Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting: a Daring Bakers Challenge

I am so happy to be participating in my second Daring Bakers challenge. I have to tell you that I had my doubts about pulling this one off. It’s been such a hectic month for me and even though I swore I wouldn’t put another challenge off to the last minute, the end of the month crept up faster than I realized. But this month’s recipe featured my all-time favorite dessert ingredient…CARAMEL! So I just couldn’t bring myself to skip it.

This month’s challenge is a Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon, as published on Bay Area Bites. The co-hosts for this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge are Dolores of Culinary Curiosity, Jenny of Foray into Food, and Alex of Blondie and Brownie. Natalie from Gluten-a-Go-Go assisted with making gluten-free changes to the original recipe this month.

Although I love to eat just about anything with caramel, I’ve only made it from scratch a couple of times. I’m certainly not a caramel expert, and with my time crunch this month, I only had one shot to get this cake done right. Talk about pressure!

Luckily, Shuna took the time to answer all of our questions and gave us tons of guidance on this challenge. Since I waited so long to make it, I was able to read about some of the problems others had experienced and I had the benefit of reading Shuna’s answers to questions that I probably would have asked if I had attempted the cake earlier in the month.

The cake was a little time consuming, but it came together beautifully. The caramelized butter frosting has an amazing flavor but it’s definitely sweeter than I normally like. At first I thought that the cake with the frosting was just too sweet for me and I was a little disappointed. But by the second day, I had completely fallen in love with it and ate two slices before sending the rest with my husband to work. It got rave reviews from everyone who tried it.

The cake and frosting compliment each other beautifully, the trick is to use only a thin layer of frosting so that the sweetness isn’t overwhelming. I’ve decided that I will make this cake again in the future but will make a smaller amount of frosting and will frost only the top of the cake. I think the frosting would also be great for cupcakes if used sparingly.

All in all, this was a great challenge and I can’t wait to see what we’ll be working on next month! Be sure to check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see who else is participating!

Caramel Cake
Recipe courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

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.

Sift flour and baking powder.

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. {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.}

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.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate 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 outside of the refrigerator.

Caramel Syrup

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for “stopping” the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix 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 smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

Caramelized Butter Frosting
Recipe courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon

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

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

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 and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: 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.

  1. Caitlin

    Lovely! I liked it better the second day too, which is why I halved and hoarded it πŸ™‚ Yours is simply beautiful.

    1:45 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  2. icelandicchef

    Beautiful cake, I love the old caramel cake with the real fudgy caramel on top but I have never seen one with frosting on it….looks good. This will be my sunday afternoon tea cake tomorrow.

    1:52 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  3. Elle

    Beautiful! I used extra salt in the frosting and fell immediately in love with it. I also think it would be perfect for cupcakes.

    1:52 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  4. Judy

    I am so glad that you found the time to do this. Your cake turned out beautifully. It was so delicious wasn’t it?

    1:56 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  5. Andrea

    Oh how pretty with the pecans on top. I’m sure all your husband’s colleagues enjoyed it immensely.

    2:12 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  6. Elle

    This looks delicious! I’m a sucker for caramel as well, but I’d definitely have to agree with the other Elle and add some salt to the frosting. Salted butter caramel frosting? Wonderful.

    3:10 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  7. Andreia

    Love how your cake turned out. It is absolutely yummy and beautiful.

    4:12 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  8. clumbsycookie

    What a pretty cake you’ve made! I love you used pecans with all that caramel!

    5:06 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  9. Ivonne

    Have I mentioned how happy I am that you’re in the group??? Gorgeous…gorgeous…gorgeous!

    5:16 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  10. Kim

    What a beautiful cake! I want a piece now, think you can mail me a slice???? LOL!

    6:19 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  11. Ruby

    This is a beautiful cake. I met Shuna before, she has alot of talent! Nice. πŸ™‚

    6:36 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  12. Shari

    Pecans on top is a great idea! Looks gorgeous!

    6:45 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  13. kathy46

    An absolutely beautiful cake.

    7:16 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  14. patsyk

    Your cake turned out so beautifully! Looks delicious!

    7:25 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  15. pam

    That cake is so cute! I love the daisy design!

    7:50 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  16. Rhonda

    You are seriously brave, I’d love to eat it but am scared to even try to make it πŸ™‚

    10:27 pm  Nov 29th, 2008
  17. Leaca

    That looks so good. Yum!

    12:52 am  Nov 30th, 2008
  18. Jude

    That extra drizzle of caramel on the slice makes it look so much more appetizing. Really hoping to have a taste πŸ™‚

    1:24 am  Nov 30th, 2008
  19. katrina

    That’s a beautiful cake! Hummm, I’m a itching to get into the kitchen now – but one question. Is it 2 eggs? The recipe says “2 each eggs”.

    And btw – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

    4:49 am  Nov 30th, 2008
  20. Elizabeth

    Nicole! Your cake looks so moist!! and I love the nuts design. πŸ˜€

    9:20 am  Nov 30th, 2008
  21. Paula

    Beautiful cake! This cake really did taste better the next day! Nice job!

