Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Caramel Cake with Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting

Remember the friend I talked about a  few posts back for whom I've made so many cakes? Well, a close mutual friend of ours has experienced a couple of these cakes, but mostly has been living far away out of state while her husband completes his fellowship. He has finally secured his permanent appointment at the University of Michigan, and while they are still going to be living far from Seattle, it is great that they at last know where they will be, and they are also moving one time zone closer than they were previously. Between moves, they stopped in to Seattle for visits to the grandparents, so I had the chance to make her a cake which she was kind enough to share with me.

I deliberately didn't take a picture of the whole cake, because my decorating was so disappointing, but you can see acceptable-looking glimpses in the slice pictured below. The more astute of you might recognize the Michigan colors which I replicated in a cake-sized "M" like their logo. My problem was using a blue frosting for the background which had separated in the heat (I know - a 93 day in Seattle!) and I didn't have time to cool it and rebeat it so I used it anyway, even though I should have just skipped it.

Unauthorized logo replication aside, the cake was quite tasty, and I especially appreciated what nice slices it made. I used the caramel cake recipe from America's Test Kitchen, which is really only a caramel cake because of the brown sugar frosting - which I skipped in favor of chocolate sour cream. But because these layers were designed to be frosted with with a thick and sweet frosting, and needs a cake that is firm and dense to "hold-up" to it, it was still a great choice to pair with chocolate. It is a very good, and relatively easy yellow cake recipe that can be well-adapted to multiple rich and strongly charactered toppings.

Caramel Cake
from America’s Test Kitchen

2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ t baking soda
¾ t salt
1 ½ cups sugar

4 eggs
2 tp vanilla
½ cup buttermilk

16 T unsalted butter cut into pieces, softened

Preheat oven to 350. Blend dry ingredients. Whisk wet ingredients. Drop butter into flour mixture until pea sized pieces form. Add half egg mixture, and mix to get rid of lumps, then add remaining half of egg mixture and blend about 15 seconds (trying to not add too much air, but to build structure – adding butter to flour is called “reverse creaming” technique as opposed to whipping butter and sugar, then adding flour to creamed butter.)

Grease and flour and line 2 9” pans with parchment. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cool completely.

The frosting received positive comments all around - I know the Wilton chocolate buttercream that Will and I love (because of that crackly crisco crust it gets) is too sweet for most of our friends and too unsophisticated for me to be proud of serving, while ganache was too rich and too elegant for a outdoor deck gathering. This sour cream chocolate frosting was just the right balance of chocolatey and sweet. Somehow it just wasn't my favorite, even though it was very stable, easy to work with and pipe, and had a nice smooth, shiny finish. I think it was just a little too creamy tasting! It had a bit of a slick mouth feel when perhaps I would have prefered something stickier. Nevertheless, I think it's just the right thing for some occasions, and this recipe is worth repeating. It would have been fine between the layers, but I did make a whipped ganache filling instead, with 1/2 cup whipping cream, 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

from Bon Appetit
8 ounces high-quality milk chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream
4 teaspoons light corn syrup

Place chocolate in large metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Add butter and stir until melted, then add sour cream and corn syrup and whisk until smooth. Let frosting stand at room temperature until thick enough to spread, about 20 minutes. 


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