Do you know how hard it is to decorate a cake with caramel and not lick your fingers? The bad thing about caramel is it’s sticky and gets all over everything. The good thing about caramel is it’s sticky and gets all over everything.
Okay, I might have had a lick or two…
This past weekend I was invited to a Friendsgiving party so I wanted to bring something different besides the typical pie. I was planning on making my Pumpkin Orange Spice Cake, but the host said to please bring something without cinnamon or pumpkin, so that kind of killed that notion right there. Once I switched gears, it got me thinking of something everyone loves- salted caramel. If you decide to make the caramel you’ll most likely have some leftover, but that’s never a bad thing. You may also use purchased caramel sauce such one found by the ice cream isle, such as Smuckers brand.
Salted Caramel Toffee Crunch Cake
Make the Caramel Filling (salted version) used to flavor the buttercream) before starting the cake and allow to set at room temperature, or alternatively make the day before and store in the refridgerator. Bring to room temperature when ready to make the buttercream.
Brown Sugar Cake
3/4 C + 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. sunflower or vegetable oil
1/4 Cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 Cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 Cup whole milk, room temp
1/4 Cup sour cream, room temp
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
3 1/2 Cups cake flour, sifted
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
In a medium skillet melt the butter and stir continuously with a heat proof spatula over medium heat until the butter smells nutty and the butter turns foamy and brown bits form on the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Place the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes to solidify while you prepare the pans and assemble your other ingredients.
Spray the cake pans with baking spray and place a parchment round in the bottom of each pan.
Preheat the oven to 325° F.
In a bowl sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.
Once the browned butter has solidified, remove it from the freezer and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip the butter until the browned bits in the butter are no longer visible and appear to have combined well. Add in the oil and stir. Turn off the mixer and place a sieve over the bowl and press the brown sugar through the sieve to remove and hard lumps. Mix the brown sugar and butter on medium speed until combined. Add in the granulated sugar slowly with the mixer running, stopping the mixer a few times to scrape down the sides and bowl of the mixer.
Add in the eggs one at a time until combined.
In a glass measuring cup whisk the milk, sour cream and vanilla bean paste.
With the mixer on low speed, add in a third of the flour mixture, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 increments, and ending with the flour mixture.
Pour the batter evenly between the four cake pans. Note: you may also divide the pans between two 9 inch pans instead.
Bake in a preheated oven for approx. 28 minutes or until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and when touched the cake springs back. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Fill with the toffee crunch buttercream, and frost with the salted caramel buttercream (recipes below).
Swiss Meringue Buttercream (to be divided for both flavors)
6 egg whites from large eggs
5 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 Cup granulated sugar
Kosher salt to taste
1 tsp. vanilla
a recipe of my salted caramel filling or purchased caramel sauce such as Smuckers
1 1/4 Cups Finely chopped chocolate toffee such as Heath brand (hint: if you can find “bits of brickle” by Heath its easier)
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the eggs whites and sugar and place over a pot with simmering water. Whisk the egg whites and sugar and heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is about 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer* (*alternatively- you can feel the mixture with your first two fingers and if you don’t feel any sugar granules then it is ok). Turn off the heat. Attach the mixer bowl onto the mixer with the whisk attachment and whisk the mixture on medium until the bottom of the bowl is almost cool to the touch and the mixture has turned into a nice stiff meringue. This will take several minutes. With the mixer on medium high, add the softened butter one tablespoon at a time and continue to mix until all the butter is incorporated and the mixture is smooth. It will go through a curdled looking stage as it mixes; but don’t worry keep adding the butter and it will come together. Add in the vanilla and mix to combine.
Divide half of the buttercream evenly into a large bowl. Mix with the chopped toffee bits. This will be the filling.
Using the mixer, combine the remaining bowl of buttercream with salted caramel, stirring in 2 Tablespoons at a time and stopping and tasting until desired flavor is reached; adding in pinches of salt as necessary.
Assemble the cake with the toffee crunch buttercream as the filling and frost the outside of the cake with the salted caramel buttercream. Decorate as desired. Store the cake in the fridge until 1-2 hours prior to serving, remove the cake to come to room temperature.
