caramel cake

caramel cake

recipe image

I know. I know what you’re thinking: this is out of control. This non-stop sugar/butter/egg/flour assault needs to stop. Our hips! Our abs! For the love of all that was once taut and perky, Deb, no more desserts! And I want you to know, I couldn’t agree more. I, too, strive for balance. I, too, swore those jeans were looser before Thanksgiving.

lumpy batter

Yet Dec. 30 is no time to be burdened with these lofty soup-and-salad goals. What else will we have to live down, and resolve ourselves better than, on New Years Day? Salad in December is like… mistletoe in January.

softest cake

Besides, on a last-minute whim we had a bunch of friends over last night to watch some yawnfootballyawn game and I can’t tell you about the three pizzas I made, because you already know about them. But I can tell you all about this delightful caramel cake from the gorgeous January Gourmet devoted to Southern food, how it came together rather quickly (I literally started on it at kickoff, and we ate it in awkward silence after the final score was called and I was all, “Who’s that guy? He’s hot!” and the whole living room groaned and said “That’s Tom Brady and he is The Sworn Enemy”) and what a welcome guest this could be at any New Years Eve party, along with your best bubbly and most scandalous dress. Or Tom Brady jersey.

boiling brown sugar caramel

So, if homemade brown sugar caramel sliding down the sides of a oh so fluffy, impossibly moist yellow cake that even smells like the embodiment of softness itself, I think you know what needs to be done. Turn off the Biggest Loser Australia marathon, close your browser, even if it is currently boasting the cutest puppy that has ever lived, get a few things out of the pantry and you could have this cake made in time for dinner.

pouring caramel

Not your bag (and really: who are you?)? Here are some non-dessert recipes from I think would be welcome at any cocktail party:

caramel cake

One year ago: Russian Tea Cakes, Coq Au Vin

Caramel Cake

Gourmet, January 2008

[Updated 6/09] About that caramel! I realized quite a bit after making this cake that my candy thermometer was not worth the $2.99 I’d spent on it. Who knew?! The temperature reading always ran way cold, so when you make this at home, you’ll find that your caramel is thinner and will sink into the cake more. This is actually correct, or the way caramel cakes traditionally come out. Want yours to come out thick and drape-y the way it is pictured here? Boil it a bit hotter — but be careful. And be warned — despite the fact that draped caramel looks very pretty, the next day it was a bit awkward to bit through a thick, almost fondant-like caramel layer to get to that delicious cake within.

For the cake

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour (not self-rising; 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 pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes

1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For caramel glaze

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Equipment: a candy thermometer

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8-inch square cake pan and line with a square of parchment paper, then butter parchment. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture may look curdled). Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

Make the glaze: Bring cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Boil until glaze registers 210 to 212°F on thermometer, 12 to 14 minutes, then stir in vanilla.

Put rack with cake in a shallow baking pan and pour hot glaze over top of cake, allowing it to run down sides. Cool until glaze is set, about 30 minutes.

Do ahead: Cake (before glazing) can be made 1 day ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

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