the birthday cake that almost wasn’t: caramel cake

slice of caramel cake

Like I mentioned in a previous post, I just wasn’t feeling my birthday this year. But you know, things got a lot better. On the day of my birthday there wasn’t cake, but there was a lovely chocolate whoopie pie from a local bake shop with a candle in it where I was serenaded with the happy birthday song by my very endearing husband and that was pretty wonderful. He took me out to a restaurant that I’ve been dying to try (it was worth every bite) and I got to try creme brule for the very first time ever (it was heaven!). I wanted this goodness to continue, and so when I had some friends over later that weekend, I decided to bake a cake in celebration.

caramel cake

I consulted various cake recipes and when I found that Tim, Dana and Deb all gushed about one particular caramel cake, I was sold. The cake itself is simple to make in fact, I’d argue that it’s probably best as an “everyday cake”. It isn’t fancy in the least, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t special. I used Tim’s version as a guide since he declared it his most favorite cake of all time (you see, this is a cake with excellent pedigree). Tim sifts the flour and then calls it done where as the recipe requires you to sift the flour and then sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I’m not sure you know this about me, but I’m not a sifter. I whisk which isn’t nearly the same thing. So I ditched the extra 2 tablespoons of flour and moved on. Maybe next time, I’ll omit a bit more flour for a lighter crumb. But regardless of my non-sifting manoeuvres, this cake is pretty delicious. It’s got an ever-so-slight tang from the buttermilk (though I’m sure you could easily sub in a spoonful of vinegar into a cupful of milk with equal success), but it’s the caramel glaze that is the real stand out here.

caramel cake drips

Normally, I have no issues with caramel. I’ve been making caramel things for years and always found it a cinch. Except when I made the glaze this time, everything curdled. There was no creamy sauce, just curdled lumps no matter  how quickly I whisked the thing together. I freaked out on Twitter, got a few great responses on what could have gone wrong and decided that I’d toss the stuff and try again the next day.

caramel cake

Well rested, I was ready to tackle the glaze. But beforehand, my husband poured me my morning coffee and then asked if I’d like milk or half and half in my coffee. Since I only buy milk for my coffee, it suddenly hit me. I had purchased half and half instead of heavy cream! DOH. OOPS. Hanging my head in shame, I was off to the grocery store on Mother’s Day looking for heavy cream like everyone else (seriously, I had to go into 3 shops before I found a carton!) Once back home, the caramel was a dream to make. I should note that I have a candy thermometer but it never works (I probably should just toss the thing). It only gets up to 150F and then stays there for the duration of the caramel-making. Useless! So I’ve learned to improvise and use a timer (set the timer for 14 minutes after the mixture starts boiling) and then keep a glass of ice water nearby. Once the caramel stars looking golden, flick a drop into the ice water until you get to a nice soft-ball stage. Got it? Remove from heat and pour over your cake. Take the caramel off too soon and it will be thin and less flavourful. Keep it on too long and it will turn into rubber or leather or worse. Let it look drippy and lush. At this point, everyone who comes into the kitchen will go ga-ga over the cake. It’s like they can’t help themselves. Caramel on cake. What will they think of next?!

caramel cake with ice cream

So we ate the cake and it was delicious. Sometimes we ate a slice with a ball of homemade vanilla ice cream over glitter paper because why not? Try a slice with coffee! Or eat a slice on the sly for breakfast. You may need to smear your finger around the plate to catch any drips. It’s okay because it’s your cake. Enjoy it. I did.

elsewhere: I know, so many sweets over here lately. There’ll be some healthy meals coming up, don’t worry about it. In the meantime, head over to Poppytalk where you’ll find a great recipe for Sole Almondine. It sounds fancy. It tastes fancy. And it’s a cinch to make! Win!

caramel cake platter

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23 comments to “the birthday cake that almost wasn’t: caramel cake”

  1. 1
    Rachel (heart of light)   May 16, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    This looks so good! Glad it was a happy birthday.

    I am another non-sifter. It just seems like such a pain. There are very few recipes that I’ll actually bust out the sifter for, otherwise I just do a quick whisk (great, lazy minds!).

  2. 2
    Meister @ The Nervous Cook   May 16, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Happiest birthday!!

  3. 3
    Joanne   May 17, 2012 at 5:37 am

    I’m so glad you ended up celebrating with cake after all! And what a doozy this is. Give me anythign with caramel on it and I’m quite content.

  4. 4
    Donna   May 17, 2012 at 6:46 am

    I love the photos: an old-fashioned cake with some very cool, vintage props. A belated Happy Birthday to you.

  5. 5
    alana (at) the food   May 17, 2012 at 6:49 am

    oh that looks seriously good!
    now i know what’s gonna happen…i’m gonna continously think about how it tastes over and over again…so i guess i should just make it tonight instead!
    good plan!

