Saturday, August 6, 2011

Caramel Cake Recipe

"I'm on bring you a caramel cake tonight.  And I don't want you to do nothing but set in your kitchen and eat the whole thing for supper."
quote from Minny in The Help by Kathryn Stockett (page 98)
Last week my oldest son turned twelve and requested a home baked Caramel Cake.  Being a young man of very specific tastes, he is not fond of many foods, but loves all things caramel.  Although I had sampled caramel cake a few times in my life, I had never made it and did not have a recipe handy.  I started my search for caramel cake recipes in my collection of church and community cookbooks, but was surprised to find none.  I knew that the origins of this sweet confection are in the South, but it was not something my family members ever made.  I perused a few recipes on the internet, but quickly dismissed them because they all involved a candy thermometer and finicky boiling sugar. 

A few days before my son's big day, I found the perfect recipe in my Cook's Country 2008 Annual.  This is a hardback cookbook that includes a year's worth of Cook's Country magazines.  I love this collection because it has an index of all of the practical and delicious recipes from the whole year and because it was given to me by a dear friend on my 40th birthday.  She even wrote an inscription on the inside of the front cover which makes me smile every time I read it.  This recipe is for "Easy Caramel Cake" and comes from the December/January 2009 issue.  The wise people at America's Test Kitchen who create Cook's Country magazine have, of course, taken the guess work out of the caramel frosting and although I wouldn't exactly deem this cake easy it is foolproof and delectable.

It wasn't until the candles had been blown out and I was enjoying my piece of this scrumptious dessert that I remembered the references to caramel cake in the entertaining and thought provoking book The Help.  I can't believe I hadn't thought of it sooner! In Kathryn Stockett's novel, a maid named Minny makes caramel cake, among other things, for the women that employ her.  This memorable character is a feisty hardworking lady who deals with the temperamental recipe for caramel frosting by talking to herself.  If homemade caramel frosting has the power to make Minny jittery then surely I need the fool-proof method created by the food scientist of Cook's Country in order to make this Southern delicacy.

My caramel cake held a starring role on my son's birthday.  The frosting was sweet with a hint of saltiness and  the cake was tender with a perfect crumb.  On August 10th the movie version of the book The Help comes out in theaters.  I wonder if caramel cake will make an appearance?  If you haven't read the book I highly recommend that you do, preferable before you see the movie, and I also suggest that you make a Caramel Cake to enjoy after the show.

Caramel Cake Recipe

1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

For the cake layers:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
  2. Whisk buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla in large measuring cup.  With electric mixer on low speed, mix flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined.  Beat in butter, 1 piece at a time, until only pea-sized pieces remain.  Pour in half of buttermilk mixture and beat over medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.  Slowly add remaining buttermilk mixture to bowl and beat until incorporated, about 15 seconds.
  3. Pour equal amounts of batter into prepared pans and bake until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks.  Cool completely, at least 1 hour.
For the frosting:
  1. Heat 8 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, and salt in large saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear around perimeter of pan, 4 to 8 minutes.  Whisk in cream and cook until ring of bubbles reappears, about 1 more minute.  Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla.
  2. Transfer hot frosting mixture to bowl and, with electric mixer on low speed, gradually mix in confectioners' sugar until incorporated.  Increase speed to medium and beat until frosting is pale brown and just warm, about 5 minutes.  Add remaining butter, 1 piece at a time, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Frost cake immediately.
To assemble cake:
  1. Place one cake on serving platter.  Spread 3/4 cup frosting over cake, then top with second cake.  
  2. Spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake.
  3. Serve.
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  1. Your caramel cake looks so perfect and delicious. Caramel is one of my favorite flavors and twice now I have attempted to bake up my own caramel layer cake! Both times were.....blech. I'm not sure if it was the recipe or what but NOT good. So I've given up...until now. I totally trust Cooks Country recipes. I might have to try it soon! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Oh my goodness! I'm reading The Help and remember the lines you quoted about the caramel cake. My son's 13th was Saturday, but we didn't do a cake (promised him one this week...). Anyway, I now know what that cake will be! Thanks for sharing, ~Lisa

  3. Sounds simply delicious. If you get a chance I would love you to link your cake up to More the Merrier Monday. It lasts through Wednesday so you have plenty of time to stop by. See you there.

  4. a woman after my own heart...i made a caramel cake in May... was inspired by the help and a road trip in the south. your version looks amazing! i am very excited for the movie premier. thank you so much for sharing this great recipe with tuesday night supper club.

  5. Made a smaller version of your recipe yesterday afternoon for my son's birthday and posted about it if you'd like to take a look. :) I did a few substitutions (used whole wheat pastry flour), and it was still amazing. Thanks so much for sharing! Blessings, ~Lisa

  6. YUM! I loved the book and this looks great!

  7. A beautiful cake... I love caramel, so this is a no brainer! I'm going to have to make this!

  8. This sounds really, really good. I'm going to pin this so I can give it a try!


  9. YUM! I am definitely going to have to try this one.

  10. Hi Heidi,
    I am laughing at myself, because the first thing I wanted to do when looking at your delicious cake was to take my finger and head straight for that frosting! It looks so delicious. Hope you are having a great week end and thanks for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    See you soon!
    Miz Helen

  11. Wow! It looks so lovely! I got to try it out some time! Thank you for the recipe!

  12. I love caramel cake, but I haven't had it in a while, and I've never made one! I may have to try this recipe!

    Thanks for linking up for Friday Favorites. I just added this to my pinterest!

  13. Very inspiring story for your caramel cake recipe. My kids loves anything with chocolates or caramel thus this one is perfect for them. Will try this recipe. Thanks a lot.

  14. There are comments about others wanting to try this recipe. Well, I decided to give it a try. The cake is very moist and has a lovely texture. Not crumbly. While the frosting was a bit more work, it came out perfect. I made no changes to this recipe. It is delish! My child was wanting chocolate but loved this one also. I will make again and I think it will be a great cake to take to gatherings. Go ahead and give it a try!

  15. I was looking for a new cake recipe. Think Caramel Cake is the best find!

  16. Excellent cake. Love the texture. Icing is great too. But next time I would skip the salt asked for in the icing. I would also cut the salt in the cake to only 1/8-1/4 tsp.
    This cake will be what I will use from now on with other icings like chocolate or vanilla buttercream, etc. It is a soft, moist cake wlth a lovely texture. A cross between a cake mix and a from scratch butter cake. You could also turn it into a citrus flavored cake by adding some orange or lemon zest. Regine

  17. I highly recommend this cake too; it was fantastic! I found the recipe in my Entertaining 2010 (from Cook's Illustrated) and just tried it today - so glad that I did. We both loved it!!!

  18. Didn't the original recipe called for corn syrup?