19 July 2008

Caramel Cake

Last year I told you all about the cake so good that I cannot celebrate my birthday, almost every birthday of my entire life, without it. And while that carrot cake is still irreplaceable, why have one cake when you can have a big party and two cakes on your birthday? It sure sounds good to me.

In fact, you could go as far as to say that the whole party was an excuse for me to cook, and in particular to bake two cakes. And not just any cake, but this cake, this caramel cake.

Caramel cake has long been an object of desire in my family, in South Carolina we look forward to the local 12-layer version, and in Tennessee we come home with Driver's Burnt Sugar cake. I've made a few attempts at caramel cake in the past, however I find the 12-layer version (like this) a bit too much like candy for my taste, not enough cake and too much sugary icing. Other versions involve just plain cake frosted with caramel icing, which doesn't have enough deep caramel flavor for me. So for a while now I scrounged caramel cake recipes, combining notes and coming up with a recipe that I thought would meet my caramel cake dreams.

I may be biased, considering I'm eating a piece of this caramel cake as I type, but I think this is one of the best cakes I've made, ever, ever, ever. First of all, it incorporates caramel syrup into the cake itself, so it's a true caramel cake, and it's got just enough of that sweet-crackly burnt sugar icing that I love. But most of all, I think this is the most perfectly-moist crumbed cake I've had. I actually got nervous as I was typing up the recipe, wanting to make sure I copied my stained scribbled notes exactly right, so that I could record this one for all the future caramel cakes to come.

Caramel Cake
Don't be afraid of the caramel in the first step of this recipe, it's very easy and only requires that you watch the pan closely as it boils. I suppose it would be logical to make extra caramel syrup for adhering the cake layers, but I never remember to, so I simply assemble the cake layers with a few spoonfuls of maple syrup that I have on hand. Keep in mind these cakes don't rise very much, so don't be surprised.

for caramel syrup:
1 cup sugar plus 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup water for stopping

for cake:
14 tablespoons (7 oz) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup caramel syrup (from above)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

for assembly:
4 tablespoons maple syrup or caramel syrup

for glaze:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

1. Make caramel syrup: Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, have the additional 1/4 cup water ready on the side. Boil the syrup, watching closely, until it turns dark amber. Remove the pan from the heat and add the remaining water to "stop" the caramel. Stir the mixture with a fork until it comes together, then set aside to cool to room temperature.

2. Make cake: Preheat oven to 350 F, grease and flour 3 9-inch cake pans. In a bowl cream the butter until smooth, then cream in the brown sugar and salt until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in the caramel syrup. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla, until very smooth and combined. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk, to make a smooth cake batter. Divide cake batter among prepared pans. Bake in the center of the oven (rotating pans halfway through), for 30 minutes, or until firm, golden, and the sides pull away from the edge of the pan. Set aside to cool.

3. On a cake plate, stack the cake layers, spreading 2 tablespoons maple syrup or caramel syrup between the layers so that they stick together. Press down firmly (at this point, the cake can be triple-wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to one month, or simply covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight).

4. Glaze cake: Combine cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a saucepan. Boil the mixture until it reaches 235 F, or soft-ball stage. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla. Give the mixture several rapid stirs, then quickly pour it over the cake before the glaze hardens.


TNelson said...

This looks luscious and I have bookmarked it to try soon!


Jenny said...

Oh my....
My birthday was yesterday and was cakeless (cause I decided to clean my absent children's rooms instead of baking). I may have to make this for myself, to make up for my cakeless day. Yum.

Anonymous said...

your cake looks delicious! i'll try it for sure!!

N.D. said...

I am salivating right now.. this looks sooo good!!

Brilynn said...

I still haven't mastered the art of caramel but I'm willing to give it a try again for this cake!

Quinne said...

Hi Mercedes :) Thanks for this, it looks (reads) wonderful! Love, Q

grace said...

good googa mooga. this would definitely give carrot cake some serious competition for being my favorite cake. i'm pretty sure i could sit down with a bowl of the glaze and be content for hours. :)

Dad said...

Looks terrific.

Happy (belated) birthday wishes Mercedes.


(no relation)

Patricia Scarpin said...

That looks amazing. I would love to try a slice!

Anonymous said...

Those pictures are absolutely droolworthy. Nice cake Mercedes! Would you ever consider making it with dulce de leche (my new favorite after coming back from Argentina)?

eatme_delicious said...

I want this cake ASAP!!! I made a "caramel" cake before but it just tasted like a regular cake and didn't have actual caramel in it. I can't wait to try this recipe.

Jeanine - The Baking Beauties said...

Oh wow, I've never heard of a caramel cake, but I sure wouldn't object to one! :) Looks delicious!

Half Baked said...

Looks great! Can't wait to try this one!!

Katie said...

This looks so good! The Glaze looks amazing!

Anonymous said...

That looks so unbelievably rich & delicious! I'll have to try to figure out a vegan version before my next birthday...

Anonymous said...

I share in your passion for caramel cake.This is going to my must make very soon pile, it looks scrumptious!

Anonymous said...

I made this cake tonight and it was delicious!

Anamika:The Sugarcrafter said...

hey mercedes
i loved your caramel cake and the post..first time but liked to sstay back and read some..

TNelson said...


Hopefully you will get this message even though it's been awhile since you posted this recipe. I'm planning on taking this to a Thanksgiving dinner which will be in the evening of Thanksgiving day. How long will this cake hold? Could I make it the night before or do I need to make it the day of?



Ravi said...

I just made this cake for my mom's birthday, and it was incredible! She's a big fan of caramel cake and hadn't had it in a while. Thanks for the recipe!

Anonymous said...

Wow.. delicious cake. I love cake very much. Let me try by follow your recipe.

Anonymous said...

Hi thr. i am very inpressed with yr blog and recipes. The caramel cake looks luscious and i decided to try it for my daughters bday, i am an avid baker too. Had a huge prob with the caramel. When I added it to the butter sugar mixture, it just did not blend in. Infact I got huge lumps which I broke down to smaller pieces with the help of the beater. But still has small lumps of caramel. Pls advice what cud have happened. i really do want to perfect this cake. thnx
Sheetal gupta

Anonymous said...

OMG!!!! I made this cake for a co-worker cuz she loves caramel cake and been bugging me about making it for her. So, I made it and brought it to work and she ABSOLUTELY loved it. I got big compliments about ur cake and credited it to you. So thank you!!! Remi

Anonymous said...

I was soooo hopeful this cake would be amazing after reading it here. I've saved the recipe until the proper time and finally made it today! I hate to admit I was disappointed. I've made another recipe of yours with complete satisfaction, but this one was really not very good! :(