Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Cake For Daring Bakers to Make

Sorry this post is so late, but we were flying back from Seattle and, as we entered the hallway to the plane, they said that instead of taking us to N. CA as scheduled, they might have to fly us to Redding due to foggy conditions! Luckily, about a half hour before we were scheduled to land they decided that the fog had cleared enough, so we flew toward home. Not the end of the story! I noticed that when we were pretty close to the airport (a small, regional one) that they kept flying in circles. Now we could see the airport and all the area fog to speak of and no other planes getting in the way. Around we went again...what on earth??? Finally, the third time around they shared that they couldn't be sure that the landing gear were engaged...the fly bys gave them visual that it all looked OK, but, just in case, there would be a firetruck ready when we landed. So now we felt safe....sure we did!....but around we went again, and landed. The good news was that everything worked work for the firemen. The bad news for the folks waiting to fly to LA was that their flight would be delayed...THREE hours, whiled they fixed our plane. Isn't it fun to fly! Course it beats two days in the car. And, yes, my daughter is wonderful and her guy is great and we ate too much and laughed and talked and had a great time. If you need a great place to stay in Wallingford and like staying in part of a house in a very quiet, pretty neighborhood for a reasonable rate, e-mail me and I'll give you the details...oh, and the bed is SUPER comfy.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. Not as much drama, but very pretty.

This month the Daring Bakers baked a cake. It's a lovely caramel cake from Poulet in Berkeley, CA. The recipe is by Shuna Fish Lydon, who writes the excellent blog Eggbeaters. Shuna is a professional pastry chef, but this cake isn't like the Gateau St. Honore', or the fancy one with chocolate ganache and nut praline. It is simplicity itself, which is what makes it so difficult. The caramel syrup is the key, so be sure to not follow my lead. Make sure that you cook it enough to get a good deep amber color, for the flavor it gives. Also, be prepared for a fairly dense cake, (even if all ingredients are at room temperature and you beat the heck out of each ingredient and graaaaaaddduuuuallly add the milk, etc., although I goofed, so mine was probably a bit denser than it would be otherwise - see below) and one with super sweet icing. I liked the browned butter flavor with the caramel flavor in the icing, but it really was very sweet with all the confectioners sugar. This cake also tasted better when served at room temperature. I made the mistake of serving it straight from the fridge. It cut well, but the flavors were not as pronounced. The last piece I ate at room temp. and it was much better. I confess that there was a bit of mis-communication with my baking buddy Hil when it was time to add the flour. More than 1/3 was added at the beginning of the wet-dry-wet-dry cycle, so the cycle was shortened a bit. Otherwise we followed the recipe to the letter! The batter sure looked light!

For fun and a seasonal kick, I also sliced my cake in half

and filled it with a Granny Smith apple filling. Threw on some toasted walnuts, too.

Glad I did because those additional flavors were very complementary to the caramel and added some texture. Did not try the candies that were the extra challenge...there was barely time to do the challenge...where DID November go?
Thanks go to Alex, the Brownie of Blondie and Brownie duo and Jenny of Foray into Food, to Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go for all the gluten-free instructions and especially to Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity(for choosing this recipe) who all hosted this challenge. Great choice for November y'all!! It sure made for a pretty cake and it was appreciated by the guests at our pre-Thanksgiving feast last Sunday.

by Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeaters blog

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 gum
1/2 - 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 above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

- makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels -

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

A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer


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.


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.
(recipe from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert)


  1. Apple and walnut filling? Interesting choice! The cake looks great.

  2. Glad your Thanksgiving was good! We had a good one, too. I didn't try any fresh...only after sitting overnight, so the flavors had time to meld. Cake looks great and I'm sure everyone loved it!

  3. Granny Smith apple filling? Please tell!
    It looks great Elle.

  4. Caramel Cake with apple filling - how delicious! I love your pics too.

  5. The filling does sounds delicious with this. Caramel apple cake...Mmmm!

  6. That filling sounds fantastic - the perfect way to cut the sweetness. I love the pic of the frosting in your mixer, it just looks so tasty!

  7. thanks you for your lovely comment elle!

    this cake was brilliant and you've done a great job - that apple filling is sounding good to me right now!

  8. Anonymous9:53 AM

    Nice with the apple filling! I think next time I make the cake I will incorporate some type of fruit also. Glad your plane trip ended uneventfully.

  9. Super yuck for the plane ride.
    And I can attest that your daughter is indeed wonderful. :)
    Cake looks great and the filling was a good idea.

  10. Apples are definitely a perfect match for the caramel.

  11. No St Honore story this time?? Guess your plane story more than makes up for it though! Apple filling eh, you are truly creative. Great job my friend!

  12. I'll bet the apple/nut filling was a nice addition! And you're right--I put mine in the fridge to get a clean slice to photograph, but quickly realized it had to be served at room temp for the flavors to shine.

  13. Anonymous11:48 AM

    Gosh ... the first photo with the frosting ... glups ... I need to do this cake again :op

  14. Simplicity, yes but you went another mile with that filling, nicely done!

    Don't we all wish we didn't have flying stories . . .

  15. Caramel and apples? It's almost like a cake version of a tarte tatin waiting to happen! :)

  16. Glad you landed safely, it sure HAS been foggy around here lately.

    I'm so glad you enjoyed the cake, and I LOVE your addition of apple walnut filling. Yum.

    Thanks for baking with us.

  17. I'm afraid that flight would have scared me half to death! I love the apple filling you used - delicious!

  18. Oooh apple sounds like a great idea for this! Chunks of it in the cake would be good too!