Saturday, November 29, 2008

Caramel Cake.....another DB Event

Hi there! It's been a month, I know. But since it's been a month, that means there's another DB Challenge to post. I didn't intend for this blog to be just a monthly DB post and nothing else, but it seems to have turned into that. However, I will try to change that....we'll make it one of my New Year's resolutions. (yep, already working on those!)

So on to the challenge. This month was all about caramel or caramelizing....and instinct.
The challenge is Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting with the recipe courtesy of
Shuna Fish Lydon , as published on Bay Area Bites. The recipe can be found on Shuna's blog here. A second optional part to the challenge was to make Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111. I didn't make those, but I'm sure plenty of other DBers did and you can check out the caramels and their cakes here.

Our hosts for this month of November are Dolores and helping her out are Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo), Jenny of Foray into Food, and since none of us know jack about alternative baking, we have Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go to assist us.

I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this challenge. Some of the early reviews talked about the cake being really sweet so they were cutting back on the syrup or sugar. And the frosting everyone said was sickly sweet and required a good amount of salt to temper it. It was a typical American buttercream with powdered sugar. Well, maybe not typical since the butter was actually browned butter.

I didn't make any changes to the cake and I didn't think it was too sweet. I actually loved the cake. Mine came out a bit dense and I'm not sure if that's the way it was supposed to be. But I liked the texture, it was substantial so you could have a very small slice and be satisfied. It didn't have a caramel flavor, but that's my fault. I made the caramel syrup and it looked like it was a rich, dark amber/copper penny color, but once I added all the water i ended up with what looked like watered down maple syrup, pale golden. And not very caramel-y tasting. I should have made another batch, but I have to admit, i let the not so great early reviews get to me and I just wasn't very excited about making this challenge. So no second batch...i just powered on.

I can say that I loved the brown butter taste in the frosting. I didn't love the sweetness, though and in fact, I cut the sugar called for down by half. It was a good consistency so I stopped adding sugar. I also liked the liberal addition of salt...the complex flavor experience it gives you. I want to try using some brown butter in a meringue buttercream. I'm not sure how, but I would love to make this cake again with a buttercream that i like, with the brown butter taste. I'll try soon and post about how it turns out.

Overall, I liked this challenge. More than anything, I loved that I learned some things. I learned how to make a kickass caramel....dry method. Since the cake wasn't very caramel tasting and I knew it wouldn't be since the syrup wasn't that great, I decided to torte the one layer cake and fill it with caramel. Caramel and I didn't used to get along....other attempts were made with the wet method and always ended in a clumpy hard as rock mess. The dry method is the way to go. I will blog more about caramel and post a recipe soon. Good caramel is definitely about instinct...taking it to the brink and knowing where the brink is to get really good flavor. And I learned about the nutty, yummy goodness of browned butter. It's a lovely flavor.

So, please try this recipe and make any changes you feel necessary. I really think the cake is very worthwhile. The frosting....I will come up with something different. And check out the other blogs, maybe someone has already come up with something different.