long it took in mine. keep an eye and don’t overbake!)

On a cake plate, stack the cake layers, spreading 2 tablespoons maple syrup or caramel syrup between the layers so that they stick together. Press down firmly (at this point, the cake can be triple-wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to one month, or simply covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight).

Glaze cake: Combine cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a saucepan. Boil the mixture until it reaches 235 F, or soft-ball stage. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla. Give the mixture several rapid stirs, then quickly pour it over the cake before the glaze hardens.

in the first cake (above) i used 3 cups of heavy cream as i accidentally misread the recipe which i know that you, dear readers would never do because you are not too vain to put on your reading glasses.  so although it was excellent, i never let it get to the soft-ball stage because first of all i think i must have used too much cream, and secondly, if that were not the case then i just needed more nerve, know-how and patience because i, quite frankly had no idea what the hell i was doing and could not find my old candy thermometer.  candy shmandy, i never go there either… 

for the second cake i used 2 cups of cream but again was thermometer-less which made me ‘concerned’ while it was boiling away – so this time the glaze came out a bit thin.  then again, you’re never too rich or too thin and this was certainly both of those, but still, i kept trying to get the damn soft-ball to form in the glass of cool water, and again, i was beyond clueless.

my next cake i am using 1.5 cups of cream (as now reflected in the recipe) – as in following directions – something i am not wont to do…

because… the glaze should set quickly after being removed from the heat and form a crust-like finish when poured.  and mine never quite got there.  but my next one will.  because i found my candy thermometer. so now i am unstoppable. and hey, it’s not like the first 2 weren’t excellent cakes…they just were not perfect. and well, as you know, here at ceF, we strive for perfection bigtime – and then we take what we get and go on merrily with life.

cake #2 – with thin caramel glaze pooling at the bottom…

cake #2 suddenly exuding a greenish lightsaber-like glow…

i am a jedi baker


Tags: baking

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