The Cake

Thursday, January 15, 2009

As promised, here is a more detailed explanation of my birthday cake.  I was originally going to make Bobby’s Caramel Cake by Paula Deen, but then after reading all of the reviews, and noting the large number of negative ones, I decided against it.  Now, rereading the recipe, maybe I should have tried it 🙂

But that is neither here nor there, because I made Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting, which I found at The Crepes of Wrath blog.  Not only did it look delicious, but it also involved making caramel syrup, which I have never done before.

As mentioned yesterday, it was quite a procedure, taking pretty much all day (with breaks here and there).  I started making the caramel syrup around 11 am because it needed to cool before adding to the cake batter.  The recipe for the caramel is as follows:

Caramel Syrup
A Daring Baker’s Recipe from Shuna Fish Lydon’s Egg Beater, published on Bay Area Bites

2 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 Cup water
1 Cup water for “stopping” the caramelization process

1. In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand.
2. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush.
3. Turn on heat to highest flame.
4. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.
5. When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water as caramel will jump and sputter about.
6. Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers.

Okay, first of all, I didn’t have a stainless steel pan (these are very expensive!) so I used my nonstick pan with high sides–I don’t know if this had anything to do with how the caramel turned out.  And of course, I don’t have a pastry brush, so I used a small paintbrush 🙂

Take one:

I put the sand-like sugar on to the burner where I started stirring the sugar mixture continuously.  The recipe didn’t say to stir or not and I figured I didn’t want it to burn so I should stir.  I stirred and stirred and stirred.  It went through various stages–just sugar, more liquidy, started turning light brown, and then ALL OF A SUDDEN turned a dark brown and I could SMELL the burned smell–I added the water anyway and oh yeah, it was burned.  And was I mad!  I had to throw away batch number one…grrrr…

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As you can see, it was smoking!  This was right before I added the water.

Take two:

Okay, this time I searched around a little online to learn about making caramel.  I found out that the way I was making it was the “wet” method, meaning there was liquid added to the sugar, whereas the “dry” method involves heating the sugar alone.  I learned that I shouldn’t stir the caramel while it is cooking.  So I tried again.  But as I was watching it heat, I kept noticing these crystal-looking things that were floating near the outside of the caramel, towards the top.  I was tempted to stir, but I said, “NO,” it said not to stir, so maybe they will eventually go away.  Well, they didn’t!  And this time after I added the water, there were clumps of these crystal-looking things floating in the caramel.  It looked QUITE gross.  I was SO frustrated.  So down the sink that batch went as well.

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Here you can actually see the crystal-looking things towards the outside edge on the left.

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And here is what those things looked like after dumping the syrup down the sink…GROSS, huh?

Take three:

This was going to be it.  I wasn’t going to waste more time and sugar anymore.  I decided to stir at the beginning to make sure everything was incorporated, but then not stir after and add the water when the caramel was just light brown, so as not to burn it.  It turned out pretty good, although I’m sure it could have been darker.  I will have to perfect my caramel making skills sometime when I am not in such a rush to make a cake for that day 🙂

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At a brisk boil, (after the initial stir), just waiting to brown.

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A nice light brown, just before I added the water.  And boy, does that ever jump around when the water is added.  Thankfully, I had on a long sleeved shirt and my gardening gloves to protect myself!

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The cooling caramel…a light amber color.

After the caramel cooled awhile, I started making the cake.  The recipe follows:

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting
A Daring Baker’s Recipe from Shuna Fish Lydon’s Egg Beater, published on Bay Area Bits

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup caramel syrup
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter one round 9×2 cake pan.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth.
3. Add the sugar and salt and cream together until light and fluffy.
4. Slowly pour the room temperature caramel syrup into the bowl.
5. Scrape down the bowl and increase the speed on the mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Scrape down bowl again and beat the mixture until light and uniform.
6. Sift flour and baking powder together in a small bowl.
7. Turn the mixer to its lowest speed and add one third of the flour mixture.
8. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time.
9. Add another third of the flour mixture, then the other half of the milk and finish with the flour (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).
10. Use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure the batter is uniform.
11. Place the cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set your first timer for 30 minutes, rotate the 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 unrefrigerated.

Okay, again, my lack of kitchen appliances shows through.  I do not have a stand mixer so I used a hand mixer to make this cake, which worked fine.  Making the cake was a breeze compared to making the caramel!  And the cake batter turned out so tasty!  In my oven, the cake took 45 minutes.  It then took about an hour or so to completely cool.

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The smooth, creamy batter…yummy!

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In the oven!

