November 29, 2008

Caramel Cake With Caramelized Butter Frosting And Some Salted Cashewnut Caramels: Daring Bakers Challenge November 2008

After two straight months of savoury bakes, this month the Daring Bakers are back to baking something sweet. This month’s hostesses are Shuna Fish Lyndon of Eggbeater (whose signature cake we’re all baking this month), Dolores of Culinary Curiosity, Alex of Brownie and Blondie and Jenny of Foray Into Food.

They picked Shuna’s Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting recipe. And for those of us who felt we weren’t challenged enough by the cake, there is an additional optional challenge in the form of Alice Meldrich’s Golden Bean Vanilla Caramels from her book Pure Desserts (Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111).
The recipe we were to bake from, is at the end of this post.




For this challenge, we had to bake the cake and make the frosting, but other than that, we had the choice to go our way as far the size, shape, flavours and decorating the cake was concerned.
The detailed recipe for this challenge can be found at Dolores' blog Culinary Curiosity.


My Cake Making Experience:

I started this challenge making the caramel syrup. I had a feeling the quantities of ingredients for the syrup were more that I would need for the cake, so I made only half the recipe. And I was right.
So no left over syrup or wondering what to do with it.

I had to make the syrup twice before I got it right. So what’s the big deal about boiling some water and sugar to caramelize it and make a syrup? That’s what I thought too before my confidence came down a couple of notches.

The first time I followed the recipe, caramelized the sugar, added water to stop the caramelization and whisked till it reduced (about a couple of minutes). It looked good. So I poured it out into a bottle and left it to cool on the kitchen counter.

When I got back to it a couple of hours later, the amber coloured liquid had cooled to a toffee coloured solid mass and nothing I could think of doing to it made any difference. It brought to mind my school chemistry lessons about irreversible changes and the line of the Ashford and Simpson song “Solid, solid as a rock………”!

So I made the syrup a second time, and just whisked the syrup after I stopped the caramelization, turned off the heat and left it to cool. This time it was perfect amber coloured syrup.

The next step was making the butter frosting. I made it the following day.
No problems here, really. I used 25% fat cream instead of heavy cream which I don’t get here. I used salted butter because the unsalted variety is also hard to come by. I also did not need the full quantity of the sugar mentioned in the recipe.

I made the frosting only to discover it was very, very sweet. Now my tolerance for all things sweet is very low, so I could be biased here. But my husband (who has a sweet tooth very few can rival) agreed with me this time.
I ended up adding almost a teaspoon of salt to balance out the sweetness, and it still was quite sweet.




The cake was a breeze to make. After hearing quite a few fellow Daring Bakers say how very sweet the cake was, I used a little less than one cup of sugar (instead of the suggested 1 ¼ cups and we were to add the caramel syrup too). I know that we are supposed to keep to the provided recipe, but I just did not want to put so much effort and material into something no one was going to eat.

I made the full quantity of batter and made a 6” round cake and a sheet cake. I cut out the sheet cake into small rounds to make single serving cakes.
I did this by sandwiching two cake rounds with caramel butter frosting and then covering with milk chocolate ganache (milk chocolate and 25% fat cream) and decorating it with caramel.




The 6” cake just got covered and decorated with the butter frosting and topped with caramelized sugar decoration. Of course, I had some very nice decoration ideas in mind but the actual implementation ended up with my cake looking quite unlike what I had planned for it!


The Optional Challenge: Alice Medrich’s Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels:

I made these too, as I had promised my daughter I would make them for her. I finally found the time to do this challenge yesterday afternoon. The recipe we were to follow for these can also be found at the end of this post. As we were allowed to experiment with flavour variations, I made Salted Cashewnut Caramels.




For this, I quartered the recipe and added ½ a cup of chopped salted cashewnuts to the caramel mixture after adding the cream (25% fat).

