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.
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.