Daring Bakers Go Crazy for Caramel!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

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This is going to be a short and very sweet Daring Bakers post for this month. Most of you already know that I’ve been away on a family cruise since last Friday, November 21. I was a good DBer and completed my challenge before I left, but I just didn’t have time to write my post. So, having just arrived home today at around 3:00 p.m., and being utterly exhausted, I am throwing this up to meet the November deadline.

This month’s challenge is one that I was very happy to accept! It is for Shuna Fish Lydon’s signature Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting. Shuna has been a professional pastry chef for over fifteen years and the voice behind the deliciously excellent blog Eggbeater. I am a total caramel junkie, so I knew that I was going to love this cake!

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I wish I had time to get into more detail on my experience with making this cake. Surprisingly, the whole process went pretty smoothly. The first thing I did was make the caramel syrup. I was a nervous wreck because I had never made caramel before and I was a little scared of it. But, with a tips from some helpful DBers, I was able to make a lovely, sticky, amber syrup without burning my house down! The recipe provided makes enough caramel syrup to complete the cake with enough leftover to enjoy over ice cream and mixed into coffee. Mmmm! I really enjoyed that!

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The Caramelized Butter Frosting was to die for! I added about a teaspoon of fleur de sel to it for a salted butter caramel flavor. It did not disappoint!

I decided to make a four-layer cake with some frosting nestled between each layer. I baked my cake in two 8-inch pans and then sliced each into two horizontal pieces. When, I assembled the cake, I also added toffee bits on top of each layer of frosting for some crunch. When the cake was completely frosted, I drizzled some caramel syrup on top for a little extra oomph!

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This cake is not for the faint of heart, people. There is sugar and butter galore in it, and it is very rich and very sweet. But, I thought it was marvelous! Of course, it is not something you’d eat every day, but it would be a wonderful choice for a special occasion.

There was also an optional challenge recipe chosen for this month. It was Alice Medrich’s Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from her wonderful book, Pure Dessert. I desperately wanted to make these little treats, but I just never got around to it. I looked in several stores for Lyle’s Golden Syrup and couldn’t find it, which was kind of unusual. I just didn’t have time to go crazy searching for some right before my trip, so I had to pass on them. Never fear, though, I definitely plan to make these at least a few times during this Holiday season! They look and sound utterly amazing!

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My thanks go out to Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity; Alex of Blondie and Brownie and Jenny of Foray of Food, for serving as our hosts this month. They not only selected a wonderful recipe for us to enjoy, but also graciously provided much helpful advice.

If you’d like to see what the many hundreds of other talented and creative Baring Bakers did with this challenge, please take some time to visit the Daring Bakers Blogroll. I know you’ll be inspired!

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CARAMEL CAKE WITH CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

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

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.

CARAMEL SYRUP

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. (Use the foil trick)

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.

CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

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 above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

GOLDEN VANILLA BEAN CARAMELS (makes 80 1-inch caramels) from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert

Ingredients:

1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

Equipment:

A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer

Method:

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.

Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.

Variations

Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.

75 responses to Daring Bakers Go Crazy for Caramel!

  1. On November 29, 2008 at 5:38pm, Clumbsy Cookie said...

    Now that’s big cake!!!!!!!! Beautiful layers!

  2. On November 29, 2008 at 5:43pm, kellypea said...

    You ARE a good DBer. I would never have been so prepared. Your cake looks luscious (all those nice layers) and the drizzly caramel perfect.

  3. On November 29, 2008 at 5:46pm, Judy@nofearentertaining said...

    Welcome home Susan. Your cake looks so wonderful with all of the syrup drizzled all over it!

  4. On November 29, 2008 at 5:59pm, Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

    Amazingly beautiful! I love the decorations and those perfect layers!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  5. On November 29, 2008 at 6:16pm, Engineer Baker said...

    Kudos for squeezing this one in, and I hope you had a relaxing cruise! I love how you make four layers – quite the towering cake! And I agree that the frosting was absolutely wonderful. My leftover caramel syrup might be destined for my morning coffee too…

  6. On November 29, 2008 at 6:29pm, Carly said...

    Your cake looks beautiful! It makes me want to re make my cake because yours looks delicious! Your caramel syrup looks like it turned out perfectly, I had some issues with mine, I think I may have overcooked it. Great job on the challenge!

