Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers—Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting, Caramels and Spun Sugar

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting, Caramels and Spun SugarThis month for the Daring Bakers it's time to get back to a foundation ingredient in baking: sugar. Caramel takes center stage. It's in the caramel cake, the frosting, the spun sugar, and obviously the caramels.

This caramel cake comes from Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater. I am a big fan of Shuna and have enjoyed her poetic posts on life and being a pastry chef since I stumbled on her blog earlier this year. When I saw this caramel cake months ago, I flagged it as one I wanted to make someday, so I was excited to find out we would be making Shuna's signature cake this month.
This is not an easy cake to make. In fact it might be a cake which requires the baker to be perhaps professional or at least highly intuitive—meaning that one need know to and how to change recipe/method while making said baked good based on how things look in the moment.
Shuna Fish Lydon

And on the Daring Bakers forum:
"This is one of those cakes that is truly about baking. It may sound strange because aren't all cakes about baking? What I mean is that getting this cake to bake is about balancing fat with acid and protein JUST RIGHT."
‑ Shuna Fish Lydon
After reading these two quotes, I realized that this would definitely be a "daring baker" event.

Caramel Syrup
The first thing to make is the caramel, since it's used in both the cake and the frosting. When making caramel, I have always put the sugar and water in a heavy, stainless steel pot and left it alone to do its thing. I don’t cover the pan or brush down the sides or stir the sugar and water mixture, and I’ve never had problems. Once it starts to turn color, though, it requires babysitting since it can go from a nice light golden color to a burnt state very quickly. When you start to see some color, start swirling the pan to distribute the color. Also know the color of your pan is dark, making the caramel look darker than it is. Be bold, and hang on or test some on a white ramekin to see the color.

This caramel syrup becomes an ingredient in the cake and frosting. I also used it in a sauce for the cake. To add a festive touch to the sauce, I added some President's Choice Candy Cane Eggnog to some caramel. This sauce with the cake was amazing!

Spun Sugar
I have always wanted to make spun sugar, and recently Zoë from Zoë Bakes did just that which inspired me to try it myself. It wasn't so hard, just messy. I covered my counter and floor with newspaper and set out three pot handles to dangle over the edge that were sprayed with cooking spray. Then, after cooking the caramel to just the right temperature, I used one of the whisks I've owned for just this purpose but never used. Dipping and flicking the sugar onto the pot handles was childlike fun. As the caramel fell to the paper-lined floor, it made a web of spun sugar strings. After I flicked all the caramel, I gathered it up into a ball or nest, and it was ready to decorate the cake. Then, I had a big mess to clean up!

Mackintosh Toffee has always been one of my favorite treats. I used to pick it over chocolate bars, and I still buy the odd one for a treat. Well, now I don't have to buy it because the caramels I made this week are so much better! It's dangerous to know how to make them. I used a liner from a bag of Oreo cookies to pour some of the caramels into so they came out ridged. I also used a silicon mini muffin pan to make some. Wrapped in cellophane, I now have some Christmas treats ready to go to friends and family.

To see the different versions of caramel cake cropping up all over the foodblogosphere, check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll. Thanks to Delores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity who hosted this month, along with Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo), Jenny of Foray into Food and Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go who came up with the gluten-free version.

Ingredients for Caramel Syrup, Caramel Cake, Caramelized Butter Frosting, and Caramels

Recipe—Caramel Syrup

Caramel Cake and Caramel2 cups sugar
½ 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.

Recipe—Caramel Cake
from Shuna Fish Lydon

Individual Caramel Cake10 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1¼ cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe above)
2 eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

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.

Recipe—Caramelized Butter Frosting

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons Caramel Syrup (see recipe above)
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

More help on this caramel cake.

Recipe‑Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels

Golden Vanilla Bean Caramelsfrom Pure Dessert: True Flavors, Inspiring Ingredients, and Simple Recipes by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111

Makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels

1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1½ teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.

Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.


Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.

Recipe‑Spun Sugar
from link

2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup water
½ cup corn syrup

Combine sugar, water, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Heat until it reaches 310˚F degrees. The sugar will cook very quickly towards the end, so watch closely to ensure it doesn’t burn.

