Daring Bakers November Challenge: Caramel Cake

Mini Caramel Cupcakes

Mini Caramel Cupcakes

Some people call themselves chocoholics. Well, I guess you can call me a caramelholic. The blend of brown butter and sugar is such a magical duo and one that is truly perfect in every dessert. Ice cream and caramel? Yes! Apples and caramel? Yes! Chocolate and caramel? Yes, yes, yes! One of the most popular flavor infusions lately is caramel and salt (or specifically, fleur de sel) and it is heavenly. Also, if you haven’t tried Starbucks Signature Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, then you are missing out. They are sweet – both literally and figuratively.

I was giddy with excitement when I saw this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge was Caramel Cake. Thanks to Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater for sharing her special recipe with us.

A couple of notes about this recipe…while absolutely delicious, it’s REALLY sweet. Fine for me, but I know many people who like a less sweet dessert, so since I shared this at Thanksgiving, I decided smaller bites would be more appropriate (especially since we had five other desserts to choose from).  The recipe below is for an entire cake. If you are interested in making mini-cupcakes like mine, fill the cups a little more than 2/3 full and cook for 25 minutes, but keep a close eye on them. No one likes a dry cupcake.

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 each eggs, at room temperature
Splash of vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F. 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 mix 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. 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. 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.

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.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Gretchen Noelle | Nov 30, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    What a fun Thanksgiving treat, I am sure everyone enjoyed these mini cupcakes! Great job!

  • catherine | Nov 30, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    K, I liked smaller morsels too – and did cut the sugar. Not my favorite challenge, though.

    just a reminder that the new rules this month say you need to list all hosts and link to all their web pages.

  • catherine | Dec 1, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    did you check out December’s? yowza. what with the amount of steps and the $$$ I wish I could skip, but I skipped my 2 for the year already.