Saturday, November 29, 2008

Delightful Caramel Cake

It's that time again.  The Daring Bakers have struck again, and this time it's a truly sweet treat.  How does Carmel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting sound?  I know, I know, it sounds so sweet!  And it is.  Baking this cake came at the most perfect time.  What better time to serve this sweet treat than at Thanksgiving.  

"What, no pumpkin pie?"  Don't get me wrong, I get the whole "pumpkin pie requirement" for Thanksgiving.  It would be a travesty to my family if I didn't have a few of those sweet gourds resting in pie shells baking in the oven.  This year, I even took the time to bake the pumpkin and puree the goodness. But, I digress - that is for another day and another post.

Back to the Caramel Cake.  It was great to offer a slice of Caramel Cake after our Thanksgiving meal. It gave everyone a choice, an alternative to the old faithful standby. And let me tell you, everyone was delighted!  It may have just earned the honor of becoming a Thanksgiving tradition.

The cake.  The cake.  The cake is soooo moist.  The secret ingredient is homemade caramel syrup.  The caramel syrup is added to the batter and adds such depth of flavor.  It really made all the difference in the world.  

This month's Challenge is a recipe from Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater and her signature Caramel Cake.  The recipe is Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon , as published on Bay Area Bites.

Four Daring Bakers teamed up to present and moderate this sweet challenge.  The hosts for the month of November were Dolores from Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity,  Alex of Blondie and Brownie and Jenny of Foray into Food . And to help with alternative baking,  Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go assisted.  


(recipes are 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 each 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.


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.


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.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Her Favorite Cookie

It is official. I am back! To all my faithful readers, I truly appreciate your loyalty and patience. Through all of the bumps in the road, the one constant, familiar, happy place - is and will always be - my kitchen.

Last weekend was a lazy weekend. There was a chilly crispness in the air that betrayed the bright sunlight. Luckily for me, I was able to spend a day with my best little girl in the world, MaryJo. We began the day with an indulgent breakfast at the world-renowned, world famous IHOP. The best place for strawberry I'm told. I believe that 8 year-olds can be considered syrup aficionados. After filling our bellies, we embarked on a day of baking in a sunny kitchen.

Decisions, decisions. What should we bake? We curled up on the couch with a few of my favorite cookbooks and began looking at the pictures. If you've never discussed the merits of chocolate frosting versus ginger-laced cookies with an 8 year-old, I highly recommend it.  It's inspiring.  By the way, chocolate always wins.

Each recipe caused us to pause and consider the list of ingredients. I knew she was humoring me as we read through the list.  The truth - if the picture didn't make her swoon, it was crossed off and had no hope of ending up in a cookie jar.  

Then all of sudden we turned the page and her eyes lit up.  She exclaimed, "Black and White Cookies! Nay Nay, we have to make those!  It's my favorite cookie from New York!!" And then she licked her lips. The contract was signed.

We proceeded to mix these delicate sponge-like cookies. From cracking eggs and measuring flour, she tried to be so precise. She has the makings of a master baker, I'm so proud. The Black and Whites only take about 12 minutes to bake. But, be careful not to over bake these cookies. If you do, you will miss out on the sponge-like texture. Frankly, you'll miss the point.

Once completely - and I mean completely cooled, we embarked on the frosting. The toughest part about making these New York wonders was having to make a little girl "wait' to frost them. Frosting was the most fun. To get that perfect black and white line, it is easier to frost all of the cookies with the white frosting first and let them set. Then, we came back for round 2 to frost the other side with gooey chocolate frosting. Oh, my! It was a perfect day.

Black and White Cookies
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Black and White Icing (Recipe below)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar, and shortening until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined.

Line baking pans with Silpat nonstick baking mats or parchment paper. Using a 2-ounce scoop, drop five cookies per pan, 3 inches apart. Bake until edges are slightly light brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Black and White Frosting

1 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
5 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
6 tablesppons of boiling water

Whisk cream into sugar until smooth. This is your white frosting. Frost one half of each cookie until the white frosting is set. Return cookies to rack to drip, if necessary.

Combine cocoa with boiling water and stir until dissolved. Add to remaining sugar mixture. Stir to combine for black icing. Use immediately, and frost the other side of each cookie. Spread chocolate frosting over second half of each cookie. Allow cookies to set, about 10 minutes.