I didn’t have vanilla beans, so I just used vanilla extract. I also used honey instead of golden syrup, which we don't get here. The other thing I do not have is a candy thermometer. I’m not sure I’d get one in the shops here, either.
I am used to working with sugar syrup since many Indian sweets involve making a sugar syrup at some stage or the other. What I did was to cook the caramel mixture till it reached the “hard ball” stage and used the Cold Water Test to check if the caramel was ready or not.

As the mixture cooks, it will start becoming thicker. Drop a very small amount of this mixture in a plate of cold (not ice cold) water. Using your fingers try to roll the drop into a ball. If you can’t, the syrup is not ready. If it does roll into a ball, but the ball is very soft, then this is the “soft ball” stage. The caramel mixture needs to cook some more and the “soft ball” needs to become a little firmer but not hard. If it is cooked too long, the caramel will probably become too hard to eat or burn! Making candy or caramels this way requires some practice.

The salt in the cashewnuts added to the flavour of the caramels. I used a 6” by 6” cake tin, so my caramels were slightly thinner as I had quartered the recipe. My caramels hardened and were ready to eat in 2 hours!
And they were slightly hard and chewy, and very, very good. My daughter is also very happy.
I don’t think I would have ever made these at home if it wasn’t for this challenge.


Verdict:

Caramel is not one of my favourite flavours, but my husband likes it and it is my daughter’s favourite. In fact, when she found out that this month’s challenge was caramel cake, she would keep asking when I was planning to make it. This is the reason why I did the challenge so early in the month!

Though the cake was quite sweet, this is something that can be adjusted by reducing the sugar in it. I thought this cake was very good. Personally, I liked it that the caramel flavour was not very strong in the cake.
While it was a bit dense and not airy like most cakes, this caramel cake was moist and I really liked the texture. It is also quite easy to make.

The caramel flavour really came through in the butter frosting but it really was too sweet. If there was someway of reducing that, then this frosting is a winner.

The smaller cakes were much nicer, in my opinion, because there was less frosting and the chocolate also helped in balancing out the sweetness. Having said that, I really have to say there weren’t any complaints and there was no cake left. The proof of this cake is definitely in the eating!!
Many DBs made cupcakes and I think this would be a better idea than one single cake, since each cake would require much less frosting, as compared to frosting one big cake.

Now please don’t forget to hop across to other Daring Baker blogs and take a look at their cakes. I can promise you that many of their caramel decorations are fantastic.
Don’t believe me? Then go check them out for yourselves.


Also featured at Chefs.com

76 comments:

Pearlsofeast said...

Wonderful Aparna.I am just enjoying it reading with a morning cuppa.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Very pretty! I love your cake decoration! Great job!

Cheers,

Rosa

Marija said...

I really like your caramels. Cashews are a great choice!

Vij said...

Lovely pics n more lovely presentation! gr8 aparna...

NOT SO VANILLA said...

Aparna, your cake is a beauty. Very original with the decor!

Curry Leaf said...

OMG,I love it,You r a TRUE BAKER APARNA,PROFESSIONAL CAKES-I am so surprised EXCITED AND I DO NOT KNOW WHAT,that I have not read the post,but simply enjoyed the PICS.LOVElY & LOVELY & LOVELY& ..........
ONCE PICTURE DEVOURING IS OVER I WILL READ THE POST ..and ask questions( :D)BTW,I love Caramels.

Sunshinemom said...

Aparna, what a beauty! I like the way the effect - looks like flowers trailing down from the top of the cake to the bottom. The caramels have come out beautifully too! My waistline is growing just looking at them:)

My daughter is going to be jealous of yours looking at these:)

Dolores said...

Beautiful cakes Aparna. I hope your daughter enjoyed them. Thanks for baking with us!

jayasree said...

Aparna, thats one gorgeous cake. Good job on the frosting. Looks so professional.
Liked the caramels too.

Cham said...

The caramalized syrup is like a jewel over the cake! What a pretty presentation :)

Malini said...

Hi Aparna,

Your cake and the confection look so good. Thanks for the tips on making the cake and recipe alterations. You are right the individual portion of the cake looks more appetizing and would be a perfect end to any meal.

