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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.