| by Nicole Thorpe, Jennifer’s daughter |
It was my birthday last week! I made my own birthday dinner, and my own birthday cake, but my husband did 100% of the clean-up, so it was actually a sweet deal. I’ve always wanted to experiment with caramel flavors in a layer cake, but was always intimidated as caramel seems sort of “one note” to me. Well, this little beauty did not disappoint, and I’m excited to share it with you all.
It consists of cake, a sugared cream layer–I invented this when I messed up making caramel candies once. It’s actually a great textural and creamy addition to any non-fruit flavored cake you want to bump up a bit. It’s somehow grainy and smooth all at the same time, and is SO delicious–lastly, to die for, salted caramel cream cheese frosting (yes, it’s as good as it sounds).
Make your cake batter and bake. I do this a day or two before and then wrap them in plastic wrap and store them in the freezer. Just take them out to thaw for a few minutes before you poke holes in them. Making the cakes in advance and freezing them makes the whole process shorter, cleaner, and actually makes frosting the cakes a bit easier. I think it enhances the flavor as well. You can’t lose if you make them in advance.
The batter instructions are pretty straightforward. You won’t feel like your cake pans are very full, but all that good vinegar and baking soda aeration are going to help them puff up in the oven. So never fear.
These babies bake in 20 minutes and should look golden brown when they come out.
Now for the second layer, the sugared cream layer. Combine your sugar, butter, and cream in a saucepan and stir constantly as you bring to a boil. Really let this mixture bubble for a good 5-6 minutes while you stir.
Remove from the heat and add your sea salt. I like using sea salt. It’s in bigger pieces, and doesn’t dissolve too much, so each bite can have varying tones of saltiness. But table salt will work well if you don’t want to buy sea salt. Just decrease the amount you put in by about ¼ tsp. and add then add more if you want a stronger salt flavor.
Let this cool for 30 minutes before use, but you can make this in the morning and use it several hours later. Another make-ahead element!
Now it’s time for the frosting. I usually avoid frostings that start on the stove. It always seems like too much effort. Well this one is 150% worth the effort. Combine your brown sugar and 3 Tbs. of butter in a saucepan on medium-high heat.
Bring this mixture to a boil as you stir. Let it boil for about 8 seconds before you remove it from the heat. So a bubbly boil for several seconds is all it takes. Remove from heat, and whisk in the 1/3 cup heavy cream.
Let this cool to room temperature before you use it. The fridge is a good cheat if you want to speed that process along.
In a stand mixer (if you have one) combine the rest of the butter and your room-temperature cream cheese. Cream cheese is an easy ingredient to use–IF–it’s room temperature. If you try to cream it cold it usually just clumps. So take the time to soften your cream cheese. Cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add your salt.
On a low mix, slowly add your caramel liquid from your sauce pan. Increase your mixer speed to fully incorporate. Add your powdered sugar and incorporate fully. This has the most beautifully beige coffee color when it’s done.
To assemble your cakes, poke a few holes in each layer. I used a skewer, but a table fork would work if you don’t have anything else. Spread a layer of the sugared cream over each cake. Then a thin layer of frosting (think, ½ cup).
Stack your three cakes. Then complete by frosting the entire outside with the remaining frosting.
You can decorate your cake anyway you’d like. Or leave it bare. I had some extra caramel ice cream topping in the fridge so I did some drizzling. But some caramel candies around the base or clustered on top is fun too. Go crazy!
This cake may seem like “a lot,” but you can make each item in advance and bring them together for assembly. I love to put lots of love and care into birthday cakes. It makes the day feel special, and delicious food adds so much to any celebration. This one got RAVE reviews from the kids and hubby alike. Heavenly layers!