One thing you could have done to the solidified caramel (the first time) was re-heat it(on low fire) and add water to liquify and mix till desired consistency has been reached.

Aparna said...

Thanks, everyone.

I tried that trick, Malini. Didn't work.:)

sra said...

The cake looks v festive! And the caramels remind me of some toffee I like, can't remember the brand name now.

zorra said...

Wow, wonderful decoration, and for me the cake was too sweet, too.

Rachel said...

Am so dissapoointed I couldn't do this challenge.

Your caramelicious cake looks gorgeous....love the decoration..

And I'd love to have those bars as well..Good job.

Passionate About Baking said...

Looks wonderful Aparna. Love the caramels too. Yes, I agree the frosting was too sweet, but the kids loved everything about the cake. The first picture is wonderful!

Shaheen @ Ambrosia said...

Hi Aparna! Your cake looks so good. You are true daring baker. Love that you added nuts the camels. I wasn't able to fit them in as I baked the cake this morning. Don't feel too bad because I'm not a fan of those. :P

Angela said...

Your cake may not look as you'd imagined, but I think it's beautiful, Aparna! I love the spots of caramel and the little rosettes. So pretty!

Cynthia said...

your cake looks great! i cut down the quantity of sugar, used molasses instead (which is less sweet but gives it the same gorgeous caramelly flavour)and yoghurt instead of heavy cream. turned out just nice i thought. maybe the sourness offset the sweetness? lol

JZ @ Tasty treats said...

I loove ur cake, aparna!! it looks sooo good. The decorations are awesome, and the small single serve is a darling! My cake turned out heavy :-( I didnt have enuff time to make it again. After reading ur post, I guess it could be because of my caramel syrup!??

Anyways, awesome job on the challenge!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Wonderful job! I love the chocolate falling over that baby cake with the caramel decoration. Very creative!

DEESHA said...

i loved the cake , looks sooo delicious, the frosting looks gorgeous

Veggie Wedgie said...

Your caramels look fantastic!Cashews&caramels-i am definately going to try this!!

Yasmeen said...

You have done wonders with the topping aparna,looks divine:).I'm so glad to be part of the daring bakers!

Soma said...

So very beautiful!! These baking adventures look too complicated for me:-) may be I will get there someday.

glamah16 said...

Fantastic beautiful work. I had the same expereirence witht eh caramel. I should have retried but was pressed for time. Incredible presentation.

marye said...

Beautiful job on your cakes!
We did not find this at all sweet but I think my family's tolerance for sweets is extreme. :)

nikkita said...

The caramels look ready to be bitten into if only I could grab into cyberspace and nick one of off your website! ^_^ Love the details on your cake.

Medhaa said...

love the mini cake, caramels look amazing maybe will try soon

Tartelette said...

Love love love the teeny one Aparna! Adorable!! Cashews in the caramels are a fantastic idea! Well done again!

Priya said...

Lovely lovely...marvellous, fabulous n delicious..wat a fantastic beautiful work Aparna...

Speedbump Kitchen said...

Wow! Everything looks wonderful!!

Sara said...

Your cake looks beautiful!

Natashya said...

Cashews in the caramel! I am in love.
You have beautiful decorating skills, well done Aparna!

Engineer Baker said...

Wow, that is one fabulous looking cake. And cashew nut caramels - why didn't I think of that? Brilliant!

Navita said...

I just can't stop drooling over your caramelized cake!! Can i get a piece!;-p

Eat4Fun said...

Wow! Great looking cakes! I love the way you decorated your cakes. Also, cashews in the caramel! Delicious!

anudivya said...

This looks so cute and professional. Great work Aparna.

Aran said...

And you made the cake and caramels! Great job!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

You've made a beautiful cake!!! and the cashew caramels, what a cool pairing!

aparna said...

Beautiful and yummy.

Lorraine E said...

Yes you were smart making half the quantity of caramel syrup. I had so much left over!

