November 29, 2008

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting for DB challenge

After two months of working with the savory side of baking, Daring Bakers are once again exploring the sweet sensations! The challenge for the month of November is Caramel cake with Caramelized butter frosting. According to Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater, the leading lady of this month's challenge, sugar is the STAR of the party! Her co-hosts are Dolores of Chronicles of Culinary Curiosity, Alex - Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo: and Jenny of Foray into Food. The gluten-free version was provided by Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.

This challenge was unique in that there was also an optional challenge of making Caramels - Alice Medrich’s Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels, from her book Pure Desserts (Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111), with LOTS of variation. Since I didnt have much time this month, I opted out of the caramels challenge.


10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
Splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Notes from Natalie for those of you baking gluten-free:

So the GF changes to the cake would be:2 cups of gluten free flour blend (w/xanthan gum) or 2 cups of gf flour blend + 1 1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum1/2 - 1 tsp baking powder (this would be the recipe amount to the amount it might need to be raised to & I'm going to check)I'll let you when I get the cake finished, how it turns out and if the baking powder amount needs to be raised.

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy. Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform. Sift flour and baking powder. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.} Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan. Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)

In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber. When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back. Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}
Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.
Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month. To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

Recipes courtesy : Shuna Fish Lydon of Egg beater and as published on Bay Area Bites.

My experience:

I guess this month was the busiest month of this year for me. My parents came over to visit us from India and eventhough it is just for a few weeks, I am pretty busy. It was also my daughter's 3rd Birthday this month for which we had planned a party with some of our friends. I initially had no plans of making a cake myself on her birthday, but then incidentally I ended up making the Caramel cake on her birthday. For the first time my lil one was truly excited about my birthday and I am so happy that I got this cake for her to truly gleam on her birthday!

Making the caramel syrup was a bit nerve-wracking after reading the experiences of many DBers, but somehow I managed to complete the task. It seemed to get thicker as it cooled down, so I added probabaly about 1/2 cup water in stages , as the syrup was cooling down. I got a thick, deep-amber colored syrup. Eventhough I put a foil lid on the saucepan as I was pouring the water to stop the cooking process, the steam rode the foil up and managed to burn my fingers!

The cake was baked two days before it was decorated. I read the comments of fellow DBers, that the cake and frosting were incredibly sweet. So I reduced the amount of sugar in the cake by 1/2 cup (ie, 3/4 cups instead of 1 1/4 cups). Instead of 1/2 tsp kosher salt, I added 1/4 tsp regular salt and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract. The rest of the recipe was followed exactly like it was mentioned. I baked the cake in a deep 8" round pan for about 47 minutes. During baking the cake seemed to rise beautifully, but it was not forming a dome like the other cakes. I thought it might be beacuse of the caramel syrup in the cake batter. After cooling the cake appeared flat-topped and dense, so I knew what some of the other DBers talked about having a dense moist cake. Since it was hectic for me and couldnt redo the cake, I decided to stick with what I had.

I made the frosting exactly as specified in the recipe except for the amount of caramel syrup was reduced to 1 1/2 tbsp and heavy cream was about 4 tbsp. I found the frosting to be really deeelicious and to my taste!! I pretty much went simple with the decorations on the cake, with just some star flowers along the bottom border and rosettes along the top border. A few star flowers were piped on the top surface and dark chocolate chips were placed on the rosettes. My lil one was truly excited to see the entire frosting done before her eyes and when I declared that it was made specially for her, she was ecstatic!! She encouraged me soo much that I was happy to have done it all, evenwhen I wasnt exactly having a relaxed time.

She loved the cake and so did my parents, but I was a little disappointed. The cake wasnt fluffy or soft, but kind of dense, pasty and moist. Eventhough it tasted great, the texture was a major disappointment for me. But the birthday girl loooooved it!!! I decided to take the leftovers to a casual get-together of my friends, but I had my reservations! But as soon as they tasted it, I was relieved because everyone were scrambling for more. They all gave good reviews about it and were raving about the caramel taste. So eventhough I was not too happy about the results, everything turned out for the best! The excitement of my lil one was the biggest satisfaction ever!

