I'd never had caramel cake before so I didn't know what to expect. The cake was pretttty darned good; much sweeter than I'd anticipated. I was all stomach-ache city! (If you know me, you know that the tastier the food, the more upset my tummy gets - it's a pretty solid scale with which to judge goodness of food.)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour three eight-inch cake pans (or use nonstick spray) and set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together the egg whites, ¼ cup milk, and the vanilla extract and set aside.
Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and combine on low speed. Scatter the butter pieces on top of the flour mixture and add the remaining milk. Blend on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the egg white mixture a little at a time and beat on medium speed until just combined.
Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
The cakes will appear slightly golden on top, not browned. Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and cool completely.
I usually set my cakes to cool for about 20 minutes; near or at the end of the 20 I start on the frosting.
½ cup butter (I use real butter)
1 cup brown sugar (dark brown gives a more intense flavor but you can use light as well)
¼ cup milk
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Melt butter over low heat. Add brown sugar (be sure it dissolves – if not, the icing will be grainy). Cool slightly.
Add ¼ cup milk and blend (note from Stephen's mom: I add this a little at a time after adding the powdered sugar because it always seems to be too much milk and I end up adding lots more powdered sugar). After adding powdered sugar and getting to the right consistency, add the vanilla and mix well.
Place one cooled cake layer upside down on a serving platter and pour about one-quarter of the icing over the top, spreading evenly with a knife or angled spatula.
Place the middle layer upside down on top of the bottom layer and spread another one-quarter of the icing over it.