We are still in triple digits here in Arizona. I can feel the weather changing though as the days get shorter and the nights cooler. l’m starting to welcome the idea of Fall and everything that comes with it. Fall is akin to comfort food. As Summer slips away, we start day dreaming of stews, hot dishes and firing up the oven again to bake. These parfaits are Snickers inspired in terms of flavor.
Pudding is the ultimate comfort food that you can still make when the weather is hot. I have such a fond memory of my childhood and making homemade pudding. My Mother taught me how to stir the pudding gently in a figure 8 motion, being careful to get into the corners of the pot. When making pudding, I always succumb to a hypnotic dreamy state while I stir. I don’t know why, but it just happens organicly EVERY TIME. Pudding can be a great problem solving task for things that you have been pondering about or troubled over. Stirring and zoning out, I can finally meditate over where the Husband left his keys that he’s lost for 3 days now. Oh yeah…stirring, meditating, day dreaming of Fall evenings sitting on the porch with creamy pudding parfaits.
These little jars have everything you need, creamy pudding with bits of crunchy chocolate cookie crumbles and smooth salted caramel topped with peanuts. Comfort food in any season. You’ll most likely have some salted caramel sauce leftover- store it in a glass jar in the fridge. Slip it into your morning coffee or sneak a spoonful now and then straight from the jar!
Salted Caramel Sauce
1 C sugar
1/4 C water
3/4 C heavy cream; nuke until slightly warm
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. fleur de sel or kosher salt
In a medium saucepan place the sugar and add the water and mix gently until the mixture resembles wet sand. Cook over medium high heat and let it come to a boil without stirring; until the caramel reaches a deep amber. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the heat. Carefully pour in the cream, it will bubble and spout a bit; whisk carefully until combined. Whisk in the butter and then the salt. Let cool, then refrigerate.
Vanilla Bean Pudding
yield: 4 servings
2 1/2 Cups whole milk, divided
1/2 Cup sugar
pinch of salt
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 egg yolks
1 Vanilla Bean, scraped for seeds
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
For Parfait Assembly:
Purchased Famous brand chocolate cookies
Salted roasted peanuts
1. In a small to medium bowl whisk the cornstarch along with 1/2 Cup of the milk. Add the yolks and whisk to combine; set aside.
2. Place the remaining 2 cups milk in a saucepan along with the sugar, salt, and vanilla bean seeds. Bring to a boil; then slowly pour about 1/3 of the hot milk into the bowl with the cornstarch mixture to temper the mixture. Pour that back into the saucepan and bring the pudding to a gentle boil over medium heat while stirring with a rubber spatula. Let the mixture boil for about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter. Pour the pudding into a container and place a piece of parchment circle directly onto the surface of the pudding. Let the pudding cool on counter for 30 minutes, then place in fridge.
Once the pudding is poured into the bowl, DO NOT STIR OR PUDDING CAN TURN WATERY!
Layer a few tablespoons of vanilla pudding in the bottom of a 4 oz. glass container, then pour in a couple tablespoons of salted caramel, followed by sprinkling of coarse cookie crumbles and salted peanuts. Repeat with one more layer. Serve chilled.
Leftover caramel in the fridge is a very dangerous thing. Especially when you discover how good it is stirred into a cup of hot coffee. That leftover caramel got me thinking. Lately I’ve been kind of macaron obsessed. Don’t know why, but it seems to comes in waves. The macaron obsession is real. I was in Safeway and started daydreaming of macaron flavors (I know I’m weird) when I spotted this bag of dried green apples. I’m constantly on the lookout for freeze dried fruits to grind up to add to macaron batter. A quick side note: if you use freeze dried fruits they MUST be rock hard and not have any moisture to them or it doesn’t work.
Caramel apple season is upon us, and I’m so ready for apple desserts, so I thought it would be fun to come up with a caramel apple macaron. Any more than 2 tablespoons of apple powder messes with the shell and it doesn’t come out right; so to amp up the apple flavor even more, I simply sprinkled some on top of the batter before baking. I also sprinkled some on top of caramel filling before capping off the macaron.
