Antique Caramel Cake
This last week I made a Coconut Cream Pie that called for 1 1/2 cups heavy cream. And since I am really good at math and measurement quantities, I grabbed 3 half-pints at the grocery store… ya know, because each 1/2 pint equals a 1/2 cup which means that three 1/2 pints is the perfect amount needed. DUMB. As soon as I got home and was putting them in the fridge I smacked myself in the forehead- what had I been thinking?? A 1/2 pint equals 1 cup- not 1/2 cup. I find that I do that a lot with 1/2 pints. I don’t know what it is about them, but they confuse me. Oh well, at least I had plenty that I needed for the recipe rather than not enough. But what to do with the extra 1 1/2 cups? It felt wrong to waste it. I scoured my cookbooks to find something that would use up some of it- Antique Caramel Cake it was!
And boy, did this turn out to be one of those beautiful things brought on by a mistake. This cake was actually on my list of things “To Bake” and I hardly ever get around to making layer cakes for myself, so I was pretty pleased to be under obligation to make this. It’s actually the first layer cake that I have made out of the 3 Matt Lewis & Rento Poliafito (of Baked Bakery) books that I own. I will definitely be making more. It was SOOOO good! The caramel frosting totally melts in your mouth- it’s just so smooth and creamy. And the cake was surprisingly delicious too! I say surprisingly simply because there was no vanilla extract or any other strong flavoring component. I didn’t think there would be much to it, but it really made the flavor from the brown sugar shine. And with the addition of the white vinegar it was especially moist and tender. The whole process kind of reminded me of a red velvet cake- although the flavors are quite different (no cocoa, vanilla, or food coloring..). The vinegar is stirred into the baking soda and then into the prepared batter at the end, a technique often used in making red velvet cakes.
I was a bit worried about the frosting here though. I made the caramel syrup immediately after the cake layers went into the oven so that I could be sure it was cool enough for the frosting. I let it sit out at room temperature for a bit and then I put it in the fridge for about two hours. It was completely cool when I went to use it. My concern was that the syrup was really soupy- not thick like a normal caramel. I immediately thought that the frosting was going to be terribly runny, making it difficult to frost the cake. Plus my butter and cream cheese were super soft from sitting out so long which made me worry even more about the possibility of soupy frosting. Well, I put the frosting together and it really wasn’t that thin! Not as thick as I would have liked, but an hour or so in the fridge and it was just fine for frosting the cake. And as I mentioned before, amazingly creamy and delicious- the cream cheese really made it so special, cutting the one-note sweetness and making for a melt-in-your-mouth consistency.
I can’t stress enough how I think it is important for you to dress up this cake with more caramel, specifically their recipe for Sweet and Salty Caramel. I put the sauce on top of my middle layer of frosting and then drizzled some on top. This technique made my cake layer slide and I ended up with a lop-sided cake… so if you do decide to do this you will want to go about it a different way. I suggest using the caramel while it is still relatively warm, poking holes in the cake layer with a fork and then letting some sauce soak into each layer, that way you get the flavor without the disastrous sliding. Oh and of course, dress up the top with an extra bit of drizzle : )
For the Caramel Cake:
- 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 Tb white vinegar
For the Caramel Frosting:
- ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 5 ounces (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ½-inch cubes, divided
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
For the Assembly:
- caramel sauce
Make the Caramel Cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Butter two 8-inch round cake pans, line them with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl again and add the flour in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.
In a small bowl or cup, dissolve the baking soda in the vinegar and beat it into the batter until just combined.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 32 to 37 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until the cake tops are slightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the racks and let cool completely. Remove parchment.
Make the Caramel Frosting: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the brown sugar and 2 ounces (1/2 stick) of the butter until melted and combined. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 10 to 15 seconds. Remove from the heat, whisk in the cream, and transfer the mixture to a bowl to cool completely. (Note: To cool the mixture quickly for immediate use, you can stir or whisk the mixture vigorously to release excess heat or you can nestle the bowl with the mixture in a larger bowl filled halfway with ice.)
Once the brown sugar mixture is nearly cool, place the remaining 3 ounces of butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until it is lump-free. Add the cream cheese and salt and continue beating until the mixture is smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again for 15 seconds. Turn the mixer to low and stream in the brown sugar mixture. Scrape down the bowl again, add the confectioners’ sugar, and beat until smooth. If the mixture feels too loose, refrigerate it for 5 to 10 minutes until it firms up.
Assemble the Cake: Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface and evenly spread about ¾ cup frosting on top. Place the next layer on top, then trim and frost it the same way. Frost the sides of the cake with the remaining frosting, drizzle with the caramel sauce, and refrigerate the cake for 15 minutes to set before serving.
The cake can be stored in the refrigerator, covered with a cake dome, or in a cake server for up to 3 days. Allow it to come to almost room temperature before serving.