Hiya! Happy Saturday!! Don't usually post on the weekends but with the school vacation this past week, I've just been out and about so much that there was little time to sit at the computer and share with you and I miss you guys!! So today it's this showstopping Caramel Cake!! It's incredible--both in the cake and icing department and the sad truth is that I made it almost two months ago for my family during the winter holidays and have been looking for just the right time to post it. First came the new year with all the diets and renewed commitments to healthy eating, so it would have been cruel to tempt you with this concoction then. Next up was the Super Bowl and I nixed it as being too chic for lowly football eating and then Valentine's Day, where it got booted for being neither chocolate nor pink! But now, with the Oscars coming up, I thought finally--now's the time for this star to make its debut! What could be better than a slice of gorgeous luscious caramel cake while watching gorgeous luscious celebrities strut their stuff on the red carpet? If you're looking for the ultimate cake and caramel's your thing, you are going to fall in love!!
So many times, impressive looking desserts just don't taste all that great as say, a simple chocolate chip cookie or brownie. But that's not the case here. Truly, the actual cake layers themselves would be amazing without any frosting! They're light, tender and full of good, eggy vanilla flavor.
Now, this is not a difficult cake to make but the icing does take some time to come together. If you can, I suggest making the cakes a day before and keeping them loosely wrapped at room temperature. This will cut down on the cumulative kitchen hours immensely!
The caramel icing is really a wonder to behold (and taste) and though it takes almost 2 hours to come together, almost 90% of that time is hands-free. You've just got to keep an eye on the boiling process, make small adjustments and be patient. And guys, that patience will be rewarded a thousandfold because what you wind up with is buttery, rich, satiny, true caramel frosting that perfectly complements the golden cake!
Assembling and frosting the layers is fun and relatively stress-free because it's supposed to look a little rustic and homey, with the icing dripping down the sides. It's extremely forgiving to any frosting faux-pas!!
And if you like you can make caramel sugar shards to decorate the top for an extra special presentation. Basically you boil sugar, water and cream of tartar together to form a caramel syrup that gets poured into a pan and allowed to harden into a see through glass-like sheet of caramel that you can break apart and arrange artfully on top of the cake. Just be careful 'cause those caramel shards have sharp edges--I have the scars to prove it!
Every bite is full of the best yellow cake you can imagine bathed in a not-too-sweet, true caramel icing that doesn't harden, even after it's been sitting on the counter all day!!
Make this cake and tomorrow the celebs at the Oscars will not be the only ones receiving thunderous applause!! And invite me over--I'm dying for another bite (or two or three) of this!!!
Serves a big crowd
To make this more manageable, make the cake layers a day before you're ready to serve them.
Prep Time for cake: 20 minutes; Bake Time for cake: 27-32 minutes; Prep Time for Caramel Icing: Almost 2 hours; Prep Time for 20 minutes, plus cooling time; Assembly Time: 15 minutes.
For the Cake layers
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 7 large eggs, room temperature
- 3 cups sifted cake flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the Caramel Icing
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 2 (twelve ounce) cans evaporated milk
- 2 cups sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Whole milk to thin out the sauce (I didn't need it)
For the Caramel Shards
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. To make the cake: Preheat oven to 325ºF. Spray three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Line the bottom with rounds of parchment paper and then spray the parchment as well. Set aside.
2. If you have a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment, otherwise a hand mixer is fine--you may just need to beat things a bit longer. Beat the butter for about 2 minutes on high speed until creamy. Add the sugar slowly and cream together for another 5 minutes, or until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, scraping the bowl down after each addition and beating well between additions.
3. On low speed, add the flour in 2 additions. Add in the salt, baking powder and soda. Only mix until you can no longer see any dry ingredients. Do not overbeat! Add in the sour cream, vanilla and oil and beat again. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix just until everything is combined. The batter should look silky and pale yellow.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans, smooth the tops and bake for 27-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out perfectly clean. They should look golden and have a spongy texture. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 15 minutes on a wire rack. Then invert onto the racks and let cool to room temperature, at least one hour. Lightly cover the layers with plastic wrap or foil so that they don't dry out. You can make these up to one day ahead.
5. To make the caramel frosting: The entire process takes about 2 hours but none of it is difficult. First, place the evaporated milk, sugar, butter and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and allow it to melt. Continue to cook for about 20-30 minutes. You'll see the butter begin to separate and there will be a yellow, oily film.
6. Keep cooking the mixture for another hour or so. You will see the ingredients come to a slow boil and form bubbles on the surface. The bubbles will get more numerous and bigger over time. Stir occasionally and let it keep cooking.
7. You'll start to see some white clumps on the surface. This is fine--just give it all a good stir to blend it all back together. Now you should start to see the mixture changing to a light caramel color. The deep caramel color will slowly begin to emerge and there will be more bubbling in the pot. At this point, turn the heat down to low because you don't want anything to burn. The mixture will start to thicken and become an amber brown. Once the mixture can really coat the back of a spoon and is caramel colored remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Allow the caramel to sit at least 10 minutes before frosting the cake. If it thickens too much, you can always thin it out with a bit of milk, but I did not have this problem. It's not a buttercream icing, so it will never be thick like that.
8. To make the caramel shards: Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, until the sugar begins to get light golden brown. Do not stir. Swirl the pan if necessary and use a wet pastry brush to melt any sugar crystals that stick to the side of the pan. Remove from the heat and quickly pour onto the prepared sheet, smoothing out the mixture evenly. Let sit for 20-25 minutes until completely cool. Then, break apart into shards. Use as a garnish. Be careful. Broken pieces have sharp edges!!
9. To assemble the cake: Place one layer on a serving platter or cake plate. Give the icing a good stir and cover the layer with 1/3 of the icing--it's ok if it drips down the sides. Top with another cake layer and more icing. Add the final layer, bottom-side up and frost with the remaining caramel, all across the top and over the sides of the cake as well. Decorate with the caramel shards if you like and let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.
10. Cake can be made and assembled and kept covered at room temperature up to 2 days before serving.
Note: Recipe adapted from Grandbaby Cakes by Jocelyn Delk Adams.