You could also cut a piece of the dried apple and smush it down into the caramel and cap off the macaron to achieve max flavor, but since I had some leftover ground up pieces of apple I chose to go that route. Or do both! I love how when you smush the top macaron onto the caramel all the little bits of dried apple are visible on the sides.
Caramel & Green Apple Macarons
yield: about 1 1/2 Cups
200 grams granulated sugar (about 1 Cup + 1 tsp.)
pinch of kosher salt
2 Tbsp. water
90 grams unsalted butter (about 6 Tbsp.)
120 ml heavy cream (8 Tbsp.)
In a microwave glass measuring cup place the heavy cream and microwave until very warm, and set aside. In a heavy saucepan place the sugar, salt, and water and stir gently to combine. Bring to a boil without stirring (brushing down the sides with a wet pastry brush if crystals form) and continue cooking until medium amber color. Carefully stir in the cream and whisk to combine. Stir in the butter and continue to cook for one more minute, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool for about 20 minutes. Pour caramel in a container and chill until ready to use. Note: If you want salted caramel stir in 1 teaspoon of either fleur de sel or kosher salt once you remove from the heat at the very end.
Green Apple Macaron Shells
yield: about 2 dozen macaron sandwiches
Freeze dried granny smith apples
165 gms almond flour
165 gms confectioners sugar
150 grams granulated sugar
115 grams egg whites (about 4 whites)
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
electric green gel food color (I use Americolor)
mint green gel food color (I use Americolor)
In a high speed blender place a couple handfuls of the dried apple and pulverize until you achieve a fine powder. Sift through a fine mesh strainer and measure out 2 Tbsp. of the fine powder. Note-there will be some bigger pieces that remain and that’s okay, reserve those to sprinkle on top as well as adding to filling later.
In a food processor pulse the almond flour and confectioners sugar about 5 times. Sift into a bowl and whisk in the 2 Tbsp. of apple powder and set aside.
In the mixer bowl of a stand mixer place the room temperature egg whites and cream of tartar and whisk until foamy (I actually do this by hand). With the mixer on medium fitted with the whisk attachment, gradually add the granulated sugar in small increments then turn the mixer up to medium high and whisk for about 8 minutes or until meringue appears marshmallow like and stiff peaks are achieved. When the meringue is about 90 percent mixed add in a few drops of both mint green and electric green to your desired color; keeping in mind the color fades a bit when the shells bake. Tip: to test if the meringue is ready, turn off the mixer and turn the bowl upside down. The meringue should not shift or move, if it does mix a couple more minutes and test again. Add the almond flour mixture to the meringue and fold several times until when lifting the spatula, the mixture falls back into the bowl in sheets or ribbons.
Prepare a sheet pan with either parchment paper or a Silpat liner. Pipe the macaron batter about 1 inch size circles leaving about 1 1/2 inches in between. Rap the sheet pan on the counter several times to release any air bubbles and then sprinkle generously with the reserved apple dust.
Preheat the oven to either 300° F or (275° F if using a convection oven). Bake the shells for 18-20 minutes; stopping halfway to cover the shells with tinfoil to prevent the apple pieces on top from getting too brown. To test if the shells are done wiggle one gently and if the top still moves then bake another minute or two and check again. Let the shells cool completely on the pans before removing.
Let the caramel sit out to soften a bit to piping consistency. Pipe a small amount on one half of a shell and generously sprinkle some of the reserved apple dust and top off with another shell of the same size. Store the macarons in an airtight container in the fridge for at least 24 hours before bringing to room temperature to serve. store any leftover (as if) in the refrigerator.
There are certain things in life I cannot live without.
And salt-(preferably kosher salt).
Don’t even think about taking my salt away. It will not be pretty. You will see an ugly side of me you don’t want to encounter. Remember the scenes when Lou Ferrigno turned into The Hulk? Yeah, it’s something like that. I’m sure as I advance in age some day- some balding, stern Dr. will tell me I have to give up salt- and then I will wrestle him to the ground and feed him a salted caramel cupcake. He will take one bite and come over to the dark side. Immediately.
Please don’t lecture me. It will do NO good. This is right up there with convincing me to floss my teeth every day. Don’t bother wasting your words. Your attempt is futile. I love my salt. I especially love sweet and salty. I REALLY love salted caramel. You will have some salted caramel leftover after making these-You’re welcome. Pour it over vanilla ice cream.
