Friday, October 2, 2009

Caramel Cake Cravings

A few months ago, I went through an intense and insatiable craving for caramel cake. This wasn't the sort of craving which could be satiated by a store-bought caramel, or even a bag of store bought caramels. It had to be a caramel cake, and I had to make it. In my desperate haste for satisfaction, I researched some caramel cake recipes and tips, eventually coming up with my own.

I started by making a basic caramel syrup with roughly 2 cups of sugar and 1.5 cups of water. Cook on high until the syrup becomes dark amber, making sure to brush down any crystals that form on the sides. Once the desired color is reached, quickly add 1 cup of water to stop the cooking process. BEWARE, this step is dangerous! The syrup does not take kindly to the water addition, and will pop and spit all over the place if you aren't careful. I (thankfully) was wearing long sleeves, but in the 2 seconds it took me to pour in the water, give a stir, and reach for a lid, my kitchen had received a caramelized sugar syrup makeover, and it was not fun to clean up :)

The syrup, while quite a hazard to my body and my kitchen, was delicious. Essentially, it tasted like the caramelized sugar topping to a Crème brûlée. Extra syrup is a great addition to coffee or spiced tea, giving it a festive touch.

I love cakes with layers. The more layers, the better. It makes for a beautiful cake, and really allows you to be versatile and creative with what you put between your layers. I used a basic yellow cake mix, and baked it into (I think) 8 layers. You can do this by either baking it in large amounts and then slicing it into layers, or by baking each layer individually. I prefer to bake each layer separately- this way, every layer has the same texture, it is not as crumbly, and I don't have to worry about messing up perfect layers.

For the frosting, I made a simple recipe with butter, vanilla, confectioner's sugar, heavy cream, and some of my caramel syrup. I did not use or write a recipe for this, but started with maybe 2 sticks of butter and added my other ingredients until the desired flavor and consistency was achieved. I do not like my desserts to be terribly sweet, and this icing is already extremely sweet in large amounts, so I initially iced my cake very thin (by adding more heavy cream to the frosting) then added more confectioner's sugar to the rest in order for it to be thick enough to decorate. The decorating was the best part! I did a very thin coating of frosting on each layer, alternately brushing the layers with caramel syrup. As long as you use a very little amount of each, it makes the cake wonderfully moist and not too sweet.

To decorate the outside of the cake, I caramelized some sugar with the kitchen torch and randomly broke it over the top, along with some coarse demerara sugar. The sides of the cake were completed with a "basket weave" design (I used a flat ridged tip), and the top was adorned with "flowers" from the special flower tip Dad gave me for Christmas. Thanks dad!

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