This will be my last Daring Baker entry. I’ve enjoyed being a member for the past year, and I learned something useful from every single recipe I’ve made for the group. However, between Tuesdays with Dorie and the Daring Bakers, the assigned baking recipes are starting to overwhelm me. I came really close to not making this cake, simply because I had pumpkin pie left from Thanksgiving, plus four types of cookies and two types of cupcakes in the freezer. I just couldn’t justify putting much time into making a dessert that we really didn’t need.
However, Erin convinced me that the recipe wasn’t difficult, and that I should be able to scale it back without adverse affects. (Based on warnings from this month’s hosts, Dolores, Alex, and Jenny, I was concerned that the recipe was going to be finicky.) She was right. This cake required only a little more time than an average cake recipe.
Plus a little extra effort for me, because I screwed up the caramel syrup the first time. The only times I have ever had a problem with caramel are this cake and the filbert gateau – I don’t know what it is with Daring Baker recipes and crystallized caramel. The second time I made the syrup, I doubled the amount of water I added with the sugar and tweaked the cooking method just a little. I left the amount of water at the end the same, under the assumption that all of the water that’s added with the sugar evaporates before the sugar starts to caramelize. This time I made a nice smooth caramel.
I considered skipping the frosting, but I don’t have much experience with browned butter, so I wanted to try it. It was interesting – it had an unusual texture. I didn’t add all of the powdered sugar, and I found that no amount of the caramel syrup was going to give me the smoothness I was hoping for, so I ended up adding a fair amount of heavy cream. Even then, the frosting was kind of dry and greasy at the same time. I couldn’t seem to spread it on the cake; I ended up using my fingers to pat it down.
The cake was great. A nice fluffy, even texture, with a flavor reminiscent of my favorite pound cake. The frosting wasn’t bad, although it just didn’t seem quite right. Still, I’m glad I took the time to make this cake, and I’m glad I was a member of the Daring Bakers for the previous year. It was a fun and valuable experience.
Makes 12 servings
2 cups sugar
1½ cup water, separated
1. In a small stainless steel saucepan with tall sides, mix ½ cup 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 dark amber and smoking slightly.
2. Very carefully pour in remaining 1 cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about.
3. Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers.
Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.
10 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1¼ cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup Caramel Syrup (recipe follows)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan. Sift flour and baking powder.
2. 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. 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. 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.
3. Place cake pan on cookie sheet or half-sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.
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
1. Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.
2. 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 or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste. (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.)