  7. On November 29, 2008 at 6:30pm, rainbowbrown said...

    I hope you had a good time! You were smart, getting it out of the way early. It looks incredible.

  8. On November 29, 2008 at 6:36pm, Isabelle said...

    c’est vraiment géant ! très beau tous ces étages :)

  9. On November 29, 2008 at 7:12pm, Little Ol' Liz said...

    Oh. My. Stars.
    I got a chill just looking at your pictures. And I’m not a big fan of caramel, but anything that causes a reaction HAS to be good, right?!

  10. On November 29, 2008 at 7:13pm, Jen Yu said...

    What a beautiful cake you made! I too am crazy for caramel – that sauce is worth the price of admission :) I hope you had a great vacay, hon. Now get ye some rest! Welcome home. xxoo

  11. On November 29, 2008 at 7:19pm, vibi said...

    Wowooooo! You went all out on this one, making it a quadruple decker! What patience you have… the amazing results are there to prove it! BRAVO!

  12. On November 29, 2008 at 8:15pm, Andrea said...

    Wow, what a grand cake! It’s beautiful with all the syrup drizzled.

  13. On November 29, 2008 at 8:18pm, Patsyk said...

    What an amazing cake! I love how you drizzled the caramel over the top… yum!

  14. On November 29, 2008 at 8:40pm, Lisa magicsprinkles said...

    Presentation perfect, lovely luscious layers, dreamy decadent drizzle, creamy caramel. Beautiful! Mmmm.

  15. On November 29, 2008 at 9:01pm, Dayna said...

    Fabulous cake! Looks beautiful.

  16. On November 29, 2008 at 9:22pm, culinography said...

    Mmmm… that looks positively divine! Pass a slice this way! :)

  17. On November 29, 2008 at 10:26pm, Tanya said...

    Love all those layers Susan! It looks really stunning!

  18. On November 29, 2008 at 10:35pm, squawmama said...

    Welcome home Susan, I just want to tell you my mouth is watering over this one… I LOVE caramel and will be copying this recipe for sure… Thanks so much. Have a great day!

    (((HUGS)))
    Donna

  19. On November 29, 2008 at 10:59pm, Shaheen @ Ambrosia said...

    That cake is Huuuuge! It looks absolutely perfect!

  20. On November 29, 2008 at 11:01pm, Jodie said...

    GORGEOUS! I love the caramel drizzle!

  21. On November 29, 2008 at 11:07pm, Erin said...

    Your cake looks beautiful! I love all the layers!

  22. On November 29, 2008 at 11:22pm, PheMom said...

    That is one ridiculously gorgeous cake I must say! WOW! I hope your cruise was grear!

  23. On November 30, 2008 at 3:02am, Dolores said...

    We’ve been back from our cruise for almost two weeks and I’m *still* not completely unpacked. Hope you enjoyed your vacation. And I’m glad you enjoyed the challenge. Thanks for baking with us this month.

  24. On November 30, 2008 at 6:32am, Mike of Mike's Table said...

    Welcome back from the cruise–hope you had a great time! That does look like quite a cake to be reckoned with–it looks beautiful and sounds mouth-watering in all regards. Save me a piece! I love the drizzle of caramel over the frosting

  25. On November 30, 2008 at 6:54am, the italian dish said...

    Great take on the cake. Love the four layers!

  26. On November 30, 2008 at 7:04am, alana said...

    Four layers! I have to admit I made a mess of two, so I bow down to you! Great job really embracing this cake for all it had to offer. Beautiful!

  27. On November 30, 2008 at 8:26am, Manggy said...

    YAY YOU’RE BACK!!! WELCOME BACK!! xoxoxo :) (sorry for shouting, I’m just so glad you’re back ;) You did a wonderful job with the cake– a beautiful tower of sugar! Actually it’s not the cooking of the caramel that usually bothers me, it’s the cleanup of hardened/sticky caramel afterwards!

