Daring Bakers Challenge for November: Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

November 29, 2008

IMG_3242 by you.

After a savory Challenge last month, I was ready for a diabetic coma-inducing sweet dessert and this month’s challenge delivered. This challenge was hosted by Dolores of Culinary Curiousity, Alex of Blondie and Brownie, and Jenny of Foray into Food, and the amazing cake recipe was created by Shauna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater.  I was forewarned that the cake and frosting may be overly sweet for some, so I decreased the amount of sugar and increased the fluer de sel accordingly.  The end result was a rich, moist cake with a sweet, creamy frosting.  I used the optional caramel (see recipe below) to decorate the cake with floral accents.   I then drizzled some of the leftover caramel syrup over the cake slices, which some might consider overkill, but my children sure didn’t. 


10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients.

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

IMG_3167 by you.


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for “stopping” the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers.

IMG_3160 by you.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

GOLDEN VANILLA BEAN CARAMELS (from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, 2007)

1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.

IMG_3170 by you.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.

Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife.  Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.

IMG_3172 by you.

I used two small floral cookie cutters to cut the caramel to decorate my cake.  And to mask the lumpy icing job.

IMG_3214 by you.

26 Responses to “Daring Bakers Challenge for November: Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting”

  1. megan Says:

    very creative with the caramel flowers! Love it. 🙂

  2. rainbowbrown Says:

    The flowers are an incredible touch. Very nice.

  3. Aparna Says:

    I really love the wat you’ve decorated your cake with caramel flowers.
    And there seems to be something about children and caramel! Its the same with my daughter.

  4. Jo Says:

    Wow lovely cake and the flower candy makes it even more so. Great job!

  5. Beutiful cake. I love the little caramel flowers.

  6. Garrett Says:

    I would never have thought to use cookie cutters to get shapes out of the caramel. That’s some great improvisation.

  7. Beautiful job! Love the caramel shapes! BTW, I tried sending you an email via the DB site. I think we went to the same college.

  8. yasmeen Says:

    Perfect!Looks gorgeous with caramel floral accents.

  9. CookiePie Says:

    Beautiful cake! Those flower caramels are just darling. Lovely job!!

  10. Vibi Says:

    Beautiful cake! The patience it must have taken you to make those caramel flowers! Wow… if only for that you are worthy of great admiration!

  11. Ashley Says:

    Also love those caramel flowers!!!

  12. What a wonderful way of using te caramels to decorate the cake! It’s beautiful!

  13. teaandscones Says:

    Great cake. Love the flowers. Very creative.

  14. allison Says:

    Your cake looks lovely.

  15. What fun caramel flowers on top! Great job!

  16. Cynthia Says:

    Your cake is a labor of love. I feel the love through the fiber-optic superhighway.

  17. Shari Says:

    I love your flower caramels!

  18. awoz Says:

    Your cake is so beautiffull and I am impressed by your lovely caramel:)

  19. Lynn Says:

    Beautiful cake and presentation. I love your pink cake stand. Great job.

  20. Ethan Says:

    Beautiful. I love the caramels you made. I wasn’t able to get them done with all the other holiday baking going on, but after seeing your lovely decorations I regret it.

  21. sandra Says:

    i love your flower cookie cutter and your idea of flower caramels. Your cake is gorgeous!

  22. Amber Says:

    Your cake looks amazing. I love that you used the caramels to help decorate. Beautiful.

  23. jennywenny Says:

    lovely decorations, really fantastic idea!

  24. claire Says:

    I really tried to use the leftover caramel to make decorations but it didn’t harden like I thought it would…YOUR flowers, on the other hand, are SO cute!!! Great job on your cake.

  25. Y Says:

    Love the decorations! So pretty. I really need to get myself a cutter like that.

  26. anna Says:

    This cake looks amazing! I made it for my sister’s birthday and everyone loved it! I think it tasted a bit nicer the second day when it was in the fridge overnight. I added some chopped walnut to break the sweetness a little, but it didn’t even need it. It’s just perfect! Thank you for the recipe!!!

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