It is Daring Bakers Reveal Day today, and this month's challenge was pretty special (if a little terrifying in the execution). It involved making a caramel cake (flavoured with caramel syrup made from scratch), a caramelised butter frosting (also flavoured with the caramel syrup), and caramels! How about that for a triple treat. Our hosts this month are Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, Alex of Blondie and Brownie, Jenny of Foray into Food , and for our alternative bakers, Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.
The caramel cake recipe is by Shuna Fish Lydon, as published on Bay Area Bites . The caramels (Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels, nonetheless) are from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich (Artisan Press).
The biggest challenge about this for me was making not only one, but two sorts of caramel. Now, I have to confess to being a fraidy cat when it comes to very hot things which are likely to spit and splutter at me, which is why I avoid deep frying - and making caramel! We were warned in the instructions for making the caramel syrup that, when we added water to stop the caramelisation process, it would spit violently - and sure enough, it did. I unfortunately didn't read the tips of the other Daring Bakers for containing the spitting before I made the syrup, so I relied on the "duck and cover" method to avoid being burnt (which luckily for me, seemed to work). However, I was fortunate in that both lots of caramel came off without a hitch. For the syrup part, I was lucky in that I had recently made caramel for Tuesdays with Dorie, which taught me that you don't stir the sugar while it is melting (otherwise it recrystallises into a lump).
I managed to complete the entire challenge over two week nights so that I could make it as a farewell gift for Simon, one of my colleagues. (This was unplanned, otherwise I would have made it at my leisure on a weekend.) Simon started about the same time as me, and has been a good friend. He taught me how to make better use of my digital camera, and hence the photography that you see on this blog, as lacking in technique as it sometimes is, could have been worse except for Simon's help. Simon also made me laugh because he always addressed me as "lawyer" or "solicitor". Just before Simon left, I learned that this is a Chinese custom for addressing professionals (Simon is originally from Hong Kong).
The golden vanilla bean caramels were absolutely delightful to eat, although finicky to make. Here are my caramels in the pan while setting:
The recipe said to line your pan with buttered alfoil - now this is where I had another hitch in proceedings, as the alfoil stuck stubbornly to the caramels:
I subsequently learned that one Daring Baker suggested freezing the caramels to remove the foil more easily. Another option would have been to use a silicone pan for setting the caramels, as another Daring Baker did.
In the end, I did manage to remove the foil with the aid of a metal spatula and a lot of patience and grunt work. Cutting the caramels was a challenge in itself, because they wanted to stick to the knife and to themselves:
Here is the finished product, wrapped neatly in pieces of cellophane:
The caramel was very soft, so I also cut out a star from the caramel to decorate Simon's cake, as you can see in the picture at the top of the post. Unfortunately, the star melted for some reason (even though the cake was cold!), so that when I unveiled the cake at work, the star was just a blob of caramel.
Here is my caramel syrup, used to flavour the cake:
I have a whole jar of this syrup left over, so I can make the cake again, or invent other uses for it (including some of the suggestions from my fellow Daring Bakers).
This is the unadorned caramel cake - isn't it a beauty?
This is my caramelised butter frosting. I had a dickens of a time straining the particles out of the browned butter, and I think that some still got through into the finished product:
Finally, here is a slice of the cake itself - I like to think that it is in "soft focus" rather than blurred:
There was a lot of work in this challenge, but I really enjoyed the final products. The caramels in particular were appreciated by my work colleagues, and disappeared at a great rate of knots. The caramel cake is lovely and moist, and I would certainly make it again, perhaps with a different frosting.
You can check out over one thousand variations of this caramel cake at the Daring Bakers blogroll, and the recipe at our hosts' websites. Enjoy! Thanks to our hosts this month for a fabulous challenge.