  28. On November 30, 2008 at 8:44am, Gretchen Noelle said...

    What a lovely, lovely job!!! Susan, it looks terrific! Hope your trip was everything you needed it to be!

  29. On November 30, 2008 at 8:46am, Snooky doodle said...

    this looks goey, creamy but not chewy, I like it :) i like the way you decorated it too :)

  30. On November 30, 2008 at 8:56am, Bellini Valli said...

    Wowza Susan. You did the DB proud with this one as you always do:D

  31. On November 30, 2008 at 9:28am, Jen of A2eatwrite said...

    The syrup drizzle looks so pretty!

  32. On November 30, 2008 at 11:22am, noble pig said...

    OMG of course yours is the absolute
    most beautiful…sheesh…unreal. I’m sure they had nothing on the ship like that, this would have been perfect for the midnight buffet!

  33. On November 30, 2008 at 3:23pm, Elra said...

    OMG..
    This is the most beautiful cake I’ve seen so far. Perfect even layers too. Well done.

  34. On November 30, 2008 at 3:50pm, CookiePie said...

    Hope you had a wonderful time on the cruise! Your cake looks spectacular, as always :)

  35. On November 30, 2008 at 3:54pm, Cynthia said...

    You take such big, bold beautiful pictures of your subject.

  36. On November 30, 2008 at 4:02pm, Tori said...

    Lyle’s Golden Syrup can be found at Whole Foods or on Amazon. It’s an awesome replacement for Corn Syrup.

  37. On November 30, 2008 at 4:50pm, Cakelaw said...

    Your cake is huge!!! I love it! This was one good cake.

  38. On November 30, 2008 at 5:02pm, Tartelette said...

    Welcome home! The cake looks awesome in all its layers! Well done again Susan!

  39. On November 30, 2008 at 6:14pm, white on rice couple said...

    Let me catch some of that drizzling caramel into my mouth please! this is beautiful Susan and I just love, love all the layers!

  40. On November 30, 2008 at 6:48pm, J.Danger said...

    Oh.My.WORD! that looks amazing! Welcome home!

  41. On November 30, 2008 at 7:17pm, Katrina said...

    Your photos always leave me speechless. YUM! And, won’t you be my neighbor? (You can sing that if you want.)
    Hope you’re planning to tell us all about the cruise! Went on one for our honeymoon, it was awesome! Thought we were going to die from eating so much and such good food!

  42. On November 30, 2008 at 8:58pm, Claire said...

    This is beautiful! I love how you decorated it. I bet it was fantastic!

  43. On November 30, 2008 at 9:11pm, Half Baked said...

    Love all the layers! B E A-utiful cake. (that was said in a Jim Carey voice, LOL!!!)

  44. On November 30, 2008 at 10:33pm, mary said...

    Wow your cake is gorgeous! I love the way you drizzled caramel over the top, and all the layers look fantastic!

  45. On December 01, 2008 at 5:29am, The Blonde Duck said...

    That cake looks scandelously good!

  46. On December 01, 2008 at 6:44am, Kim said...

    I almost fell off my chair when I saw this cake. Absolutely splendid! I am a white cake fan so this is my kind of dessert.

  47. On December 01, 2008 at 6:47am, Nina Timm said...

    That is dedication for your! Well done, my friend you have once again done a fantastic job!!!!

  48. On December 01, 2008 at 7:19am, Aran said...

    Glad you had fun at the cruise Susan. Your cake looks absolutely perfect!

  49. On December 01, 2008 at 8:57am, joanne @ frutto della passione said...

    Wow, that is an amazing looking cake!

  50. On December 01, 2008 at 9:15am, Chocolate Shavings said...

    That’s real caramel decadence!

  51. On December 01, 2008 at 10:29am, Heather said...

    You crazy Daring Bakers. I can’t imagine getting it together enough to bake a cake after Thanksgiving! You all are powerhouses of pastry.

