Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bay Area Bites: Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

I think making homemade caramel syrup may be one of the most dangerous things you can do in your home kitchen.  Even I approach the boiling syrup with oven mitts on both hands, an apron, and my head turned away from the splash zone.  It's that scary to get burned by the molten sugar lava.  But the result is so deliciously seductive, you want to do it again.  Risk anything for the thrill!

The caramel syrup turned out amazingly, and now I'm wishing I had some other things to drizzle it on. French toast? Ice cream? Apple tart?  I included some salt in my icing, and I think it really changed the flavor profile from something overly sweet and kind-of meh, to something exciting and interesting. It definitely perked up the cake. And since there wasn't enough syrup in the cake and icing, I drizzled more on the top.  I'm all about gilding the lily.

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting
Adapted from Bay Area Bites blog

½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1¼ cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup Caramel Syrup
2 large eggs, at room temperature
Splash of vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
Caramelized Butter Frosting

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter one tall 9-inch round cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth.  Add sugar and salt and cream until light and fluffy.  Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl.  Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs and vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift the flour and baking powder together.  Turn the mixer to the 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 remaining dry ingredients. Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds. making sure batter is uniform.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or ½ sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15 to 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 unrefrigerated.

Caramel Syrup
2 cups granulated sugar
1½ cup water

In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix 1/2 cup 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 remaining water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and prepared to step back.  Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers.

For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

Caramelized Butter Frosting
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
1 (1-pound) box confectioner's sugar (about 3½ cups), sifted
4 to 6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 to 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.  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.

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