Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers, November: Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

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Daring Bakers unite! It's that time of the month again (no, that other time) when the Daring Bakers show the fruits of their labors--the baked goods that resulted from a secret recipe assigned to them by the month's host(s) at the beginning of the month. This month's challenge:

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon (http://eggbeater.typepad.com/), as published on Bay Area Bites (http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/).

This month's hosts:
Dolores, Alex, Jenny, and special non-gluten consulting by Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.

I made cupcakes instead of a cake, and they were pretty homely and sedate. Can we dress them up a bit? Can we???
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YES WE CAN!!!
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My friends Teresa and Klute hosted an Election Night party, and most of us (really all but one) were Obama-cheering voters, so I made Cupcakes for Change. Here are Teresa and Klute, showing their support (of rich, sweet, buttery cupcakes). Thanks to Chris W. for taking the photo!
photo by Chris Wasserman

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Notes that might help:

I baked my cupcakes in nut cups, but since there was shrinkage away from the sides, cupcake papers would've been better, since they probably would've pulled in with the cake. Still, the cake tastes great! Word of warning--these don't dome the way you might expect cupcakes to. I filled the cups just over halfway, and while some threatened to creep over the edges, most baked level with the tops of the cups, which is what I was hoping for.

The caramel syrup was a little tricky for me even though I'm fairly comfortably working with sugar and caramel. The recipe says to check for stickiness to tell when it's done, but you have to wait for it to cool first. The temperature of the stuff in the pot just continued to rise as I waited for the tester on the spoon to cool. Be careful not to wait too long--don't lost that dark amber color.

As one of Lydon's writers mentioned when troubleshooting the recipe, the batter does look like it breaks when I add the milk, but it smooths out again when I add the dry ingredients, so if it looks grainy, just keep on truckin'! wink

The frosting is killer (figuratively, maybe literally). The scale for frosting to sugar-high is about 1/8 inch of frosting per mile of sugar high. Watch your butter when browning--you might burn it (or the milk solids in it) if you turn your back on it for too long.

I started later than I'd intended, so my caramel syrup, still somewhat thin and dark amber, was still too warm when I needed it. I asked my boyfriend to gently whisk it while I worked on other things. When he handed it back, it was cool, but it was also milky, pale, and fluffy, like whipped honey or dulce de leche. Since it was still somewhat viscous, I decided to use it in both the cake and the frosting, anyway. From what I can tell, it worked out fine.

I had a thin coating of caramel syrup stuck to the bottom of my pot. Soaking it in water will dissolve the caramel. Even if there's a bunch of it, as if you'd burned a bunch to your pot, soaking it will work, though it will take awhile. If you're in a rush, just pour a bunch of water into the pot and boil it out--the sugar will just combine with the water, and you can pour it out.

I'm storing my caramel syrup in the cupboard, since it's just sugar and water, just like simple syrup, which I also store in the cupboard. Time to pass out! See you in the completed forum! ;D

Weeks after the fact, I stirred the caramel (it had separated a bit) and drizzled it over the pumpkin pie cheesecake I made for Thanksgiving dinner. Oh yum!


CARAMEL CAKE WITH CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING
courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon (http://eggbeater.typepad.com/), as published on Bay Area Bites (http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/)
FOR THE CAKE:
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, and cream the mixture 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.

FOR THE 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.

FOR THE 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
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.

3 comments:

kat said...

Cute way to decorate those cupcakes.

Gretchen Noelle said...

Great job on your cupcakes. IMpressive that you got these done so early on in the month.

Dolores said...

Your cupcakes are quite seasonally appropriate. I'm glad your revelers enjoyed them. Thanks for baking with us!