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Cooling…

Finally, the frosting.  The recipe follows:

Caramelized Butter Frosting
A Daring Baker’s Recipe from Shuna Fish Lydon’s Egg Beater, published on Bay Area Bites

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
16 oz. powdered sugar
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream (I used whole milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup, room temperature
kosher or sea salt to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, maybe a pinch more)

1. Cook the butter until browned slightly.
2. Pour it through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl and set it aside to cool.
3. Pour the cooled brown butter into a mixer bowl.
4. 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 (I used the full 16 oz), add a bit of the cream/milk and 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.

I had never made browned butter before and it sure made the house smell wonderful.  After it cooled, I mixed up the frosting.  I used the full package of the confectioner’s sugar, which may be why I thought the frosting was a bit too sweet.  I used 3 tablespoons of the caramel syrup and 5 tablespoons of the milk, which may be why the frosting seemed a bit too soft.  But when I was tasting it, I kept feeling like you could still taste the pasty-ness of the confectioners sugar, so I added the milk to make it less pasty.  The added salt made a huge difference, tasting the sweet and the saltiness at the same time.  This batch of frosting was WAY too much for this small little cake, or maybe it was because I couldn’t put on such a thick layer because it was so thin like.  Who knows.  I kept the extra frosting and we’ve been putting a but on the side whenever we have a piece.

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Pouring the browned butter through a coffee filter since I don’t have a fine meshed sieve, surprise, surprise!  You really do need to do this step though to separate the butter from any impurities (which there were!)

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The browned butter, cooling…

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The frosted cake

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The final decorated cake…I took butterscotch chips and melted them over low heat and then drizzled them over the top of the cake.  Whew!  The cake is DONE!!

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The cake in all its glory!!!  It was pretty.

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The cut cake, about to be eaten!

All in all, as I said yesterday, the cake tasted okay that day.  But I have to say, the taste of the cake improved overnight and I REALLY like it.  I would recommend that if you make this cake, try to do it the day before whenever you are planning on eating it, because it takes a while to make and the flavor gets better by the next day.

Now hopefully the cake I make for my sweetie’s birthday in a few weeks will not be so much work 🙂

Published in: on January 15, 2009 at 5:32 pm  Comments (1)  

Another One Bites the Dust…

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Yep, that’s right, it was my birthday today.  And in about 15 minutes it will be over.

I don’t know what it is, but every year I look forward to my birthday day.  I know that many people don’t really care much about their birthdays (“it’s just another day”) but to me, it’s a special day.  I always feel like it’s a day in which I have liberty to do WHATEVER I want to do.  Most years I start thinking of what I want to do right after Christmas.

So what was on the agenda this year??

Mostly it was relaxing.   I started the day with some coffee and leftover French bread with butter for breakfast while watching a few episodes of Will and Grace (Season 4).  Then I decided to watch Memoirs of a Geisha which I had received for Christmas.  But about an hour in I decided I’d better get a start on my cake before Kimm came home for lunch.  So I paused the movie and began…and never returned to the movie.  That’s right, the cake was MUCH more work than I had originally anticipated.

I decided (after looking at a lot of cake recipes online) to make a caramel cake.  I used this recipe.  It seemed relatively straightforward, but boy was I wrong.  Let me tell you, making caramel is NOT easy.  I had to throw away the first two batches–the first one was burned, and the second one had weird, large sugar crystals that didn’t dissolve.  The third batch I’m sure was not fully to the amber stage, but I pulled it off early just because I didn’t want to do another batch!!

Overall the cake was okay (especially for the first cake I’ve EVER made by hand…can you believe it!).  The cake itself was dense, not overly sweet, but the frosting was incredibly sweet, even by my standards.  But it felt good to go through the process of making a cake.

The big surprise of the day was that my sweetie faked being sick at work so that she could come home for good at her lunchtime and she brought our favorite pizza from Pizzaria Regina.  It was yummy.  We spent the afternoon watching episodes from Season 5 of The L Word.

Oh yeah, the gifts: a Pink CD, a Katy Perry CD, and Season 9 of ER.  And a bunch of mixed cds that my sweetie made for me from the 80s and 90s.  I’m so excited to listen to them!

We went to go see the movie Bride Wars, which we both really liked.  Finished the night off with fries and a Frosty from Wendy’s.  Yep, we’re simple people 🙂

All in all, it was a great day.  But I can’t help feeling a little sad that I’m a year older.  Oh yeah, by the way, I’m 36!  I’m hoping that this next year will be a great year.  I’ll post pictures of the cake tomorrow.  I’m just about to nod off now…

Published in: on January 15, 2009 at 1:01 am  Comments (1)