    9:34 am  Nov 30th, 2008
  22. Nicole

    Thanks, everyone! I just got home from our Thanksgiving trip so haven’t had a chance to go check out all the other Daring Bakers’ posts yet. I forgot to mention that I did add sea salt to the frosting and it really enhanced the flavor! It was still very sweet but absolutely delicious in small amounts! To answer Katrina’s question, yes the recipe requires two eggs. I copied/pasted the recipe from the original source so that’s why it sounds different than usual. I’ll go in and edit it to avoid any more confusion. Again, thanks for all the feedback, it was really fun to make!

    9:36 am  Nov 30th, 2008
  23. kellypea

    We have one piece left…Your cake turned out beautifully! Classic & Elegant. I try to send my baked goods to my husband’s office, but they’re always on diets and don’t like the temptation. Oh well. I added quite a bit of salt to the frosting, too — and more caramel. That seems to have helped with the sweetness — but deliciious! Welcome back home.

    10:26 am  Nov 30th, 2008
  24. Elra

    this is the prettiest DB’s cake out there. Your cake really beautiful, with all of those pecan decoration on the frosting, make the cakes even prettier.
    You did a real good job on this month challenge.

    11:15 am  Nov 30th, 2008
  25. David

    That looks tasty, and a cake that has to be tried.

    11:24 am  Nov 30th, 2008
  26. Amy

    I love how your cake looks! It was a really good cake recipe and the browned butter was so interesting as a frosting. Can’t wait for the next challenge!

    4:00 pm  Nov 30th, 2008
  27. Gretchen Noelle

    Lovely top to your cake! WIsh I had seen it for inspiration for my own. Great job!

    6:19 pm  Nov 30th, 2008
  28. Ethan

    Great looking cake. I love the pecan “flower” in the center. I ended up adding a bit extra sea salt to cut the sweetness in the cake and that worked well for us. I really loved the browned butter flavor and thought it went well with the caramel cake. Beautiful!

    7:59 pm  Nov 30th, 2008
  29. tricia

    gorgeous!! makes me wish i would have been patient enough to bake the next morning with good sunlight for the pics…oh well. your cake is beautiful. bravo!

    11:20 pm  Nov 30th, 2008
  30. Deeba

    What a gorgeous cake…well done on your second challenge. Yes, the cake certainly grows on you, doesn’t it. I fell in love with the frosting…totally addictive!!

    6:14 am  Dec 1st, 2008
  31. Jen

    Great job on the second challenge… I agree that the cake grew on me. At first I wasn’t sure if I really liked it but the next day it tasted even better. I did use the icing very sparingly though.

    8:27 am  Dec 1st, 2008
  32. Micha

    Your cake turned out beautifully!
    I too had super-ultra time crunch this month – only I didn’t get the cake made πŸ™
    Amazingly, what I was envisioning was very similar to yours, simple with toasted pecans and caramel on top!

    10:52 am  Dec 1st, 2008
  33. Sara

    I’ve been looking for a caramel cake recipe. This looks like it.

    1:34 pm  Dec 1st, 2008
  34. Erik

    I agree, the frosting was very sweet, I should have used less myself. Your cake looks fabulous. Well done.

    6:36 am  Dec 2nd, 2008
  35. Don M.

    My mouth was literally watering as I read through this post. I actually thought my wife was in the kitchen baking because I could totally smell this cake. I wish my mind wouldn’t do that to me, now I’ll be craving this until I make it.

    4:06 pm  Dec 2nd, 2008
  36. Sheltie Girl

    You did a marvelous job on your cake. I love your personal touch on decorating it…especially since I adore pecans.

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

    6:12 am  Dec 3rd, 2008
  37. Deborah

    Your cake looks great! I love the texture – it almost looks like a pound cake.

    1:16 pm  Dec 4th, 2008
  38. Dolores

    This does seem to be one of those recipes that gets better with age. I’m glad you AND your husband’s colleagues enjoyed it. Thanks for baking with us.

    11:21 pm  Dec 4th, 2008
  39. latifa

    Your cake looks delicious……..WOW!

    1:18 am  Jan 22nd, 2009
  40. Johan

    I’ve just put the cake in the oven. But I’m rather curious as to why the recipe calls for making almost two cups of caramel syrup when the two parts together, the cake and the icing, only use about 1/2 cup of it. Seems wasteful to me. The recipe could easily have specified half the quantities for the syrup.

    I’m confidant the cake willtaste as nice as it looks in your photo. Although I must say I’m thinking of making an italian meringue buttercream for the icing

    12:13 pm  Mar 7th, 2009
  41. Shannon S.

    This cake looks so beautiful! I bookmarked it so I can try it out when my cake making skills are a little better πŸ˜€

    11:03 am  Apr 14th, 2009
  42. Phoenix

    This sounds delicious. I wonder why I haven’t come across this site any sooner. Try using heavy cream instead of water in your caramel sauce. It comes out delicious! (Make sure to warm the cream slightly before adding to prevent so much splashing).

    6:03 pm  Nov 9th, 2009
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