Dec 18, 2009

Caramel Cake

I clipped this recipe out of Gourmet magazine almost two years ago and ran across it recently. Boy, have I been missing out. This shy little cake sounds good generally, but doesn't seem to shout. But it so deserves to be center stage. It's a soft, moist, cloud-like cake made so very tender and slightly tangy with buttermilk. Top that with a gooey caramel glaze and it becomes transcendent. It's the kind of cake you want to crawl into and roll around and pull around you like a warm quilt on a cold winter day. Like that.

I made this to take to some friends we were having dinner with. It was just the right size for our small group. It bakes in a square cake pan and makes about nine pieces if you cut it squarely.

I thought it was best eaten the day it was made, especially when the caramel glaze is still soft and gooey. The cake is its best that way, still moist and dense. And next time, I think I'll save a bit of the caramel to drizzle over the cut pieces when serving. It would look really pretty that way. Who can resist caramel oozing all over their plate?

Be sure to use cake flour for this so it will be truly tender. And remember to take out your butter and eggs beforehand so they can reach room temperature before you start to mix your batter. The cake needs to cool for an hour before glazing, so plan accordingly.

Caramel Cake

For the cake:
2 cups + 2 tablespoons cake flour, sift before measuring
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, shaken well
cooking spray
parchment paper

For the caramel:
1 cup cream
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
candy thermometer

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan with cooking spray and line with a square of parchment paper. Then spray the parchment. Set aside.

Whisk together sifted flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

With your mixer, beat together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix in. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each. On low speed, add in the buttermilk and mix until just combined. (Gourmet says it may look curdled here, but mine didn't.)

Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing just until each batch is incorporated.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and tap on your counter to make sure there aren't any air bubbles in the batter.

Bake approximately 35 minutes until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Then let cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from pan. (Tip: place a plate or platter over your cake pan, then flip the cake over on to it. Lift the pan off and remove parchment, if necessary. Then you can use another plate to flip it back over on to it's bottom.) Let cool one hour before glazing.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze.
In a heavy saucepan, combine cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, and a pinch of salt. Bring up to a boil over medium heat. While it's coming to a boil, stir it until the sugar dissolves. Boil until it reaches 210 degrees on your candy thermometer, about 12-14 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

With your cake on your serving platter, gently pour hot caramel over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. I did this a little at a time instead of all at once. I didn't want it just running off completely, so I poured it on a bit at a time to let the glaze cool a little and stay more firmly on the cake. Let cool a few minutes so glaze can set a bit. Or who am I kidding? Cut into that bad boy and get runny caramel all over your face. Just don't burn yourself! It's so good. I dare you to eat just one piece.

Approximately nine servings.

Adapted from Gourmet magazine, January 2008.

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