  6. 6
    Allison   May 17, 2012 at 8:21 am

    That cake looks delicious! And I could totally see myself having a slice for breakfast… :)

    Anyway, I’m just stopping by to say that I’ve nominated you for the ‘One Lovely Blog’ Award! Your blog is so engaging and all of your recipes look so appealing. I just discovered it recently, but I’ve found that I keep coming back, and want to try making everything! So, thank you.

    (For more information about the award, and how to pass it on, please stop by spontaneous tomato.)

  7. 7
    Miss K   May 17, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Would have loved to have a piece!!!

  8. 8
    kickpleat   May 17, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Rachel, hooray for great lazy minds!

    Thanks Meister, it was a good one :)

    Joanne, it’s a nice simple cake and the caramel is the real star! Yum.

    Donna, props? Ha. I could never own anything that was considered a prop – I have no space. Everything is something I use and have owned for at least a decade. I’m a huge vintage collector :) But thanks for the nice words.

    Good plan, definitely, Alana! Enjoy.

    Thanks Allison for the nice words and the award – so flattered!! Thank you!!!

    Miss K, I don’t blame you. C’mon over, I’ll bake up another ;)

  9. 9
    Joanne (Bijoux)   May 17, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Hurray! Glad to see you had success! The cake looks luscious and I really want a slice of it right now. Speaking of candy thermometers, I just purchased one for my chocolate confections class and the instructor/chef told us that a good quality thermometer can make all the difference when melting sugars, chocolates, etc. I got one of those digital ones with a probe. Seems all the students were using them last week.

  10. 10
    Sharyn Dimmick   May 17, 2012 at 10:55 am

    I don’t like to sift either and avoid it whenever I can — for a cake I might sift though. I can’t imagine why half and half would ruin caramel — I’ve used it many times.

  11. 11
    IshitaUnblogged   May 17, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Definitely a cake to celebrate your birthday with. Atleast when you bake your own cake there’s no doing any mistake with the choice of flavours:)

  12. 12
    kickpleat   May 17, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Bijoux, I know, phew!!!! Huge relief with the caramel. No more panicing – before checking carefully my ingredients! Good call on getting a proper candy thermometer – I’ll invest in a good one since my cheapie one sucks big time.

    Sharyn, hmmmm, maybe it was that my half and half came cold from the fridge? I don’t know, but when I used heavy cream it set up perfectly!

    Thanks Ishitablogged! I’m all about making my own cake :)

  13. 13
    nicole   May 17, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    WOW, that is a gorgeous-looking cake. The caramel …! Happy birthday!

  14. 14
    NicoleD   May 17, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    There’s just something about birthdays and cake and you picked a good one! It looks insane! So glad it was a hit :)

  15. 15
    Gretchen @ flowercityfoodie.com   May 17, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Happy belated birthday! I can relate to your half-and-half instead of cream mistake…recently I was making a tart and couldn’t figure out why the dough wouldn’t roll out the way I wanted it to. I looked at the box (from the frozen dough), looked at my recipe, looked at the dough, and FINALLY it dawned on me…I bought phyllo dough, not puff pastry. D’oh!

  16. 16
    Jennifer S.   May 18, 2012 at 8:15 am

    I just pinned this recipe on Pinterest with a note that said “Everybody Likes Sandwiches never steers me wrong” and I thought, you know, wouldn’t it be nice if I actually told you that? So after a long time loving your recipes and singing your praises to my friends, I finally got the nerve up to comment, just to say thank and that you rock! :-)

  17. 17
    Jennifer S.   May 18, 2012 at 8:20 am

    (Oh, and happy birthday!)

  18. 18
    kickpleat   May 19, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Thanks so much, Nicole!

    I think so too, NicoleD! It was definitely a well-liked cake :)

    Ugh, those mistakes are so frustrating, Gretchen! Glad I’m not alone in the kitchen goofs!

    Aw, thanks so much Jennifer for the kind words and thank you for stopping by and saying hi for the first time! See, commenting, not so hard :)

  19. 19
    Dina   May 31, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    i could use a piece of that today!

  20. 20
    kit kat   June 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    i had a piece of this exact cake today at coco et olive on main street. apparently it is in regular rotation on their front counter which is usually full of home made goodies – they sometimes add caramel apples to the batter! yummy.

  21. 21
    Abby   February 11, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Hi! I came across this blog post because I’m looking for a caramel glaze recipe that sets, not just runs. This one looks set, but I just want to make sure. If you can let me know that would be wonderful. Thanks!

  22. 22
    kickpleat   February 12, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Abby, yes, this caramel sets – you can see it’s quite thick. Enjoy!

  23. 23
    Abby   February 13, 2013 at 2:00 am

    Yay! Thanks :D

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