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.
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