Verdict: I loooved the caramelized butter frosting but I wish I could say that about the cake. Shuna had mentioned in the post that this cake is all about the balance between dry and wet ingredients, so probably by reducing the amout of sugar in the cake, I tipped the scales in the wrong direction! ;-) The texture, (and definitely not the taste), was the biggest negative for me. But everyone else seemed fine with it, so I guess its just a matter of personal taste!!

I hope I would be able to give the caramels a try sometime soon. For more inspiration, check out the cakes of the other Daring Bakers here.


Cham said...

Very elegant ur cake JZ!

DEESHA said...

looks sooper delicious .. loved the frosting

Aparna said...

What a beautifully decorated cake, JZ. It has a professional finish. And your daughter was happy, so its definitely a success.

I also reduced the sugar in the cake but my cake wasn't pasty, but crumby. I do believe this cake is meant to be dense and not fluffy. I think this must be because of the caramel syrup.

meeso said...

I love the design on top, really beautiful!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Wonderful looking cake! I felt the same way...the cake was so-so but the frosting was delicious!

Veg-a-Nut said...

Wow! You cake is beautiful. Mine are much more simple. I can't believe where the month went!

sunshinemom said...

Such a beautiful cake. You assemble and present things very very prettily!

Jane said...

Yes, editing recipes can have unexpected results. I know since I'm usually trying to veganize things. But your audience loved it, and that is really what counts.
Also, you did a wonderful job decorating. Looks good, tastes good... That's a success in my book!
Jane of

linda said...

Your cake looks so perfect! And your frosting is so super smooth, wow! Your daughter is a lucky girl.

Pearlsofeast said...

Wow JZ, ur decoration is so beautiful.Glad to know that ur daughter loved the cake.It is so satisfying for a mum.

Sagari said...

cake looks veryyyyy beautifull

Ivy said...

Good job JZ. You did a lovely cake and your decoration looks very professional.

Happy cook said...

Looks so beautiful.
Love the way you have decorated it

Rosie said...

WOW oh WOW your cake is stunning!!

Rosie x

ranji said...

MAMAMIA....what a beautiful cake..i can imagine how excited ur daughter must have been..give my belated bday wishes to her!!great job much of hardwork put in anyone will be happy to get one cake like that very special :)..

Godzown said...

Hey,thats an Amazing Cake!you are a Good artist:-)
By te way this is a great blog..beautiful pics and yummy recipies!

SriLekha said...

looks scrumptious JZ!

TeaLady said...

Beautiful cake. I am sure your little one was doubly excited just because you made the cake just for her. Glad you liked it. LOoks yummy!!

Mary said...

nice work JZ...cake looks neatly put together...very professional...!

Anonymous said...

A very very neat cake...

Anonymous said...

Looks absolutely stunning! I love caramel flavor but somehow I've never had a caramel cake. This one is a must try!

Aditi..............:) said...


Purnima said...

Loved the work u hv put in ...piping is soooooo neat, the ropes where they begin n end is a suspense. The texture perfect for piping! Looks soooo better than the store bought ones, as for ur view point, I feel so happy that u r so frank to put it up.. I m sure, after looking at this kind of effort, any word of fault-finding wd just flee! Granddddd cake! Loved loved it absolutely!

Sherin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sherin said...

Such a beautiful cake with perfect frosting... congrats JZ!

Tried ur recipe for our wedding anniversary last week... turned out well dear... ur cake was appreciated more than anything... I particularly liked the frosting.. it was soo tasty.... i agree that the cake itself is more soggy than fluffy, may be due to the caramel syrup u think adding fluffed egg white at the end can make it fluffy? like to know what u think.

i tried my luck with piping on this cake after a long time.. struggled with smoothing the surface though.. but the cake didnt last long for imperfections to be noticed :-)

Thanks a lot JZ... looking forward to trying more of ur wonderful recipes dear.