Sunday, 7 December 2008

Caramel Cake

This weekend I made a caramel cake as featured on the Daring Bakers' challenge the other month. When I first read through the recipe, I thought it sounded pretty manageable, although I freaked out a bit when I saw comments!

I tried to follow the recipe as carefully as possible, although this was a bit tricky at times as it is in American measurements. I had to google how much a tablespoon of butter weighed! The first thing that went wrong was the caramel syrup. From the pictures on the Bay Area Bites site, and other comments on other blogs, I guessed that it should have the texture of golden syrup, and be quite thick. It also says in the recipe that the caramel will spit when you add the cold water, but mine took it quite placidly. I think I would have done better with a sugar thermometer, as I wasn't sure if I'd heated it enough, but I didn't want it to burn either as burnt sugar is a b*tch to wash up. In the end, although it tasted pretty caramelly, it was quite runny. Also it split a bit, and was quite lumpy, so I left it to settle and then poured off the top.

Next came the cake. I am not totally convinced by the dry wet dry wet dry method, as I find that if you stir the mixture too much after the flour is added it can go tough. Generally I add flour last. I have made a couple of American cakes using DWDWD method, so I followed the recipe but mixed it quite slowly and with the minimal number of strokes once the flour was in there. I also turned it after half time in the oven, which did make it a bit more evenly browned. I moved flats in September and am still getting used to the vaguearies of the new oven. I tested the cake and it seemed cooked after 50 mins, although when we ate it later I noticed that there was a small patch in the middle that was slightly undercooked. It didn't taste different, but there was a slight change in texture and colour that was discernable.

The icing went well, and I loved the salty kick that contrasted with the sugary sweet caramel. I used vanilla salt (a jar of salt with vanilla pods in it that has been maturing about 6 months) and omitted the vanilla extract. I don't have a palette knife so the icing was no where near as precise as I wanted it, and the caramel syrup wasn't thick enough to use it as decoration.

The mistakes were not that noticeable (to the uniniated at least!), and I don't think the taste was affected. It was quite an unusual cake, and my flatmates loved it. All 12 slices were gone within 24 hours. Personally I didn't find it that challenging to bake, although I do bake quite a lot and can spot when something cakey is amiss (although not so much with icing).

I would post a picture but presentation is an area I definately need to work on. I've signed up to cake decorating classes at adult ed next term so hopefully my presentation skills should soon match my baking skills!