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 24-28 cupcakes
2 Cups sugar
1 3/4 Cup all purpose flour
3/4 Cup extra dark brute cocoa (such as Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 large eggs, room temp
1 Cup whole milk, room temp
1/2 Cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Cup hot strong coffee
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two standard size muffin tins with cupcake liners.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the sugar and sift the next 5 ingredients over the sugar directly into the bowl. Combine with a fork to mix. In a glass measuring container mix the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla with a fork. Add the egg mixture to the mixer bowl and with the paddle attachment beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes; stopping once or twice to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Stir in the hot coffee and carefully mix by hand with a large spatula. The batter will be very thin. Pour batter into prepared lined tins; no more than 2/3 full. Three measured Tablespoons is about 2/3 full; it’s helpful to measure out one into a well and then you can eyeball the rest. A scant full standard size ice cream scoop is another good way to get 2/3 full. Resist the urge to over fill as you don’t want to get cupcakes that spill over the cupcake liner- but rather you want a more flat cupcake. Bake in 350° F preheated oven for about 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs. Allow cupcakes tins to cool completely over a wire rack. Frost with caramel frosting and drizzle with salted caramel drizzle.
Salted Caramel Buttercream
4 sticks (2 Cups) unsalted butter, softened
8 Cups confectioners sugar, sifted
2 tsp. whole milk
1 Cup of (cooled) caramel (see recipe below)
2 tsp. kosher salt
In a stand mixer cream together the butter until soft. Add the sugar about one cup at a time and beat until smooth. Beat in the milk then add the cooled caramel and salt and beat until smooth.
Caramel and (Salted Caramel Drizzle)
2 C sugar
1/2 C water
1 1/2 C heavy cream; nuke until slightly warm
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (save for salted caramel drizzle)
In a medium saucepan place the sugar and add the water and mix gently until the mixture resembles wet sand. Cook over medium high heat and let it come to a boil without stirring; until the caramel reaches a deep amber. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the heat. Carefully pour in the cream, it will bubble and spout a bit; whisk carefully until combined. Whisk in the butter and then divide caramel by half into two heat proof containers. Add the salt to half the quantity of caramel (for the salted caramel drizzle). Let cool.
I know a lot of people do not consider themselves a baker, or they get intimidated with complicated multi step recipes. Holiday time is a time to have fun and TRY to decrease your stress by just having fun in the kitchen and making tasty treats that you enjoy but are comfortable with. If you are not one to knock out a Buche de Noel then- by all means this easy truffle recipe is something you can certainly do. I love anything caramel and especially SALTED caramel. I HATE tempering chocolate so these truffles are covered in cocoa, but you could certainly dip them in tempered chocolate if you like a more formal looking truffle.
Salted Caramel-Chocolate Truffles
yield: about 72-80 truffles
2 Cups sugar
1/2 Cup water
16 oz. (1 pound) semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 2 1/2 Cups)
1 1/2 Cups heavy cream
2 tsp. kosher salt
Cocoa powder (natural-unsweetened) for coating (such as Hershey’s)
1. In a heat proof medium bowl place the chocolate chips and set aside.
2. Place a small glass of water and insert a pastry brush inside the glass (I prefer a silicon brush for this) and set next to the stove. Measure the salt and have next to the stove as well.
3. In a 3 quart (medium) saucepan place the sugar and carefully pour the water over the sugar to combine. Heat the sugar and water over medium high heat and bring to a boil until sugar turns amber in color. DO NOT stir the caramel- but rather swirl the pan from time to time to ensure color stays even. If sugar crystals form around the edges of the pan- take the wet pastry/silicon brush and let water drip down the sides of pan to dissolve any crystals. Once sugar is almost amber microwave the heavy cream for about 30-40 seconds until warm. Once sugar is amber color, remove from heat and pour in the warm cream and kosher salt and whisk to combine. Caution- with the adding of the cream it will bubble up and spit so be careful not to get burned. Combine well and then pour the caramel over the chocolate chips until combined and the chips are melted. Pour the mixture into a shallow cake pan or heat proof container. Chill the mixture (uncovered) in the refrigerator until it becomes set; about 50-60 minutes.
