Daring Baker Challenge November 2008 – Caramel Cake


This month’s challenge is a caramel cake from Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater.  This tasty confection was chosen by this month’s hosts: Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, Alex (the Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo) of Blondie and Brownie, and Jenny of Foray into Food.  They recieved help to convert the recipe to gluten free from the amazing Natalie of Gluten-a-go-go.


There is a bonus caramel challenge, but as I have a great caramel already, and I have candy making planned in a couple weeks for Christmas, I will make caramel then.  I am thinking of making a GFCF Caramellow candy and a sea-salt caramel, but that Cardamon version sounds insanely good so I may have to rethink my plan.  Mmmm…  


As we could make the cake into any shape, I made mini-cupcakes that I am froze for Christmas, after we all had one to taste, of course.  So yummy and cute, too!  I had a bit of falling of the center of the cake, so am glad I made mini cupcakes, and the frosting helped hide that, but I don’t think it harmed the cake itself at all.  I will be making this again maybe with a bit more xanthan gum or maybe with a different flour blend.  Though the carmel flavor could handle the bean flour blend with out a problem and I didn’t want to feel any grittiness from rice, even from fine ground…  Maybe with a bit more sorghum flour…  Half of the frosting recipe made enough frosting to give each mini cupcake a cute swirl of frosting.  I think this would be lovely for spring or a tea with some lavender sugar in the cake and crystalized flowers to decorate the frosting.  The cake was nicely moist and really a hit.  


The challenge in detail:

THE RULES: You must make both the cake and the caramelized butter frosting.

Beyond that, we’re leaving it open and we’re anxious to see what variations you come up with… in size, in shape, in flavors you might pair with the caramel, in decoration, in how you incorporate the caramel candy. As Rosa said last month, use your imagination and have fun!

If you’re making the caramels, Alice Medrich’s recipe provides several alternatives flavor combinations. Feel free to use one of hers or create one of your own.

POSTING DATE: Saturday November 29, 2008

EQUIPMENT: For Cake/Icing: Stand mixer with paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer, or mix the old-fashioned way), 9-inch cake pan (or whatever size/shape you choose), cookie sheet or sheet pan, stainless steel saucepan, pastry brush, whisk, sieve.

For (Optional) Caramels: 9-inch square baking pan, aluminum foil, candy thermometer, pastry brush, 3 quart stainless steel saucepan, parchment paper, sharp knife


Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon (http://eggbeater.typepad.com/), as published on Bay Area Bites (http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/).

Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111

If you’re looking for additional guidance on the cake, Shuna’s got some great information posted here as well (http://eggbeater.typepad.com/shuna/2007 … ake-a.html) and here (http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/2006 … he-recipe/). And metric conversions can be found here (http://www.worldwidemetric.com/metcal.htm).

Shuna’s notes:

This is one of those cakes that is truly about baking. It may sound strange because aren’t all cakes about baking? What I mean is that getting this cake to bake is about balancing fat with acid and protein JUST RIGHT. Gluten free flours are going to have a hard time getting this cake to work. Not impossible, for nothing is impossible these days with all the chemical (natural and icky) at our fingertips, but very very tricky. One hint for the gluten free baker– liquid Lecithen is your friend.

It would be very easy to get various other flavours in the caramel cake but what’s tricky is making sure the flavour does not screw up the liquid-fat-flour ratio too much. Ideas/flavours: Browned Butter, vanilla bean, rosemary, burnt orange, warm spices, etc. Just remember: various flavouring ingredients and agents carry with them their own acidity and moisture contents…



Flavour imparting ingredients can be poached in the caramel once it’s done. Even a cold steep would be good with some highly aromatic ingredients, like coffee beans or rosemary. One could make scented sugar and use that in tandem with the sugar in the recipe.
But I will say this about flavours: you will hide and lose the subtlety of the caramel flavour in the cake and that’s what this cake is about.


10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature  (I used Earth Balance Buttery Spread)
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 (I used 3/4 teaspoon)
2 Cups all-purpose flour (I used a bean flour blend plus 1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (I used 1 teaspoon)
1 cup milk, at room temperature (I used unsweetened almond milk)

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.  (I used mini muffin papers and tin.  The recipe made 44 mini cupcakes)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream Earth Ballance 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 almond 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. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

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.  (for mini cupcakes, I baked 20 minutes, rotated the pan and baked for 5 more minutes.)

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.


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. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter (for dairy free, replace with Earth Balance Buttery Spread)
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream (for dairy free, replace with coconut milk)
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 coconut milk and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized “butter” frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

– makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels –

1 cup golden syrup (I found at World Market)
2 cups sugar 
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt 
2 cups heavy cream (for dairy free, replace with coconut milk)
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 (for dairy free, replace with Earth Balance Buttery Spread)
A 9-inch square baking pan 
Candy thermometer 


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. 

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. 

Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane. 

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it. 

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds. 

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer. 
(recipe from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert)

5 responses to “Daring Baker Challenge November 2008 – Caramel Cake

  1. Ooo, your cupcakes look awesome! Great job!

  2. You did a fabulous job on your cake. I love how your cup cakes turned out.

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  3. I really like your take on this cake – small.
    They look a lot tastier that way.
    And what a cute taster you have.

  4. Oooh, cuppy cakes! My son would love those.

  5. Mine sagged a wee bit in the middle too but you could hardly notice. Great job!

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