Today is my husbands birthday. Shh… he’s 33.
I try to make birthdays sort of a big deal around here, because, HELLO!, birthday! If it’s not a “big one” we tend to just make a day of it, favorite meals, nagging immunity, getting to do what you want with no repercussions of your actions (kinda, but not really…) and you get to pick dessert. Cake, pie, easy, elaborate, ice cream, toppings, sprinkles, it’s all on the table for you to choose from.
There have been some pretty labor intensive birthday cakes around here from years past, Elmo and Cookie monster cupcakes, Princess dress ice cream cake, Hello Kitty, Snickerdoodle, 6 layer rainbow cake, key lime pie, the list goes on and on. I’ve mentioned how spoiled my family is, right?
So when I asked Charlie what he wanted for his birthday dinner and dessert, I was hoping for a very simple “Oh, you know, just a frozen Key Lime Pie that is only $14 and doesn’t make you spend 4 hours in the kitchen because I know how busy you are and I want to help you out.”
He asked for “Oh! That chocolate cake you made that one time with the caramel on the inside with the chocolate frosting. I want that.” Thanks, pal.
|Via Martha Stewart|
I love this cake. That isn’t the problem. And honestly for a second I thought I could just go the super easy route and buy a jar of caramel, and a tub of frosting and a cheap box of cake mix and whip it together in a frenzy in under an hour and no one in the house would know the difference, but that isn’t true, because I would.
I have this ridiculous amount of internal guilt when I know I take an unnecessary easy road. This wasn’t just a regular family BBQ, this was Charlie’s BIRTHDAY. I had to be a good wife, even if I would curse him for it for the next 4 hours.
The cake itself is relatively simple to make, just time consuming because of “cool down times” and making things from scratch. I had to work yesterday afternoon, so I decided to make the caramel and cakes in the morning and finish the frosting and assembly when I got home. The original recipe calls for a 6 layer cake, but ain’t nobody got time for that, plus having an entire cake in the fridge meant we’d all have a slice for dessert and then I’d eat it for breakfast for the next week until it was gone, and I’m pretty sure that’s a delicious bad idea.
The original recipe comes from Martha Stewart and you can find it here, but I want you to read my blog, and not redirect to the mother ship, so below you’ll find my mostly homemade version… pssst for the sake of time I doctor up a box of cake mix… SURPRISE!
First off here’s my secret to amazingly delicious cakes that come from a box, but taste like they came from a fancy schmancy bakery…
Step one: Buy a box of cake mix…. get a real good one. I got the Decadent Triple Chocolate cake from Duncan Hines.
Step two: Substitutions! Replace milk for water, melted butter for oil, add one extra egg for richness and pour in a box of dry instant pudding mix in a similar flavor, I used chocolate fudge. (Side note: It might be really fun to try pistachio or banana in a white cake for a not so traditional twist… just sayin’)
Step three: Bake time! Follow the directions on the back of the box and preheat the oven… then when you put your cake in, reduce the oven temp by 25* and increase the bake time by a few minutes. I also use homemade “bake even” strips… I ripped up an old towel, and tied the dampened strips around the cake pan. This allows the edges to stay cool as it bakes and it bakes more even and then you sometimes don’t even have to level the cake at all!
For this cake use 8″ or 9″ rounds and spray with Pam, or butter and flour them, but for chocolate cake use cocoa powder so your dark cake doesn’t have white blotches.
Remove the cakes from the pans and let cool on a rack. After the cake is cooled, place the rounds in the fridge for an hour or more to firm up, it makes handling the cake that much easier later.
While your cake is baking or cooling or whenever you find the time, make your caramel. It’s gonna need time to cool down too so get to it second. Also remove 2 sticks of butter from the fridge for the frosting.
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/8 cup light corn syrup
- 1 cups heavy cream
- Coarse salt
- 1 stick cold butter, cut into tablespoons
Start by taking a really heavy, large saucepan… the biggest one you’ve got cuz this can have a tendency to boil over and it’s a huge mess to clean up later. Don’t mess with burned sugar. You can omit the corn syrup if you want, but just make sure you add a bit more water. I’ve done it both ways and it came out the same.
To your heavy saucepan, over medium high heat, add the sugars and water and stir to combine, and then just leave it be. Every now and then you might need to kind of nudge the sugars around if it doesn’t look like they are melting down, but other than that keep your hands off of it. It will start to melt down and liquify and then begin to turn an amber color. At this point you will also smell the beginning of burning sugar. It takes about 10-15 minutes. Don’t let it burn!
Remove the pan from heat and slowly stir in the cream, 1/4 cup at a time and mix until incorporated. It will spatter so be careful. Once smooth, put it back on the heat for another 2-5 minutes (or until it reaches 238*). This is when it will boil over. It should look very bubbly and creamy. Once again remove from heat and add a generous pinch of flake salt. Not table salt!!! Use a kosher salt flake. Morton’s or Maldon works fine. Let the caramel mixture cool for a few minutes and then add the butter in a few tablespoons at a time, stirring to incorporate it all together. Let it sit and cool for at least 30 minutes.
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- Coarse salt
- 1 bag semisweet chocolate chips, melted, and cooled
Take the cocoa powder and add a bit of warm water to it, about 2 tablespoons and let it dissolve. Set aside. On a mixer with a whisk attachment, cream the butter, sugar and salt until pale and fluffy. Add cooled chocolate mixture to the butter and mix again. Add cocoa mix and whip until fluffy. Cool in the fridge until ready to frost.
Once you’re ready to frost, trim the cakes so the tops are level, if needed. Place the bottom cake layer on a cake plate and drizzle the caramel sauce over the cake. Spread with an off set spatula until even. Repeat with remaining layers. (If you want more layers, you can slice the cake horizontally in half.) Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.
Frost with chocolate frosting and sprinkle with salt (optional). Devour.
Check out the littlest one eyeballing daddy for a bite… and how amused my husband looks while I take pictures of him eating. Heh…
Let me know if you make it and how it was! Are you as obsessed with salted caramel as I am? Cuz for real… it’s bad!