As soon as the sugar reaches the proper temperature, remove the saucepan from the heat and dunk the bottom in the prepared ice water to stop the sugar from cooking further. Allow the mixture to stand for a minute or two, to thicken slightly.

Individual Caramel CakeTasting Notes
The browned butter frosting made this caramel cake delicious for me. The touch of salt with the caramelized butter is delicious, and I can see pulling out this frosting recipe for other treats like brownies or to decorate sugar cookies. The caramels are worth their calories and ones that will be added to my Christmas baking list. And the caramel and eggnog sauce will be nice with our traditional Christmas plum pudding. Although spinning sugar is messy business, it's pretty and adds a nice crunch to a dessert.

All in all, it was a daring, delicious, sugary, and decadent baking event! Thanks, Shuna!
"It won't do
To dream of caramel
To think of cinnamon
And long for you"
‑Suzanne Vega, "Caramel"
Suzanne Vega's song called "Caramel":

Other caramel-laden desserts:
Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake
Crème renversée au caramel (Reversed caramel cream)
Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

Caramel tips:
• Joe from Joe Pastry recently did a whole segment on making your own caramel with pictures.
Ten Tips For Making Caramel
Video on caramelizing sugar
Caramelizing Sugar 101
Article on sugar

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Engineer Baker said...

Kudos for making spun sugar - it still strikes me as quite the production, so I've stayed away from trying to make it. I love the shape of your cake, and the entire presentation is beautiful. Nice job.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm rather impressed with all your daring-ness. Everything looks incredible.

Anonymous said...

Wow! The effort you put into this challenge is certainly evident. Just gorgeous and so many variations. I really enjoyed seeing how you approached this challenge!

Anonymous said...

Wow, beautiful presentation...I just love the mini cake, and the spun sugar looks phenomenal!!

CookiePie said...

Gorgeous cakes, and caramels, and that spun sugar looks amazing!! Congrats!!

Isabelle Lambert said...

c'est superbe shari :) tout est super appétissant ! je craque sur le look de tes caramels :)

Heather B said...

Love your cake and caramels! They look delicious!

NKP said...

I knew you would do something over the top!
I am so happy you mastered spun sugar for this challenge - another one off the list, eh?
You cake(s) are beautiful and your caramels, I am going to go put mini silicone muffin tin on my xmas list.

Anonymous said...

The spun sugar almost makes it looks like artwork...

Di said...

Everything looks wonderful! The spun sugar is definitely a nice touch.

Lori said...

I want to make spun sugar but I just havent had the courage yet. You always have nice food creations on your blog Shari.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is WOW! If I was ever able to achieve what you did with this challenge I would open a bakery. Holy Cow, your cake is beautiful. I am glad to see that you enjoyed the recipe. I didn't so much. So perhaps it was me. Great job. Truly.

vibi said...

Come on... I know you know, I was waiting for this one! LOL I've been checking 'em out all day anxiously waiting for the rabbit to come out of the tophat! LOL
And just like I expected, you've been playing Houdini this week! For the spun sugar makes your challenge look totaly magical... plus, you've once again turned a couple of trick of the trade, testing again, caramels in a sorts of shapes!
Divine Shari! Killer divine!

Becky @ Project Domestication said...

yours turned out so great! I love the spun sugar! I really want to try that now! i am frosting a mini version of the cake tomorrow, maybe i'll try!

Leslie said...

Spun are my hero!!

pam said...

Wow!! This has been my favorite daring bakers challenge, everyone's looks different!

Shelby said...

Looks awesome! I feel a bit bad by missing it but I really didn't have a choice. :(

Anonymous said...

Nice job on that spun sugar. AND the caramels. Goodness -- you went all out. Impressive array of daring caramelly sweets. I bow to your awesomeness. Seriously.

Shaheen said...

Oh my, the spun sugar surrounding the caramels and topped on the cake make it look so pristine. Absolutely breathtaking!

Cynthia said...

lol i love the addition of suzanne vega at the end! your caramels look sooooooooooooooo good. i've only made the cakes for this challenge, but oh boy, i'm going to try them out!

Thip said...

