Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Southern States Caramel Cake

Howdy, y'all! I present to you a Southern States style caramel cake.

 I've been wanting to do another American style cake for a while, and ever since I saw a post about caramel cake on Pinterest, I knew it would be that one. I know I do a lot of American style things, but I find the cakes and sweets so fascinating because we have nothing like them here.

My father recently went on a business trip to New York, which was his first time in the United States. He works for a multinational company that designs LED signs, and one of the signage systems in the subway system had gone a bit haywire. As such, he was flown from Ireland to New York to investigate the problem for a couple of days; luckily for his wanderlust, the problem took all of three minutes to fix. He showed us all the photos of his trip when he returned, and it looked to us like he had a whale of a time.

(I think it speaks volumes of the company's faith in my father's programming ability that they wanted him flown over from here! Well done, Daddeee!)

As such, hearing about my father's transatlantic adventures reignited my interest in American baking. So I decided to have a shot at the caramel cake.

From my research, there are many, many, many ways to make caramel cake, each purporting to be the authentic way. So, I turned to retro recipe hunting: how was this cake made by all American grandmas? The cake itself has to be a good firm cake, a lot of the recipes for which advise using sour cream to make the crumb dense. And, although many recipes use icing sugar, the way to make the icing is a traditional boiled sugar beaten fudge.

Now, boiling sugar is one of those things that sends bakers running in the opposite direction: there are so many things that can go wrong. However, please don't feel overwhelmed as this one is quite easy! I just tweaked one of my fudge recipes in response to my research to make the mixture more like an icing. If you've made fudge before, you can make this icing.

I have made a baby little 4 inch (10 centimetre) cake just to try the recipe out, and I've scaled up the icing recipe for a full 8 inch (20 centimetre) cake. If you want to make a mini cake like I did, just half the quantity and cooking time, making sure to test for what sugar stage you're at.

For one 8 inch two-layer round cake
  • One deep 8 inch (20 centimetre) round cake, vanilla flavour
  • 1¼ pounds (570 grammes) caster sugar
  • 8 fluid ounces (225 millilitres) whipping cream, slightly warmed
  • 8 ounces (225 grammes) unsalted butter
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon (1 to 3 millilitres) fine salt
  • 1 tablespoon (15 millilitres) vanilla essence

  • Prepare your cake for layering by cutting off the dome and cutting it in half horizontally, keeping the layers equal.
  • In a large saucepan with a metal or enamel interior (don't use a dark coated pan), add two ounces (55 grammes) of the caster sugar and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it turns a deep, deep brown. Don't be afraid of burning it: if it does burn, just start again with another 2 ounces of sugar.
  • Once the sugar has browned, add in the warm cream, the rest of the sugar, and half of the butter. Stir well until everything has dissolved nicely and is a golden brown syrup. Bring to a simmer.
  • When it begins to simmer, turn the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for up to 30 minutes, until it reaches soft-ball stage (112°C to 115°C (235° F to 240° F)). On reaching this temperature, remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the bubbling has completely stopped.
  • Cut the remaining butter into small cubes, and then beat the syrup with an electric hand mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes.
  • As the syrup begins to thicken and lose its gloss, taking on a matte appearance, start adding the butter, a cube at a time while beating, making sure to beat in each cube fully before adding the next. The whole process should take about 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Eventually, you will get a deliciously thick, caramel icing. If the icing begins to split, leaving oily patches or film, add in half a teaspoon of cold water and beat until it comes together again.
  • Fill and ice the cake with the icing quickly. If the icing begins to seize as you're using it, once again add a little water and beat to get a nice icing once more.
  • After icing the cake, allow to set for at least 2 full hours before serving. This cake is best served the day after preparation.

THIS TIME IN 2015: Sausage Rolls (Wheat Free)
No blogs on this day in 2016, 2014, nor 2013

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