November 29, 2008

One would think...

...that if she were responsible for hosting the November Daring Baker challenge, your heroine would get her (_]_) in gear and have baked her final to-be- photographed version of the challenge recipe long before the posting deadline.

And one would be wrong.

My Caramelized Buttercream Frosting is in the refrigerator, my cake on the counter cooling. So those of you looking for photos will need to swing by in the morning. Oh, and Peabody? If you've got money on this, you've probably won. :)

I knew two years ago as I stood in the kitchen at Poulet learning to make caramel from Shuna Fish Lydon and watching her work her magic with this cake that when *I* hosted the Daring Baker challenge -- in 2008 when I'd be FORTY -- this was going to be one of my chosen recipes. I saw it as challenging, but with enough room for creativity to appeal to bakers of various skill levels.

Luckily my partners in crime -- Jenny of Foray into Food and Alex of Blondie and Brownie agreed that this was a cake with potential, and Shuna of Eggbeater not only graciously allowed us to use her recipe, but agreed to field Daring Baker questions in the midst of an intercontinental move. And Natalie from Gluten-a-Go-Go was a godsend in helping us guide the alternative bakers among us.

As an optional add-on to the cake in honor of the gift-giving holidays ahead, we offered the Daring-est of bakers the option of making Alice Medrich's Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels in addition to the cake -- a gift to the truly sugar-obsessed among us.

Without further ado, here are the recipes for those two of you who aren't *already* Daring Bakers and might want to try this at home. Stop by in a few hours to see how I fared with the challenge. And be sure to visit the Daring Baker Blog Roll to see the mind-boggling creativity of over a thousand of my BFFs.

courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon (, as published on Bay Area Bites (

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.


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.

from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111

1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer


Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.

Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.


Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.


Passionate About Baking said...

Thanks for the truly wonderful challenge Dolores...I am ever SO GLAD I tried it. The frosting was something I would have never tried addictive & finger-licking good.Beautiful choice for the month! Cheers Deeba (on a sugar high)

Tara said...

Thanks for hosting this months challenge... loved my caramel cupcakes and the caramels as well, I would never have tried either without his challenge... Thanks :) Can't wait to see your photos soon!

Lis said...

Terrific job hosting this month, Dolores! Thanks for everything you, Jenny & Alex did for us - including picking a fantastic challenge! :)


BC said...

Whew, I wasn't the only one to do last minute baking. But technically, you learned at the feet of Shuna years before, so you actually were years ahead of the rest of us.

Aparna said...

I jus wanted to say thank for choosing this challenge and hosting it.
It was a bit sweet but the caramel cake was awesome. And the caramels too.

I'll be back tomorrow to take a look at your cake.

Yasmeen said...

Thanks for being our wonderful witty host :).

Laura Rebecca said...

Thank you for hosting! I'm looking forward to seeing your pics.

Bellini Valli said...

Well Dolores you are several steps ahead of me on this challenge. I never got around to baking th ecake at all...oh well there is always December! Can't wait to see the photos:D

Renee said...

Delores, thanks for hosting! More importantly, thank you for introducing me to Caramel Cake. It was divine.

Megan said...

Thanks for a great challenge this month. I enjoyed working with sugar and the cake was great! Good Challenge!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to those photos :) Thanks for choosing a great cake for us - this is definitely a keeper!

glamah16 said...

Thanks for hosting. What I learned from this challenge is I need to improve my caramel skills.Will check back to see the finished product.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

So you have cake to look forward too now and mine's all gone . . .
Thanks Delores, it's a wonderful cake.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a wonderful challenge! Loved it!

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

Thanks for a wonderful challenge (emphasis on challenge!) I loved the cake.

Hannah said...

Now I'm dying to see pictures of your finished cake! I'm sure it's beautiful though.

Thanks for choosing such a fun challenge, it was really enjoyable to both make and eat! :)

Tartelette said...

I laughed so hard Dolores when I started reading your you and absolutely adorable :)
Can't wait to see the final product!

Erin said...

Thank you for hosting! I really enjoyed this challenge!

Andrea said...

I can't wait to see how your cake turns out. Thanks for choosing such a decadent challenge for us!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Lol! Ok, I guess I'll have to come back later to see your cake ;)! Great job hosting by the way, thanks!

Cakelaw said...

Hi Dolores, I loved this challenge - I am a sweet tooth, and despite my fear of hot things, I love caramel, so this was made for me. Thanks!

Lorraine E said...

Delores, thankyou so much for hosting this challenge! It was such a delight to find this fantastic recipe! :)

Jennifer said...

Thanks for hosting- I was a little terrified of making caramel, but it all turned out wonderfully. :)

Dana McCauley said...

Love that you are still baking up a storm! Thanks for a great challenge!

creampuff said...


Thanks so much for hosting! You all did a great job and the recipe was a success. And thank you for taking on the task of coordinating with Shuna!

Megan said...

Lucky you to have actually met and watched the baker prepare the actual cake. It didn't work for me, but I learned something new and that's what it's all about! Thanks!

Angela's Kitchen said...

Thanks for this challenge. It was great! I did it all gluten and dairy free and it is a keeper.

I loved the color the frosting and batter turned with the caramel syrup!

Michelle Dargen said...

Thank you for picking such a fun recipe. Those caramels are to die for. It was great learning how to make them. YUM!!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Thanks so much for a great challenge! It was delicious and fun to make!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for choosing such a fabulous challenge, the cake was amazing!!

Janet said...

Thanks for hosting the challenge this month! I adjusted it a bit to make it vegan and it was still delicious. My sweet tooth has definitely been satisfied ;)

Half Baked said...

Great challenge Dolores! I loved the cake. can't wait to see your;)

Faery said...

Thanks for hosting this months challenge,The cake was great, I learnt a lot and I had a great time making this cake but sadly, I did not make the caramels because I could not find a caramel thermometer in the stores(that happens when one decide to live in "far far away")

Brownie said...

Thanks for being an AWESOME co-host and for bringing Shuna's Caramel Cake Recipe into my world! Loved it! Hope that we can meet over cake and tea someday! Do let me know if you are ever in NYC!

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Thanks for choosing such a great recipe for us, Delores! I thoroughly enjoyed both making AND eating this fab cake! Can't wait to see your finished product!

Joy said...

Thanks for the challenge Dolores!

MeetaK said...

thanks for this dolores. it was a great challenge!

Peabody said...

Wish I was still at DB for this one. I love caramel and I love cake.

Bumblebutton said...

Thank you for introducing us to this wonderful cake and frosting and caramel candy and your patience and wit throughout! Bravo!

Baking Soda said...

Great choice Dolores, I even tried the frosting, glad I did, the browned butter was a discovery!
(I'm baking the cake for the second time now...)

Lynnylu said...

A great challenge, Delores! I'm not much of a buttercream fan, but this icing was fabulous! I'll make the cake again, for sure.

Lisa Michele said...

Hi Dolores :)

First off, this challenge was terrific! Secondly, your cake and photos look marvelous! Thirdly, I made a huge boo boo.

Apparently, when I posted my caramel cake and candy challenge, I accidentally checked 'private'. I just remedied the situation so my post is now viewable to all. I can't believe it took me this long to figure it out!! I feel SO silly.

Meryl said...

Oh, but the icing is worth of a photograph all on it's own!

Thanks for the great challenge!