I agree with you on the frosting, it tastes really good. I use the left-over frosting for the macaroons. :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What beautiful cakes and caramels! I love the decoration... Great job!



Clumbsy Cookie said...

Nice caramelization my friend! Your cake, caramels and spoon sugar are all gorgeous and so are your pictures!

Marija said...

Shari your cake is wonderful! I tried making spun sugar, but I burned the caramel and all the threads cracked :)

Manggy said...

I can't really explain it, but the cakes you've made look so... French! Tres jolie as they would say ;) That ribbed caramel also made me go, "Wow!" :)

Anonymous said...

your caramels look amazing!!delicious!

Anonymous said...

What an incredible job on this challenge! Your spun sugar makes the cake look so elegant!

Anonymous said...

Shari- that spun sugar looks great! Nice post.

Nina Timm said...

You are indeed a "daring Baker"! Well done! All your versions are very impressive!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

shari this looks incredible! there is so much variety - i especially like that spun sugar nest!

Anonymous said...

Great job on the spun sugar, you are much more daring than I am! Everything looks beautiful!

Anonymous said...

that spun sugar is crazy cool. i think it adds such a modern, chic looks to this cake. i joined db for next month- can't wait to see what the challenge is!!

to2sassy said...

When you say golden syrup are you refering to corn syrup. Please hurry with your response I am hoping to make these today.

Zoe Francois said...

Your cake and caramels are gorgeous! Isn't the spun sugar fun and makes everything so elegant!

Anonymous said...

great job! And you made spun sugar...hurrah!

Gretchen Noelle said...

You forever impress me! It is really just amazing that you accomplish so much and with such excellence!

Tammy said...

oh, I am so going to have to make those caramels! I just made the cakeand loved it

Anonymous said...

Wow... that's positively gorgeous! Beautifully done!!

Jacque said...

Oh, see, you are much braver than me. I've wanted to try spun sugar too but can't get past the whole "spread newspapers on the floor part"... too messy! Your sugar nest looks fantastic! I am jealous.

Lovely job too with the caramels. What fun shapes :)

P.S. since you asked... we are planning our own version of the movie "4 Christmases", and going tropical (to Cozumel, Mexico) instead of the typical family thing for Christmas. Hence, the need to be swim suit ready (LOL, yeah right) at the end of the month.

Amy said...

Yum. Great job!

Anonymous said...

Really beautiful decorations... I only tried making spun sugar once, and I ended up with stringy sugar lumps, so I applaud your skill!

Anonymous said...

Shari, you have outdone yourself. Simply gorgeous. It must have tasted amazing.

grace said...

outstanding. really, i'm in awe of your ambition and talent--stellar work. :)

Anonymous said...

Your post is so educational! I am in awe of your spun sugar.

Your caramels look amazing. I haven't tried making them yet, but am definitely inspired to do so after seeing your results!

;) amy

spike. said...

I've always wanted to make spun sugar too. It looks beatiful

Peabody said...

I must try the frosting, everyone has been loving it so.
Great job on your cake.

Colleen said...

Beautiful pictures (as usual!). Everything looks wonderful!

Beth said...

After reading your post, I really wish I would have made the optional caramels. Yours look fantastic. Better late than never!

Liz said...

Everything looks amazing! I can't decide what I like best--the unmolded cake, the finished cake, or the glittering caramels. A+!

Bex said...

Everything looks great. Yummy cakes and those caramels, nomnomnom

Y said...

I especially love the mini cake and the shapes you chose for your caramels.

Nawal said...

Bravo : Très Original !!!

Vera said...

Everything looks wonderful, Shari!

TeaLady said...

Spun sugar. Fantastic. It does sound like fun. Your cake is lovely.

Jenny said...

I love your cakes, it looks amazing!
Have you heard of the earlier DB suggestion for a quick clean up way to make the spun sugar? Open your dishwasher and place your handles over it so that when you drip the sugar back and forth across them, the extra lands in the dishwasher - then you just need to close it and run it, clean up done!

Unknown said...

oh dear! needs a special whisk to do the spun hehehe...

Dolores said...

Your cakes and caramels are absolutely exquisite. Thank you for baking with us in November.