Love the decoration on the cake and the cascading swirl of the piping-lovely! And the caramels look great too-and cashews are a great addition :)

Cakelaw said...

Both your big cake and the mini look gorgeous. And cashew nut caramels - that's my idea of heaven ...

Hannah said...

Wow, your cake is truly breath-taking! Both the larger one and plated serving are stunning.

Maryanna said...

Great job! I bet those caramels were delish.

Jude said...

I'm so impressed.. The presentation is so nice.

Uma said...

what a beautiful cake! Love those caramels too.

culinography said...

Your cake is beautiful, Aparna!!

Audax Artifex said...

What a scummpy looking mini cake and the caramel swirl on top looks fab. A great cake and you did will on this challenge. Thanks for the comments on my blog.

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

Beautiful! Cashew caramels -- there's something I'm going to have to try.

CookiePie said...

How beautiful! Your cakes and caramels all look wonderful!!

gail said...

Your cake is lovely, and cashew nut caramels sound incredible! I think that you made a good call reducing the sugar in the cake - I just jumped into the recipe and ended up with something that was over the top sweet.

Payal Shah said...

I love your decoration! Looks yummy.

maybelle's mom said...

They are super sweet (like eating slice of cake as sweet as one jalebi.) And, I must say the other recipe I made was equally sweet.

MeetaK said...

simply gorgeous aparna - i loved the caramel and was glad i made the whole amount. with the rest i made caramel ice-cream it was great too. i need to make those caramels too.

Happy cook said...

Just beautiful. Looks so wow. You have did it so beautifully and i loce those optional caramels too.

Ahmad said...

I LOVE the first cake.

Dharm said...

Great cake! I'm so impressed you made the caramels too!!

Maria said...

great job Aparna!! the cake looks gorgeous!!

Nangil Girl said...

Hi, Another successful challenge! It looks awesome!! I barely finished the challenge :) No dice on the optional challenge.

Rosie said...

Wonderful Aparna a very gorgeous cake!! Well done :)

Rosie x

marion said...

your frosting looks so nice !!!!! I love the way you did it !!!! I wish I was able to do that too :)
cashewnut caramels ... gosh ... :op

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a wonderful job on your cakes! I love how you decorated them.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

notyet100 said...

omg i am goin mad lookin at pics,..so yummy,,...:-)

Sandra Avital said...

wow: this is decorating a cake!!
But I admit I'm much more attracted to your gorgeous cashew caramels!! I wanted to add peanuts in mine but then I thought that for the first time I was using molasses to make soft caramels, i wanted to be sure the taste was ok! Now I have to consider cashews insted of peanuts ;)

dolcigine said...

cute pictures :-)!!!! and very nice decoration too!! compliments, also for your blog :-)!
PS: I thought the frosting was way too sweet too :-)!!!!

Katy said...

your cake looks stunning!!! i'm beyond impressed -- great job!

Madam Chow said...

Fabulous job, Aparna! I was too busy to make it, and after reading how sweet it was, I decided to skip this month. I'm so glad that everything worked out for you!

Y said...

Cashew caramels! Yumm!! I like the your two interpretations of the caramel cake recipe too - very creative!

Mansi said...

the cake looks really pretty Aparna! and yes, I agree with you about Frosting...it is indeed too sweet, and hence I prefer to leave it out of my cakes, unless its a b'day or anniversary cake:)

nice job with the caramel, btw!:)

Vera said...

Aparna, your cake and the caramels look wonderful!

Uj said...

Caramel cake looks delicious

creampuff said...

Oh, Aparna! Wow ... that is beyond gorgeous!!! Very nicely done ...

Suzana said...

The cake's so beautiful, Aparna! Lovely decorations you made. I'm glad you took the time to make your daughter some yummy caramels - I'm sure she loved them.

Aparna said...

Yeas, these were sweet, but I enjoyed this challenge (probably because it turned out right). :D

The cake recipe is a keeper.

Namratha said...

The cake is nicely presented and the caramels look great!