Saturday, 5 December 2009

caramel cake with brown butter frosting

my other half celebrated two and a half decades of his existence on saturday. last year i made him a really intense chocolate cake which was a little too sophisticated a birthday cake for a bar. so this year i decided to do something with frosting to be eaten in large thick slices or chunky squares. maya angelou’s caramel cake with caramel frosting was the perfect answer. there was one slight problem though – the recipe is far from simple. although relatively easy to make provided you follow the instructions it is really the tedium of it all and the various pots, pans, mixing bowls and spoons that get dirty making it. 

to start with there is the caramel syrup which calls for a constant swirling of the pan whilst the sugar is on the heat. the addition of hot water into the caramel is slightly scary as the sugar sputters and spits furiously with the liquid introduction especially when you are stirring it.

creaming the sugar and butter in the absence of a beater was a bit of a challenge (partly my fault as i didn’t manage to get the butter at room temperature in time). after the creaming was the sifting of the dry ingredients into a separate bowl and the beating of eggs with more sugar in yet another dish. 

once i had the cake safely in the oven (i used a square cake tin instead of two round ones) i turned my attention to the caramel frosting which called for browned butter. browning butter is all about care, the heat shouldn’t be too low so as not to get the butter hot but not to high either so as to burn the butter. i would recommend using a stainless steel pan so that the change in colour is visible. it took me around ten minutes and the butter was browned. i set this aside to cool and took a ‘dish washing’ break. 

once cooled i added icing sugar to the butter and having forgotten cream decided to improvise using the left over caramel syrup to soften the frosting. it gave it a really nice caramel colour and a deep earthy sweetness.

the cake emerged perfect from its square tin and was frosted thickly sitting on a red square base. the verdict: all of o’s friends loved it.  maya angelou’s caramel cake is a labour of love. and should you want to labour away you can find a little bit of conversation with the poet at her table and the recipe too.