Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Amazeballs Caramel Cake Recipe & Generally Factual Statements

I met Stephen just before his 35th, or somewhere near-to, birthday. His parents came to visit that weekend, or sometime close to that, and brought with them what Stephen may or may not have said was his favorite cake - a Southern Caramel Cake from The Sweetery in Anderson, SC. When presented with his birthday treasure, his eyes twinkled and his mouth turned up into a devilish grin as he imagined having the cake all to himself.  He might have even done the actual evil laugh. I'm just going to say he did...

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.)

A year passes and I feel like we had that cake again during another visit to Anderson and again, it did not disappoint. OH! I remember - it was at Easter and the morning we left there were really, really strange markings on the cake. Children? Maybe. Adults? Ehhh. Dog? Perhaps. Aliens? Probably. I mean, check this shit out:

Kinda creepy, right? I KNOW!

Moving on to January 2012. Stephen has ANOTHER birthday, again, can't remember his exact age here, but I'm guessing it might still be 35 as I was probably wrong earlier and for the sake of "real-time story telling" I'm not going back to fix my possible error. It's definitely not because I'm lazy... So I decide I'm going to make my first caramel cake but was weary about where to pull a recipe from. So I found the cake portion on someone's blog (I cannot remember who's, sorry) and Stephen's mom sent me her recipe for the icing.

This thing, and toot toot people, was better than the store bought. There, I said it. My opinion, and I won't say for certain that it was Stephen's opinion, too. But there was no disappointment to be found in any stolen bite or slice of this cake! I made it again for Joe, Stephen's dad - who apparently claimed this particular type of cake his favorite long before his 30ish year old son ever did, ...and the rest of the Hilliard family's visit to Lake Murray (or Marion. I can never remember). 
Here's the recipe. Have fun :)

4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, divided (1/4 cup and 3/4 cup)
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (cut into small pieces), at room temperature

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.

Caramel 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.

Cake Assembly:
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.

Place the third cake layer right side up on top of the second layer and complete the icing of the top and sides. And then I dare you to set it aside for a whole two hours to allow the icing to set.