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Chocolate Caramel Cake

November 9, 2009

Halloween CakeMaking a layer cake is a full day activity.   The kind where you end up with flour all over the floor, and half of your pots and pans are left soaking in the sink.  But at the very end of the day you end up with a deliciously moist and extravagant looking treat to serve to your friends on a special occasion. Sometimes special occasions just don’t come often enough.  Halloween?  Great, lets make a cake!!  This is another amalgamation of Martha recipes that I have been collecting over time.  I avoid decorating cakes with my Wilton collection of cake tips and pastry bags.  I would like to say it’s because my style leans toward sophisticated and modern, and less toward 1950’s floral aprons, but the truth is I don’t have a very steady hand and I hate flowers.  There I said it.  I deserve to be booted from the Martha fan club.  But just because I hate flowers, doesn’t mean my cakes have to be plain.  This cake has a funky, retro feel, even if you do have to push the caramel dots and sticks to the side to eat it.  Don’t let the thin, wet, one-bowl chocolate batter fool you.  It’s the moistest, most flavorful chocolate cake recipe on the planet.  It’s the foundation for many of my best experiments.

CHOCOLATE CARAMEL LAYER CAKE

Layer CakeIngredients

Cake
1 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large whole eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups milk (whole tastes great, but skim works well too)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups warm water

Caramel Buttercream
1 1/4 cups sugar
2/3 cups heavy whipping cream
6 large egg whites
pinch of salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1T pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Caramel Decorations
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions

  1. Make Cake. Preheat oven to 350°.   Prepare 2 8×2 round cake pans (or 2 9×2 cake pans for slightly shorter cakes) by spraying with cooking spray for baking.  Line the bottom with a round parchment, and spray parchment with cooking spray for baking.  Set Aside.
  2. Sift cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla, and beat on low speed until just combined.  Slowly add the warm water and mix until smooth, around 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Divide batter among cake pans. Bake, rotate pans until halfway through, until tops spring back when touched and cake tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cake pans to wire rack and lest rest, 15 minutes.  Invert cake onto wire rack, peel off parchment, and reinvert cakes so they are top side up.  Let cool completely.
  4. Using a serrated knife, trip the tops of the cake layers to make level.  Then cut each cake in half, so there are 4 layers.
  5. Make Buttercream.  Caramel: Pour 1/4 cup water into saucepan.  Add 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar.  Cook over medium-heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and syrup is clear.  Continue to cook, without stirring, until syrup comes to a boil.  Let syrup boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until syrup is dark amber.  Remove from heat.
  6. Slowly pour in 1/3 cup of cream while stirring.  Continue to stir until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
  7. Whisk 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream until thick and fluffy.  Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator.
  8. Whisk together remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, the egg whites and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer.  Set bowl over pan of simmering water and whisk until sugar is dissolved and mixture reaches 140 degrees.
  9. Return bowl to mix and using whisk attachment, beat on medium-high until stiff.  Reduce speed to medium low; add butter a few tablespoons at a time.  Continue whisking until smooth.
  10. Switch to paddle attachment.  Add caramel and vanilla; beat on lowest speed until combined, 3-5 minutes.
  11. Add 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream to the bowl of whipped cream and fold together.
  12. Assemble Cake.  Place one layer of cake on a cake plate, and spread 1/3 of the lightened buttercream on top.  Place another cake layer on top and spread another 1/3 of the lightened buttercream.  Repeat with one more layer.  Put the final cake layer on the cake.  Spread a thin layer of the buttercream over entire cake as a crumb coat.  Cover cake with a cake dome and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until frosting is firm.
  13. Spread remaining butter, smoothing with an offset spatula. Cover with a cake dome and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  14. Decorate Cake.  Lay out pieces of parchment paper and cover with cooking spray.  Add 2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup water and lemon juice to saucepan.  Cook over medium-heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and syrup is clear.  Continue to cook, without stirring, until syrup comes to a boil.  Let syrup boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until syrup is light to medium amber.  Remove from heat and let sit for 5-8 minutes.
  15. To make sticks, drizzle caramel on prepared parchment with long strokes.  To make dots, drop spoonfuls of caramel to form 1-inch rounds.  Let caramel stand until firm, about 5 minutes, then remove with an offset spatula, and arrange on cake immediately prior to serving.
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