Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Caramel Cake and Caramels

It is Daring Bakers Reveal Day today, and this month's challenge was pretty special (if a little terrifying in the execution). It involved making a caramel cake (flavoured with caramel syrup made from scratch), a caramelised butter frosting (also flavoured with the caramel syrup), and caramels! How about that for a triple treat. Our hosts this month are Dolores of
Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, Alex of Blondie and Brownie, Jenny of Foray into Food , and for our alternative bakers, Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.

The caramel cake recipe is by
Shuna Fish Lydon, as published on Bay Area Bites . The caramels (Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels, nonetheless) are from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich (Artisan Press).

The biggest challenge about this for me was making not only one, but two sorts of caramel. Now, I have to confess to being a fraidy cat when it comes to very hot things which are likely to spit and splutter at me, which is why I avoid deep frying - and making caramel! We were warned in the instructions for making the caramel syrup that, when we added water to stop the caramelisation process, it would spit violently - and sure enough, it did. I unfortunately didn't read the tips of the other Daring Bakers for containing the spitting before I made the syrup, so I relied on the "duck and cover" method to avoid being burnt (which luckily for me, seemed to work). However, I was fortunate in that both lots of caramel came off without a hitch. For the syrup part, I was lucky in that I had recently made caramel for
Tuesdays with Dorie, which taught me that you don't stir the sugar while it is melting (otherwise it recrystallises into a lump).

I managed to complete the entire challenge over two week nights so that I could make it as a farewell gift for Simon, one of my colleagues. (This was unplanned, otherwise I would have made it at my leisure on a weekend.) Simon started about the same time as me, and has been a good friend. He taught me how to make better use of my digital camera, and hence the photography that you see on this blog, as lacking in technique as it sometimes is, could have been worse except for Simon's help. Simon also made me laugh because he always addressed me as "lawyer" or "solicitor". Just before Simon left, I learned that this is a Chinese custom for addressing professionals (Simon is originally from Hong Kong).

The golden vanilla bean caramels were absolutely delightful to eat, although finicky to make. Here are my caramels in the pan while setting:

The recipe said to line your pan with buttered alfoil - now this is where I had another hitch in proceedings, as the alfoil stuck stubbornly to the caramels:

I subsequently learned that one Daring Baker suggested freezing the caramels to remove the foil more easily. Another option would have been to use a silicone pan for setting the caramels, as another Daring Baker did.

In the end, I did manage to remove the foil with the aid of a metal spatula and a lot of patience and grunt work. Cutting the caramels was a challenge in itself, because they wanted to stick to the knife and to themselves:

Here is the finished product, wrapped neatly in pieces of cellophane:

The caramel was very soft, so I also cut out a star from the caramel to decorate Simon's cake, as you can see in the picture at the top of the post. Unfortunately, the star melted for some reason (even though the cake was cold!), so that when I unveiled the cake at work, the star was just a blob of caramel.

Here is my caramel syrup, used to flavour the cake:

I have a whole jar of this syrup left over, so I can make the cake again, or invent other uses for it (including some of the suggestions from my fellow Daring Bakers).

This is the unadorned caramel cake - isn't it a beauty?

This is my caramelised butter frosting. I had a dickens of a time straining the particles out of the browned butter, and I think that some still got through into the finished product:

Finally, here is a slice of the cake itself - I like to think that it is in "soft focus" rather than blurred:

There was a lot of work in this challenge, but I really enjoyed the final products. The caramels in particular were appreciated by my work colleagues, and disappeared at a great rate of knots. The caramel cake is lovely and moist, and I would certainly make it again, perhaps with a different frosting.

You can check out over one thousand variations of this caramel cake at the
Daring Bakers blogroll, and the recipe at our hosts' websites. Enjoy! Thanks to our hosts this month for a fabulous challenge.


Finla said...

Wow that seems to be a whole lot of work. Especially the caramels.
Hoat off to you for making such a wonderful cake, not to mention really difficult.

natalia said...

Ciao ! I'm still on the wrong day but I didn't make the candy !! you did a great job !

Ivy said...

Cake, this is a really difficult challenge. Three challenges, that's a lot but the end result is really fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Your cake looks great! And well done for doing the caramels (I begged off on doing those). It's such a delicious cake isn't it!

Cakelaw said...

Thanks Happy Cook - I feel a sense of achievement (especially as I have had a number of not so great kitchen adventures since ...).

Cakelaw said...

Thanks Natalia - can't wait to see how yours turned out tomorrow.

Thanks Ivy - not a patch on your Cuckoo's Nest though.

Thanks Lorraine - it was a really lovely cake - I was scared of making it when I read all the people pre-DBs who said it didn't work, but was really happy with the result.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Perfect! Your cake and caramels look fantastic!



Susan @ My Wholefood Family Essentials said...

The cake was gorgeous, wasn't it? I chickened out on making the caramels but yours look fantastic, alfoil or no alfoil!

Dolores said...

I'm sorry the caramels gave you such grief, but it looks like they turned out great.

Thanks for baking with us this month.

Tammy said...

oh, you did well making the caramels as well! I completely ran out of time, but will have to tru them before Christmas. Your cake looks gorgeous!

The Caked Crusader said...

I'm a scardy cat too - I avoid deep frying! I have however made caramel before and know how satisfying it is.
Great cake

Mary said...

I think your cake looks lovely! The star looks great too!

Engineer Baker said...

I'm glad you had an occasion to make this for - it's definitely a lot of work! Love the star decoration.

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

I really like the caramel star on your cake.
As I have said before, your friends are lucky. You're always baking delicious cakes for them.:)

Cakelaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cakelaw said...

Thanks Rosa - I enjoyed making them.

Absolutely agreed Susan - the cake was delicious.

Thanks Dolores - they were a sleeper hit.

Thanks Tammy. Do try the caramels sometime - they are yummy.

Thanks Crusader. If only caramels and chips could be made some other way!

Thanks Mary - I liked the star, and was very sad when it melted.

Thanks Caitlin:)

Thanks Aparna - it's a rush when they like what I make.

The Blonde Duck said...

You're so kind to your co-workers! I would love to live close to you. I'm sure you would be the sweetest person ever!

Gretchen Noelle said...

The cake and caramels turn out great. I am sure Simon was pleased! Great job!

Gloria Baker said...

Your cake is so lovely and beauty!!!! Gloria

Jacque said...

I loved hearing about your caramel experience... nice writeup!

Your caramels looks delish, as does the cake :)

Cakelaw said...

LOl - thanks Blonde Duck. if you were closer, I'd make you a Christmas box too.

Thanks Gretchen - it was a fun challenge.

Thanks Gloria - much appreciated.

Thanks Jacque :)

Rosie said...

Beautiful baking at it's best as always Cakelaw!! Your caramels look scrummy too :)

Rosie x

Y said...

He sounds like a lovely guy. Hope he liked the cake!

Deeba PAB said...

From one fraidy cat to another...well done on the challenge. Just great that you made the caramels as well..WOW!! Good luck to sure he enjoyed your cake a lot!