4. Remove chilled and set truffle mixture and scoop out small amounts (about 1 inch) and roll in your hands until smooth. If you have a small scoop this works well. Roll the balls in cocoa powder and place in a wax paper or parchment lined container. Once the truffles are all rolled, chill again to help the cocoa meld a bit to the chocolate. Serve at room temperature.
Sweet and salty is here to stay. Everyone has heard of the 7 layer or “magic bars”, right? In a way, these remind me of those bars, but they are a bit more modern for today’s taste with the use of caramel and I like them even better. Anything with caramel and I’m automatically along for the ride, and I just realized (after I made these yesterday) that today is National Caramel Day; so there you have it!
This recipe makes a lot so they are perfect for a kids function; as long as no one is allergic to peanuts. The recipe is from Better Homes & Gardens from one of their special addition publications titled “Brownies & Bars”.
Sweet & Salty Caramel Everything Bars
recipe: Better Homes & Gardens special addition: “Bars and Brownies”
yield: 36 bars
3 Cups crushed pretzels
1/3 Cup sugar
1 Cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 Cup unsalted butter
1/2 Cup whipping cream
1/4 Cup packed brown sugar
1 (11 oz.) pkg. caramel baking bits OR one (14 oz.) pkg vanilla caramels, unwrapped
2 Cup salted cocktail peanuts
1 Cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 Cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 Cup peanut butter flavor chips
1 Cup almond toffee bits
1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line a 9x13x2 inch pan with double or heavy duty tinfoil. Spray pan with non-stick spray. Set aside. Make the crust: in a medium bowl combine the crushed pretzels, sugar and 1 cup milted butter. Press mixture into bottom of pan. In a medium bowl combine: semisweet chips, milk chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and toffee bits; set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup butter, whipping cream and brown sugar. Cook and stir over medium heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Stir in the caramel bits. Cook and stir until caramel is melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in peanuts.
3. Quickly pour the caramel mixture over the pretzel crust and smooth out caramel to evenly distribute the peanuts. Sprinkle the chocolate chip mixture over the caramel layer and bake in preheated oven at 325° F for 25 minutes or until edges are bubbly and light brown. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Using the edges of the foil, lift the entire slab of bars out of the pan. Cut into bars.
To store: Layer bars between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Everyone likes to receive a gift. Sometimes the best gift is when it’s totally unexpected. Maybe you want to thank your neighbor for always bringing your mail in when you’re out-of-town. Perhaps you’ve gotten to know your UPS man so well, you know his first name (you know who you are) and want to thank him for always leaving your packages in that right discreet hidden spot instead of leaving that annoying ticket. There can be a myriad of reasons why you want to show a little sugar love. Here’s an idea-bring a batch of these to your kids next swim meet-whip them out and start making new friends. Enjoy.
Fleur de Sel Caramels
recipe: Ina Garten
(yield: 64 pieces)
1 1/2 Cups sugar
1/4 Cup water
1/4 Cup light corn syrup
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Cup heavy cream
1 tsp. Fleur de sel (kosher salt would also do)+ more for sprinkling
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Prepare an 8 inch square pan by lining it with parchment paper (both sides) so that the paper hangs over the sides by two inches, and lightly brushing it with vegetable oil. In a 2 cup glass measuring cup heat the cream until hot. Stir in the butter and salt and set aside. Have a candy thermometer available.
In a heavy 2 quart saucepan place the sugar, water, and corn syrup and bring to a boil over medium high heat. DO NOT STIR, but swirl the pan occasionally as necessary to maintain even heat distribution. Boil until the syrup mixture is golden brown. Remove from the heat and carefully add the cream mixture (be careful as it will bubble up and spit) stir with a heat proof spatula or wooden spoon and return to the heat and bring back to a boil using a candy thermometer until the mixture reaches hard ball stage. When the mixture reaches hard ball (248° degrees F) add in the vanilla, stir and pour into prepared pan. Allow the pan to cool in the refrigerator until set. Cut into one inch squares and sprinkle with additional salt. Wrap in 4×4 inch squares of wax paper and twist the ends. Store in a cool place.