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Saturday, November 29, 2008

November Daring Bakers: Caramel Cake (or Cupcakes)

I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend with people you love and that you're eating too much!! It's also time for another Daring Bakers post. November's challenge was hosted by Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, Alex of Blondie and Brownie, and Jenny of Foray into Food. Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go helped with the gluten free edition. The challenge, which I accepted, was to bake Shuna Fish Lydon's famous caramel cake with the optional challenge of making Alice Medrich's golden vanilla bean caramels from her book Pure Dessert.

Let me tell you, I was super deluxe nervous about making this recipe. Last month, I mentioned that I suck at candy making and this recipe called for caramel in several ways. There was caramel syrup in the cake and frosting, and of course, being the overachiever in the kitchen that I have been known to be, of course I was going to try making the golden caramels. My first concern was when to make the cake and how to make the cake. The original recipe called for a tall baking pan which I do not have. The other concern was deciding whether to bake the cake for myself or my friends. Luckily, JenFinn decided to host a potluck (which was one of our biggest) at the beginning of the month so the when was not so much an issue. To make this recipe more potluck friendly, I changed it a little to make cupcakes (which many Daring Bakers ended up doing). A little bit of research (and very helpful advice from my fellow bakers), turned me on to this article by David Lebovitz. I realized that my main problem when making the dreadful pepita brittle was that I was using organic sugar. In his article, David explains that one of the secrets to making caramel is to use a white, refined sugar. Lesson learned.

The first part of the recipe that I tried was the caramel syrup that was needed for the cake and for the icing. I found this to be quite easy compared to some of the other Daring Bakers. I have an intense fear of burning things, so I didn't let this syrup get quite as amber in color as others, but I also didn't burn it. I made the syrup the night before the cakes kept it in a jar in the refrigerator until I made the cakes (I still have some left!). Later that same night, I attempted the caramels. The recipe for the caramels calls for something called golden syrup. I have never heard of or seen golden syrup, but my trusty Google led me to a site that said you can use half light corn syrup and half honey to get something that resembles golden syrup so that's what I did. I cooked my caramels to 260 and then poured them into a pan to let them cool. I made two mistakes that night. 1) I really wish I had cooked the caramels to 265 to make a firmer caramel, the ones I made were very soft blobs, 2) I kept tasting the caramels (and burning my fingers) as they cooled. I could not get enough of the flavor of these things. SO INCREDIBLY GOOD! I have never been a huge fan of caramels, but if you get a chance to make these sometime, I strongly suggest you do so. Again, I wish I had cooked mine to a firmer temperature. It was kind of a bitch getting these into wrappers and they kept turning into caramel blobs instead of the lovely squares I cut them into, but all was forgiven once I popped the sugary goodness in my mouth.

The last two parts of the challenge were the cake itself and the brown butter buttercream icing. I found the cake recipe to be very straightforward and the easiest part of the recipe. The only thing I really had to modify was the cooking time because I made cupcakes instead of a full cake. The frosting was...interesting. The measurements were vague and many people were complaining of the overwhelming sweetness in the final recipe. I absolutely hate when things are too sweet so instead of the pound of confectioners sugar called for in the recipe, I only used two cups. I added the beans from a one inch piece of vanilla to give the icing some more flavor and those lovely flecks of vanilla. I also used about a teaspoon of sea salt to counteract the sweetness of the recipe. I topped each cupcake with a caramel blob and I think the flavors all complimented each other nicely.

And there you have it. These seemed to be a big hit at the potluck, but it could have been my friends lying to me, paired with the copious amounts of wine and the thrill of our monster version of Mafia, the game (to this day I maintain my innocence as a townsperson). Again, I hope you are having a most fantastic Thanksgiving weekend. I am off to my highschool reunion. GAH!! Has it really been 10 years already?!?! Enjoy the long weekend. If you would like to see how the other Daring Bakers interpreted this cake, check out the blogroll. To get the full recipes, please visit the sites of any of our hosts.

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13 comments:

Erica said...

I'm glad everything turned out so well- it looks just beautiful! Nice work!

Diana said...

Wow - that recipe would scare me too! It looks like it turned out great though! All your caramel talk makes me nostalgic for when my mom and I make caramels every year for Christmas. One tip for next time -- to test if they are done, drop a bit of caramel into a bowl of cold water. Squish the glob together and if it comes together easily the caramel should be at the right consistency. It's sort of like the back-up test to the candy thermometer! Plus it means you can eat a bite right away! :)

Maryanna said...

You did a great job. Your cupcakes look more fluffy than mine.

Reeni said...

Your cupcakes look delicious! I like soft caramels a whole lot better than hard ones, so no complaints here. It sounds like a lot of work, they came out lovely. I hope your enjoying your reunion, fill us in on how it went.

The Blonde Duck said...

It looks great! Caramel scares me.

Kelly said...

Yum. I wish I could have been there to try these!! They look so good...

The peanut butter and chocolate chip rice krispy treat balls turned out to be rather yummy too...might be making some for xmas gifts...we'll see.

I hope you enjoyed your reunion!!

Jude said...

I was a bit scared to do this recipe at first, too. Looks like it turned out really nicely for you.

Dawn said...

I get very nervous about candy making because the temp. needs to be perfect, and here am I without a candy thermometer!
You got lucky chicklet--it all looks good, really good.

Natalie... said...

Mmm yours look tasty! I like the dollop of caramel on the top so good!!

Olga said...

I chickened out :)
Glad yours turned out well! Can't wait to see what awaits us next month.

Bex said...

That looks so good. Great job!

CECIL said...

Ah, you made the caramels!! I did not have the patience for it. Haha. It looks superb!!

Dolores said...

Great job with the November challenge; congratulations for conquering your candy-making fear. :) Thanks for baking with us.