The Cake So Nice I Made It Twice: Antique Caramel Cake

When my friend Dorothy recently invited us over for dinner to celebrate her birthday, I was all too happy to provide a cake. Originally I was planning to make Jon Barricelli's Hazelnut Cake with Praline and Milk Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, because my cousin Cindy had just made it and sent me a picture that looked incredible. But when I found out that another dinner guest had a nut allergy, I went back to the drawing board. I decided to try and avoid chocolate, since Dorothy's oldest son Alexander can't stand the stuff. So I went with the "Antique Caramel Cake" from Baked Elements.

This is one of the easier cakes from the guys at Baked. You beat butter until creamy; add granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat until fluffy; mix in eggs one at a time; and alternately add in flour and buttermilk. The last step is to dissolve baking soda in white vinegar and beat it into the batter. You divide the batter between two 8-inch cake pans and bake.

You make the caramel component of the caramel frosting by bringing brown sugar and butter to a boil and then stirring in cream. Once the mixture is cool, you beat room temperature butter with softened cream cheese and salt, and stream in the brown sugar mixture. Finally, you add in powdered sugar and beat the frosting until smooth.

The recipe also suggests drizzling on a little sweet and salty caramel sauce as a garnish -- similar, I suppose to the Baked Caramel Apple Cake (but there's no photo of the caramel cake in the cookbook). The sweet and salty caramel sauce is the same salted caramel that goes into the Sweet and Salty Brownie and the Sweet and Salty Cake -- which means that I have made it more times than I can count, since I make the brownie so regularly. I made the sweet and salty caramel sauce, but just served it on the side instead of using it to decorate the cake.

This cake is really good, and eating it with salted caramel sauce puts it into the category of spectacular.  (I ate my cake with just a small puddle of sauce on the side; several tasters doused their entire slice of cake with a generous pour.) The cake is very dense and finely textured, but springy and moist. The frosting is soft and luscious. While the cake and frosting are both sweet, the cream cheese in the frosting gives a nice tangy counterbalance. I can say there must be something quite special about this cake, because Dorothy's six-year old son Alexander -- the pickiest child I know when it comes to cake -- ate his entire piece, frosting and all. Meanwhile, his younger brother Liam -- who is generally indiscriminate when it comes to desserts -- left his piece virtually untouched. All of the adults cleaned their plates.

The day after Dorothy's birthday, our friends Jim and Colleen invited us over for dinner. They are both big fans of salted caramel, and I was still wistfully craving more caramel cake -- so I made the cake again. (There was one notable difference when I made the cake the second time. The first time I made the cake, the cake layers were quite flat and didn't require much leveling. I had used King Arthur all-purpose flour, because I had run out of White Lily, which is my standard baking flour. But I was able replenish my supply of White Lily before making the cake the second time. The cake layers made with White Lily rose significantly more, into rounded domes that required more leveling. The crumb was also a bit finer.)

It was just as good the second time around. Because this cake is only two layers, it's quite reasonable in size compared to many of the other Baked cakes that have three layers and won't even fit into a standard 5-inch tall bakery box. It's easier to make as well, so I'm sure I will be able to find plenty of excuses to make this cake regularly.

Recipe: "Antique Caramel Cake" from Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.

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Sally said…
Thanks for posting! My sister made this for me for a major birthday celebration (40!) but she made it dairy free - she's lactose-intolerant. It was good, but not great, and I suspected that it was due to the lack of dairy. I'll make it soon with plenty of dairy!