When you have over 1,000 Daring Bakers from all over the world, it´s damn hard to chose a challenge that suits everyone´s tastes and seasons. That´s why when I read that November´s challenged involved a caramel cake and caramels I wasn´t particularly excited since caramel cake is something I could crave during the winter, but not in the summer, and it´s been crazy hot here these past few weeks, so I wasn´t too keen on turning on the oven or making a buttercream frosting.
But that´s the magic of the DBs, you are bound to be surprised. And I was! First of all, I didn´t burn myself while making the caramel syrup, mostly thanks to a very clever DB who commented on the forum that a good way to avoid getting burnt by the splattering caramel was covering up the pan with aluminum foil and making a whole in the middle through which to add the water. I worked like a charm! So thank you Linda for the great tip, my arms will be forever grateful.
This month´s hosts are Dolores from Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity , Alex from Blondie and Brownie and Jenny of Foray into Food. And they certainly did a great job picking this recipe.
The caramel cake is very delicate and moist, but in a compact sort of way, which I liked, but some people might not agree with me. It´s not hard to prepare either once you have managed to work through the caramel syrup without making a mess of yourself and your kitchen.
As for the brown butter frosting, there was dissent in the DB ranks. Many people claimed it was unbearably sweet, which had me quite worried. Granted, I didn´t add as much sugar as the recipe called for, but enough to get the right consistency. And I LOVED it, which is saying a lot since I normally dislike buttercream frostings. It added a whole new dimension to the cake, and although it was quite sweet, it´s wasn´t too sweet, and it complemented the cake perfectly. Maybe this has to do with getting the caramel syrup dark enough (without burning it, that is), since it is used in both the cake batter and the frosting, and I believe it can lack complexity and just taste sweet if it´s not dark enough.
I was about to chicken out on making the vanilla caramels since I rarely eat caramels and I don´t own a candy thermometer, nor intend to, so my chances of messing everything up were quite high. But I tried to reassure myself with the old-school methods of soft and hard ball syrups, and went ahead.
Surprisingly, the came out quite decent! When I took them out of the flame, put them in their molds and let them cool, they turn out a bit too soft (which was fixed putting them in the fridge and eating them half-cold). But I didn´t know that until later, so I put half of the batch back in the pan for a quick reheat hoping to make them a bit harder, and well, in two minutes, they went from too soft to too hard (yes, refrain that chuckle, please). So I ended up with hard caramels, but I could still cut them in small pieces and they are still edible, as long as you warn people not to chew on them if they want to keep their perfect smile.
Overall, I´m going to declare this whole venture a big success, summer or winter, and I´m sure I´ll be making the cake again as soon as the weather makes it bearable to turn on the oven.
If you want to check out tons of variations, and what I´m sure will be some breath-taking decorations, check out what the rest of the Daring Bakers were up to this month.
And if you want to give the recipe a try yourself, you can find it after the jump.