Friday, November 28, 2008

November Daring Baker Challenge: Caramel Cake and Vanilla Bean Caramels

I'm sick. My kids are sick - AGAIN! I am so sick of being sick. I am exhausted and my brain doesn't seem to be functioning. What does this have to do with the November Daring Baker challenge? Well, it is my excuse for a short, horribly put together, all around not so great post.

This month's challenge was a yummy caramel cake, which I happily made into cupcakes (decorating time is much shorter!). They were so delicious and my friends enjoyed them, too!

There was an additional optional challenge - Vanilla Bean Caramels. I did grind my own vanilla beans for these and probably should've made sure it was done better. There were some bigger pieces (nothing gross) in the caramel. But, they still tasted great and I will make this recipe again when I can find golden syrup. (I had to order it on EBay... too much to spend to make these regularly!)

Oh, and here is the information for the super cool new computer program that is going to check that I completed this challenge:

Caramel Cake Recipe Courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon
Recipe published from Bay Area Bites

Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111

Hosts/Co-Hosts for this month's challenge:
Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go
Now for the recipes:


10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F
Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
Sift flour and baking powder. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients.
Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.
Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.
When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}
Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste
Cook butter until brown.
Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.
Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month. To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light
(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels
1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened
A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F.
Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot. When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm. Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.


Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.


HoneyB said...

I'm sorry your sick (and your kids too!). Hope you feel better soon!

In any case, I would love to share one of those cupcakes! I didn't get to the challenge - haven't been home enough in the last week :(

Isabelle said...

wow ! c'est superbe ! beau travail :)

Megan said...

Oh, I'm sorry that everyone is sick - my husband just returned home from a business trip and he's sick again, too! Now I just have to keep myself from catching it.

The cupcakes look great and the caramels almost make me wish I had made them as well. I don't really like caramel so this wasn't a great month for me!

Engineer Baker said...

Being sick is no fun :( Kudos for getting both challenges in, the cupcakes look adorable and the caramels make me wish I had gotten that part of the challenge in too. Feel better soon!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Sorry you are not feeling well. Good job in sharing the challenge with us though!

sarah said...

feel better sweetie!! thinking of you n the munchkins - sending cyber chicken noodle soup, hot tea, and a warm hug - from momma n me

priscilla said...

yummy, cristine. your cupcakes lookd delicious. i have brothers and an sister who are sick too....hope you are all feeling better soon!

Debbie said...

Nice Blog... I love your profile pic. Feel better soon.

Renee said...

Your cupcakes look awesome, especially knowing that you don't feel well. I hope you feel better soon!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Hope you and your kids are feeling better now! Lovely cupcakes, the frosting looks so smooth!

Lori said...

I love this cake! A little sweet but oh so tastey. Your baby is oh so cute. Kind of makes me want another, (kinda).

Raquel said...

those caramels made me want to wish i had made that optional challenge. They look awesome---and i'm sure they taste wonderful, too. i wonder if those sugar-free syrup can be substituted for the golden syrup? hmmmm....

Anonymous said...

Your cupcake looks delicious. I was going to grind my own vanilla bean but I couldn't find them in my pantry. Of course, I found them the next day. :P

Amy said...

Wonderful job on the challenge - hope you all feel better soon.

Leslie said...

Oh noooo...a whole sick house! No fun at all! I hope you and the kiddos feel better!
I am glad you were still able to do the challange! great job!

Leslie said...

Oh noooo...a whole sick house! No fun at all! I hope you and the kiddos feel better!
I am glad you were still able to do the challange! great job!

Anonymous said...

Lovely cupcake & caramels. Hope your household is well soon!

Lauren said...

Ooo, your cupcakes and caramels look amazing! Hope you feel better soon =D!

Anonymous said...

Such beautiful cupcakes!! Great job on the challenge.

Claire said...

Oh, I do hope that you get better soon! Your cupcakes looks fantastic! Glad you liked them.

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