This was my first challenge with The Daring Bakers, and I was sooooo excited to get my secret recipe...until I read it. Oh, I LOVE.LOVE.LOVE caramel, so I was bouncing in my seat as I read the title, but as I read the actual recipe, I bounced less and less...until I was ever so slightly slumped in front of my computer as I printed out the three pages of tips on how to actually make the cake turn out, in addition to the three separate recipes that actually composed the challenge cake. This was EVERYTHING I HATE ABOUT BAKING.... my favorite recipes consist of a bunch of ingredients followed by a temperature and baking time...this looked fussy...ask my sister how much I love fussy...
Stay tuned, though folks, because I'll actually be making this again for all of the crabbing and whining that swirled through the kitchen, this cake was absolutely delicious, with the most luxurious crumb and delicate flavor of anything that has ever come out of my oven!
The process and what I learned:
Lesson #1) when you make caramel sauce, you don't stir...unless you want to spend twenty minutes making sugar into....
After two tries of combining ingredients and then very carefully and constantly stirring the "caramel sauce" that I was affectionately calling "caramel sand," I called my sister (who knows almost everything about cooking/baking, and LOVES fussy recipes), and she set me straight on NOT STIRRING caramel sauce. Ahh, yes. Well, I added some water (water with homemade vanilla, actually...rum makes everything better), strained out the crystals, and tried again with satisfactory results:
Lesson #2: Following a recipe exactly doesn't actually kill me. Maybe it was a character building thing, and if it was, Lord, I'm so sorry about all of the bitching.
I didn't have a tall 9" pan, so I decided to use my new bundt pan,
and used a technique I learned making one of my favorite new cakes [Carmin's Plum Cake: scrawled on a scrap of paper...list of ingredients, 350, 1 hour...lemme know if you want it].
I sprayed the pan and then coated the inside with sugar. The result was a crunchy, easily removed exterior that was absolutely amazing.
Lesson #3: Multitasking while baking a new, fussy recipe on a pre-holiday day is just, well, a recipe for frustration. ;-) I had been letting John play with whatever wouldn't be destroyed/would keep him happy and out of my hair while while baking bread, cleaning house, and baking this cake. He had been playing happily with some mixing bowls and paper bags I had in the middle of the kitchen, and since he wasn't clinging to my pant legs asking for my attention, I let it wander to what I was trying to do a few feet away. I hadn't put away some margarine that I'd bought for some cookies later this season (that was in the paper bags) and, well, John took advantage of my lack of attention...
It was just so dang cute that I had to take a picture before I cleaned stuff up. It was a great laugh break.
Lesson #4: Take time to taste the frosting as I go. It is actually possible to have frosting too sweet, and I should have added milk to the powdered sugar instead of caramel sauce (even though I LOVE.LOVE.LOVE caramel). It was pretty and sweet, but after eating our test piece and taking a photo (I added the cinnamon to the top picture for looks...not for favor), it sits in our 'fridge waiting to be added to cream cheese for a topping to some cinnamon rolls I'll make this week. Otherwise it was delicious. I might try the technique of browning the butter again as it gave it a delicious slight toffee flavor.
Lesson 5: My husband is HOT!
And although he'll eat pretty much anything I make, he actually really liked this cake. Next time I won't be so uptight, and I'll make it with some coconut sauce I have in the pantry, which will make it SO MUCH EASIER.
Am I cut out to be a Daring Baker? Not really. I don't like fussy, don't need fussy, and would much rather make Carmin's Plum Cake for my next party (which I'm actually going to try as a pumpkin cake this next time). Pretty daring, huh. It was fun to try, and exciting to have a secret recipe for a month, but no thanks.
I'm sure my husband will be relieved. :-)
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/).
Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111
If you’re looking for additional guidance on the cake, Shuna’s got some great information posted here as well (http://eggbeater.typepad.com/shuna/2007/11/caramel-cake-a.html) and here (http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/2006/12/24/caramel-cake-the-recipe/).