Posts tagged caramel
Monday, March 2, 2009

sweet and salty cake

sweet and salty cake

Sometimes a cake is just a cake. You bake it, frost it and then serve it forth to your friends. Everyone loves the cake, of course, and within half an hour you have an empty serving platter with a few loose crumbs; everyone content and grateful for your homemade creation. Sometimes however, a cake turns into a test of your will and persistence and creativity and sheer reluctance to quit. This is such a cake. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In this particular case, I had promised to bake a cake for a friend. But I also promised to wow and impress. I’ve long been waxing poetic about salted caramel and so I knew exactly the cake I wanted to make. To me, salted caramel is one of the most seductive foods. I am certain I can be wooed with very modest offerings of salted caramel, herring and cilantro – some things just make a girl weak in the knees. I’m convinced there’s not a soul out there who doesn’t love salted caramel. And if loving salted caramel is wrong, I don’t ever wanna be right.

sweet and salty cake

As some of you know, I’m fairly new to this cake-making business. My first foray was earlier this year with the peanut butter chocolate cake, soon after followed by the chocolate dulce de leche cake. And both were fairly straightforward and simple. I had few issues and little to complain about and the end product, in both cases, was a stunner. So I had few concerns going into this recipe. Hoo boy! Was I in for an experience. My quiet humming (something I often do when I am cooking) was soon switched out for the kind of language that typically graces Tarantino films. Let’s just say I’m pleased no children were present in the vicinity to hear my unladylike language.

sweet and salty cake

And as irony would have it, for someone who was asked in her chemistry class to skip lab in order to pass (let’s just say I was a bit of a hazard with beakers and Bunsen burners), I marvel at my fascination with baking and being exacting and thorough. Sometimes it’s a breeze and everything comes together beautifully. And sometimes, when you think you’ve done everything right, something doesn’t quite work and you try to figure out what specifically went wrong (this is the part I’m particularly bad at). This cake was a kind of experience when many a thing didn’t quite go according to plan, but I am better and wiser now for it, but there was a moment when I was tempted to dump the whole thing in the trash can and call up my friend and say, “Screw cake. I’m bringing pizza”

sweet and salty cake

I am tempted to rename this cake as “I’m Going to Tear Hair Out of My Head and Curse Like a Sailor Cake”, but I think that would be too long a title. I’ll keep the original and instead include a few notes that might help you have a less stressful experience than the one I had. Isn’t that nice now, you get a recipe AND some pointers in how to avoid the insanity? I will add my notes to the recipe in italics – so when you see that you will know this is my commentary.

To say this cake was delicious, would be inaccurate. It was quite possibly the most heart-stoppingly amazing cake I’ve had in awhile. And if your heart doesn’t skip a beat because the cake is decadent and rich, it might do so simply because the chocolate caramel whipped ganache contains four (4!) sticks of butter. I cannot tell you enough how fussy and time-consuming this was and how much, in the middle of this project I didn’t regret it. But looking back if I was asked to make this cake all over again, I absolutely would, hopefully this time with less anxiety and curveballs if only because I’m going to use a few of my own learned pointers, which I hope will help you as well, in case you are feeling particularly self-punishing and want to recreate the magic in your own kitchens.

sweet and salty cake

Serve this cake in the tiniest of slivers as it is quite intense and filling. A glass of milk will not only enhance the cake, but for a moment, make you forget about all the pain and suffering you’ve endured at the hands of this towering confection – which will be exactly what you need to enjoy the rest of your night.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that something was decidedly in the air when I was making this cake. The only pictures I had on my photo card were the ones of the already-made cake – the others have mysteriously vanished. Gone. As if they never existed in the first place. So all I have for you are these mediocre finished product shots. You get none of the in-process pictures, which were not half bad. And because I quickly sensed this cake was tricky, I took very detailed step-by-step photographs to walk you though this recipe carefully. But somehow the gods of cake-making must have decided against to play a practical joke on me because I should be really presenting you with “I made this cake, but all I have to show you are these pictures.” T-shirt. Yes, I know, I’d feel cheated too. I owe you one.

Continue reading sweet and salty cake.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

fleur de sel caramels

Fleur de Sel Caramels

I’ve been trying to start this piece for you, not sure where to begin. I mean, I could have just apologized for throwing another sweet concoction your way, but I’m not going to do that. Because, why would I tell you I’m sorry about telling you that you must make these now, when you are just bound to thank me later. Consider this an early present to those of you whom I cannot reach and physically present with these caramels, but a few friends and all coworkers did get a chance to sample these and the overwhelming response has been, and this is all you’ve made for us? Isn’t there more??

mmm... butter....butter and cream... this is so not low fat - ha!

Perhaps I have struggled with writing this because I don’t know where to begin or how to end. These caramels are beyond decadent and when you taste them, it’s the tiny conflict on your tongue between the salty and the sweet that makes them so irresistible. To have just one and not reach for another is a near impossibility.

while dissolving the sugar, stirbubbling caramel - it is clear at first
getting to that golden colorafter adding the cream and melted butter, the caramel bubbles

I cannot tell you how amazing these are because they are beyond words. Something about salty caramels that transcends mere language. But luckily, where words have failed me, the pictures, hopefully rise to the occasion and tell you what I, frustratingly, cannot.


As I have recently learned (the hard way), caramel should be made in a heavy gauge pot that is preferably not a non-stick. The lighter metal ones are perfect; just make sure your sides are tall enough for the caramel to bubble when you add butter and cream to it. You can also use your cocotte for it if you like, as it’s amazing at distributing heat. Be careful not to mix your caramel when you are cooking it, but gently swirl the mixture from one side to another from time to time. And watch and smell for that deep, deep amber color. You might also find that these seem a bit too soft at room temperature, which is fine as you can just keep them in the fridge, as I did. Not only does their consistency improve, but they have a longer life-span, not that you will have these hanging around much if you’re anything like me.

Fleur de Sel Caramels

In retrospect, looking at these pictures, I think I should have cooked the caramel even a hint longer, but it turned out fine enough for this time around. I am still learning how to get it just right, and since salted butter caramel is not a hard thing to enjoy, I think I can just go on making these indefinitely. I know of quite a few people who won’t have a problem with it. That is – if I choose to share.

Continue reading fleur de sel caramels.