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.
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.
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.
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?!
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!
(adapted from Lottie + Doof & Gourmet)
2 c + 2 T sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring…or if not sifting, cut out the extra flour addition)
1 t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda (oops, I left this out & it worked out fine)
1/2 t salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1 c granulated sugar
1 t pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
1 c well-shaken buttermilk
1 c heavy cream
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1 T light corn syrup (honey or Lyle’s golden syrup, can be substituted)
a pinch of kosher salt
1 t pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F, placing rack at the centre of the oven. Cut a round or square of parchment and place on the bottom of the tin. Butter and flour a 9″ round cake tin or an 8″ square tin – including parchment. Set aside.
Sift (or vigorously whisk) the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and mix well. Add one egg and let it fully incorporate before adding in the next. At low speed, add in the buttermilk and mix (it will look a bit curdled, this is okay). In 3 additions, add in the flour, mixing well between each addition.
Pour batter into cake pan and smooth out the top. Rap the tin against the counter a few solid times to knock out any air bubbles. Place in oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and then invert and cool completely (removing parchment, of course).
To make the caramel, in a medium sized saucepan (don’t use a small pan!), stir the cream (double check that it’s heavy cream and not half and half), sugar, salt and corn syrup together over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil. Turn on your timer for 14 minutes and if you’re using a candy thermometer bring up to 210-212F. Or use my ice water technique which I describe in the post above. Remove from heat immediately, stir in the vanilla and then pour over cake, starting at the centre so that you get some lovely drip action. Cool for 30 minutes before serving. Keeps for several days, if need be.