  52. On December 01, 2008 at 12:11pm, Lori Lynn said...

    Four layers! It looks huge. And mighty tasty I might add.
    Hope your cruise was all that you wanted (needed) it to be…

  53. On December 01, 2008 at 7:02pm, Ingrid said...

    Yum, your cake looks so over the top decadent! Just the kind I like! You go girl!
    ~ingrid

  54. On December 01, 2008 at 11:56pm, Regina said...

    Talk about sugar high! That is one beautiful layer cake.

  55. On December 02, 2008 at 5:50am, Cristine said...

    Goodness me! That cake is GORGEOUS!

  56. On December 02, 2008 at 7:45am, Zoe Francois said...

    Welcome home! Are you tan? Your cake is gorgeous, love the layers!!!

  57. On December 02, 2008 at 7:59am, Anonymous said...

    I find Lyle’s Golden Syrup at Safeway Grocery Store. I highly recommend it!!!

  58. On December 02, 2008 at 10:19am, The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

    Another gorgeous DB example.

    Hope you had a wonderful vacation.

  59. On December 02, 2008 at 2:16pm, Cookie baker Lynn said...

    Your cake is awe inspiring! Truly beautiful job!

  60. On December 02, 2008 at 6:36pm, Belinda said...

    Oh, what a decadent and beautiful cake, Susan! And WOW on your organizational skills in getting it done ahead of time, before your vacation! It looks amazing, and the extra caramel syrup to drizzle over ice cream or into coffee was a delighful bonus from this challenge! :-) I’m glad you are home safe and sound.

  61. On December 02, 2008 at 7:03pm, MaryBeth said...

    That is one big and beautiful cake, OMG it looks so good.

  62. On December 02, 2008 at 7:06pm, Heather B said...

    wow…your cake looks so delicious! I wish I had some more of this right now!

  63. On December 03, 2008 at 7:19am, Anonymous said...

    HECK!!! I am speechless…..and drooling!!! That is one sublime looking cake!!! Well done! I hope you had a good cruise and that your ankle is recovered now o) xxx

  64. On December 03, 2008 at 11:36am, giz said...

    Oh my gawd… divine – what can I say. Although I found this challenge over the top sweet your cake is out of this world.

  65. On December 04, 2008 at 8:55am, Bret, www.bretstable.com said...

    Hi Susan – I saw your comment on Zoe’s Blog, ZoeBakes. When I arrived on your blog, I was dazzled by your caramel cake. WOW. I’ve added a link on my blog to yours. Thanks for your inspiring recipes.

  66. On December 04, 2008 at 7:33pm, TeaLady said...

    What an absolutely lovely concoction. The toffee bits and the drizzled caramel make it look so fantastically elegant. Beautiful!!!

  67. On December 05, 2008 at 11:11am, alexandra's kitchen said...

    holy cow, this looks incredibly decadent and delicious. the caramelized butter frosting with fleur de sel sounds unbelievable. yum!

  68. On December 05, 2008 at 12:31pm, Jescel said...

    wow susan, this cake simply looks amazing.. caramel is heaven!

  69. On December 06, 2008 at 10:41am, Deborah said...

    Look at all of those layers!! Just gorgeous!

  70. On December 09, 2008 at 5:04pm, Justina said...

    These recipes sound so delicious and so easy! We’re having a party food recipe contest and would love to have you enter one of your favorite recipes. The prize is a $400 MarxFoods.com gift certificate. Check out the contest at our blog: http://MarxFood.com/

  71. On December 11, 2008 at 10:15am, Stephanie said...

    this looks crazy, crazy, crazy delicious

  72. On December 13, 2008 at 1:12pm, J.Danger said...

    How does one get into TDB? some secret club initiation ritual? Does it hurt? Will I bruise?

  73. On December 27, 2008 at 12:07pm, Jaime said...

    wow!!! i think that’s how i wanted my cake to turn out in my mind…but somehow things got lost in the execution :P beautiful cake!!

  74. On August 03, 2009 at 6:38pm, Charlotte said...

    Today, my family and I tried this cake. It was wonderful. The only complaint was too sweet with all the icing between the layers and on the top. It seem you really did not taste the cake because it was overpowered by the frosting. Do you have any suggestions to cut the sweetness?

  75. On July 27, 2012 at 5:52pm, Edith said...

    Now that’s a beautiful cake!!

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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