This year I made the G man a non-dinosaur-themed cake, which I kind of regret. The project didn’t go very well all in all, though the end result was good and I that is the most important thing. Still, I was sad not to have made a better job of it.
I followed this recipe for Caramel Cake and I hate to say that I didn’t do that well. First I decided to follow the amounts. Then, part of the way through, I decided that it wouldn’t be enough and I should double it. Even then, the amount wasn’t really big enough for my food mixer so I had to work it by hand, which is fine but did make it all more time consuming. In fact, I’ve started the story half way through – *first* I made the caramel syrup, which took a long while over the much maligned electric hob because it’s hard to find and keep the right temperature with the old leccy, and then I browned the butter for the frosting, and promptly melted my long suffering sieve, which frankly should have melted a long time ago as I tend to be quite punishing of my kitchen equipment…
On the plus side, I took some action shots of my mixer mixing (before I took the bowl out and finished the cake manually). I quite like the look of them, check it out:
I also took several photos of the caramel syrup as it thickened and darkened. I’d never made a syrup in this way before; the recipe calls for you to heat the sugar and water until it’s almost smoking, then quickly add cold water to stop it from burning, then to continue heating and stirring until it’s thickened again. I was a bit worried about splashing myself with the caramel but took some sensible precautions, including a mid-forearm length oven glove that would more appropriately be called an oven gauntlet, and a towel draped over the other arm. I also used the pot lid to mostly cover the top of the pot, leaving a gap at the back to pour in the cold water. It worked fine, and no caramel splashed out of the pot, let alone on to me to eat its way through my skin and bone like alien blood. I’m sure we can all agree that was a Good Thing.
Deciding to double the recipe was probably my main error, which then caused all the ensuing trouble. I put all the mix in to an eight inch springform tin to bake. What happened was that the edges burned while the middle was still raw. Frustration, thy name is too much cake in not enough cake tin. It’s quite a long name, that. This meant that I had to remove the burnt edges before icing the cake; it’s all very well having a nicely shaped cake, but if it’s burnt when you bite into it that spoils things somewhat. Once I’d taken the edges away, I sliced the cake horizontally to give the two layers. The cake wasn’t cool yet, but it was getting late and it had already taken me so long to get this far that I was in a bit of a rush. When I turned the top layer over, so that the dome of the cake would be in the middle, and the top would be perfectly flat, the warm, soft, fragile top layer cracked in half down the middle. I was less than amused, as I’m sure you can imagine. This is why you should always, always, always let your cake cool before you slice it. Always.
Look at the beautiful rich colour of that sponge though; that’s what adding a big load of caramel syrup will do for you!
By now I was pretty stressed. I just wanted to make a COMPLETELY PERFECT cake, was that too much to expect? Well, OK, perfection is probably a bit of an excessive expectation, I am only human, after all. Now I had a broken cake, and I had to fix it. Luckily I’ve had practise of fixing broken cakes – see here and here for the details. Oh and here. And here, too. Yes, I am well versed in the art of cake mending. Perhaps I should rename my blog The Cake Hospital?
So, what to do? Well, there was a quantity of browned butter icing to be made and applied to the cake. There are few things that can’t be hidden or at least improved by a large quantity of frosting, that’s something I’ve learned. Also it turns out that browned butter icing is extraordinarily delicious, and I’ll most certainly be making it again. Browning the butter adds such a depth of flavour to the icing. It doesn’t look like much on its own, right enough. In fact, judging by this picture, it looks a bit like the kind of puddle you wouldn’t splash in even if you were wearing your wellies. Once you add icing sugar, though, you start to get something wonderful. I didn’t add as much icing sugar as the recipe calls for, just enough to form a stiff icing. Then I added my own tiny stroke of genius, which was a pinch of smoked sea salt. Salt and caramel are like Romeo and Juliet but without all the suicide. By which I mean, they’re great together.
So, now we had one wonky caramel cake, held together and generally smothered in browned butter frosting. An improvement, no doubt about it. What next? Well, next I toasted up some coconut and some crushed almond slivers, and applied them liberally to the surface of the cake. It was now thoroughly in disguise. I added a big 40, in case the G man forgot what age he was, and his name, in case there was any dubiety over whose cake it was. As so often happens, in the heat of the cake repairing, I put the camera down in order to focus so we now jump from the semi-wreck above to this beauty of a cake!
This was good enough to present, though I still regret not making it dinosaur shaped. I was worried that it wouldn’t slice well but it really did, holding its shape beautifully, showing the lovely sweet frosting through the middle and that great golden colour of the caramel sponge.
Thus ends my tale of cake stress, and in the end there was a lovely cake to be scoffed after a few celebratory drinks and lots of raucous karaoke singing. I did my best Shirley Bassey impression. It went over well.