Ever since The Help came out the southern caramel cake has become a staple on southern food blogs. I admit that I still haven't read or seen the movie. I know, I know it's a good book. I own a copy and I just can't make myself do it. The problem is that I love reading books on my iphone using the kindle app and since I already own a hardcopy of the book I can't justify purchasing it again. Technology! So I'm waiting for an opportunity to read this book when I can't use my iphone-- a beach vacation would be perfect. So back to the caramel cake, the funny thing is that I can't ever remember having a caramel cake ever and I've spent a decent amount of time with formidable southern cooks and still no exposure. When Zeynep sent me the link for this cake I wasn't sure what the fuss was about. Seriously, I would rather have a plain lemon pound cake any day. After making that caramel frosting, I now understand why it wasn't something we ever had and why Caroline's Cakes charges $60 bucks for her 7 layer caramel cake. This is not for the faint of heart. Nope. Not at all. You have to have to bring your A game to play in the league of the caramel cake.
If you've been following the blog you know that I tend to be overly optimistic as far as my skills are concerned. Anyone remember the epic cookie fail? In this case my persistence paid off, with a lot of swearing along the way. Some of my finer moments happened 1) When I went to taste the caramel (with my finger) forgetting completely that the caramel was still hot or 2) when the original 5 layer cake started sliding and I was screaming, "not the caramel frosting!!!" or 3) when I had to get rid of 3 layers of cake because they were sliding like a wet kid on a slip and slide.
The end result wasn't too bad though:
Before we get to the cake enjoy the picture montage from Cate's wedding:
|Cutest flower girl in the world! She told Cate that she looked like Belle!|
|Me and the new Mrs. Spencer!|
So back to the cake. The "twist" isn't really a twist. A traditional caramel cake has caramel frosting every where. I really wanted to try out the ruffled frosting technique that I found on pinterest and I knew without out a doubt that putting caramel frosting in a piping bag would be a tremendous mistake. I decided on the traditional vanilla cake filled with caramel frosting and toasted pecans and the exterior frosted with chocolate buttercream. It's essentially a turtle cake, which ultimately led to the theme song to TMNT. You're welcome.
For the Cake:
3 cups cake flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups of sugar
2 sticks of unsalted butter*
1 cup buttermilk*
2 tsp. vanilla extract
What you do:
- Before you do anything set the eggs, buttermilk and butter on the counter to get to room temperature. If you don't have much time in advance here's the cheat version:
- Eggs: Place them in a bowl and cover them with lukewarm water for 5 minutes.
- Butter: Unwrap the butter and cut into 9 slices. Then let them sit on a plate on top of your preheating oven for a few minutes. Make sure that you don't let the butter melt. you really want it to be soft, not melted.
- Buttermilk: microwave for 5-10 seconds at a time. If you microwave buttermilk too much it starts to curdle and it's disgusting. I would microwave it for no more than 15 seconds and let it sit on the counter until the cup is no longer cool to the touch.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 9-inch round cake pans and cut out parchment paper if you're using it.
- In a medium bowl combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter for about a minute before slowly adding the sugar.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time and then add in your vanilla extract.
- Incorporate the flour and buttermilk to the eggs and sugar, alternating between flour and buttermilk. Make sure that the last thing you add is flour.
- Pour batter into cake pans and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. While the cakes were in the oven I had a complete flashback of being at my grandmother's house when she was baking a cake. I distinctly remember her telling my brother and I not to jump around the house while the cake was in the oven or it would fall!
- Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then transfer it to the cooling rack.
I used the recipe recommended by the author of the The Help found here.
2 1/2 c. sugar
1 slightly beaten egg
1 stick of butter
3/4 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
1 slightly beaten egg
1 stick of butter
3/4 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
Melt 1/2 cup of sugar in iron skillet slowly, until brown and runny. Mix egg, butter, remaining sugar, and milk in a saucepan and cook over a low flame until butter melts. Turn the heat up to medium and add the browned sugar. Cook until it reaches the soft ball stage or until mixture leaves sides of pan. This takes about 10 minutes. Remove from fire, let cool slightly, and add vanilla. Beat until right consistency to spread. If it gets too thick add a little cream. This will ice a 2 layer cake.
Reprinted by permission from The Junior League of Memphis, Inc. from “The Memphis Cookbook” © 1952; recipe submitted by Mrs. Phil Thornton, Jr.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put pecans on a cookie sheet and let bake in the oven until they become aromatic about 6-7 minutes. I let them cool for about 10 minutes and then put them in the food processor to crush into smithereens. : )
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
So my recipe for the buttercream sort of evolved after I realized that I didn't have enough buttercream for the 5 layers. Obviously if you only do 2 layers you won't need quite so much frosting. It started out as a plain buttercream and then I added crisco after realizing that we didn't have any more butter and I didn't feel like going back to the store. In reality, the crisco helped the frosting hold it's shape for the piping bag.
1 cup butter softened
1 cup crisco
8 tablespoons of cocoa powder ( would have used more but I was out)
milk (again, I have no idea how much)
2 tbs. vanilla extract
powdered sugar (I honestly have no Idea how much I used at least 2 lbs.)
In a medium bowl cream the butter and crisco. Then add the vanilla extract, cocoa powder and some of the powdered sugar. Mix in a couple tablespoons of milk. Continue to add powdered sugar until you get the desired consistency.
Putting it all together.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I intended this cake to have 5 layers. Unfortunately layers 2, 3, and 4 had other plans. So Jamie and I (as a team) removed the offending sliding layers off the cake and just went with the basic layers. I salvaged what caramel frosting that I had left over and sprinkled the bottom caramel with pecans before adding some buttercream to make sure that the two remaining layers stuck together. I dirty iced it (I felt like such a professional dirty icing something) and then the fun began! I watched this video like 14 million times to make sure I got the technique right:
I used a Wilton tip #103 and I actually sprung for disposable piping bags instead of my standard ziploc bag. Make sure that you don't fill the bag too full with frosting otherwise the frosting will come out both ends of the bag and it's no fun when there's frosting all over your newly mopped kitchen floor. Another tip I learned (I can't remember which blog I saw it on) is to use a large cup to place your piping with tip in as a guide when you are filling the piping bag.
See that Clemson paw in the background? That's my large cup holding my piping bag. It's a good system!
YAY! My first cake from scratch. Not too shabby, not too shabby at all!