Caramel Cake

Advocate staff photo by LIZ CONDOMake a statement this Thanksgiving with this rich Caramel Cake.
Advocate staff photo by LIZ CONDOMake a statement this Thanksgiving with this rich Caramel Cake.

Cynthia LeJeune Nobles

ADVOCATE-TESTED RECIPE

Caramel Cake

Makes one (four-layer, 9-inch) cake. Recipe is adapted by Cynthia LeJeune Nobles.

3 cups cake flour

1 tbl. baking powder

¼ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. iodized salt

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 cups sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

1¼ cups buttermilk, room temperature

1 recipe Caramel Filling (recipe follows)

1 recipe Grandma Zaunbrecher’s Caramel Frosting (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil two (9-inch by 2-inch round) cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Oil the tops of the paper and dust insides of pans with flour.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

3. Using a standing mixer paddle attachment or a hand mixer, beat butter in a large bowl on medium-high speed until creamy. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating one minute between additions.

4. On low mixer speed, alternate flour mixture with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Divide batter between prepared pans and spread tops smooth. Bake until cakes spring back when touched lightly in the center and are starting to release from the sides, about 30 to 35 minutes.

5. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto a wire rack and remove parchment paper. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

6. To assemble: Slice each cake layer horizontally into two. Fill and top the four layers with Caramel Filling. Frost sides with Caramel Frosting.

7. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before slicing. Using a thin knife blade wet with warm water makes cutting slices easier.

Caramel Filling

Makes 2½ cups, enough to fill and top 4 cake layers. Recipe is adapted by Cynthia LeJeune Nobles.

12 tbls. (1½ sticks) unsalted butter

3 cups sugar

1 cup half-and-half

2 tbls. light corn syrup

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt butter over low heat then add sugar. Stirring frequently, cook until mixture is the color of light amber. Remove from heat and carefully add half-and-half, corn syrup and salt. Mixture will be grainy.

2. Return to heat and cook, without stirring, until softball stage (235 degrees). Remove from heat.

3. Stir in vanilla and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and almost of spreading consistency but still warm. Spread filling thinly between cake layers and on top of cake.

Grandma Zaunbrecher’s Caramel Frosting

Makes 2½ cups. Recipe from the late Josephine Cramer Zaunbrecher is provided by Cynthia LeJeune Nobles.

1½ sticks unsalted butter

1½ cups light brown sugar, packed

1 tbl. light corn syrup

1⁄ 3 cup evaporated milk

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2½ cups powdered sugar, sifted

1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, bring to a boil butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, evaporated milk and salt. Cook exactly two minutes without stirring.

2. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and powdered sugar. Beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until smooth and beginning to firm.

3. Continue beating with a wooden spoon until frosting reaches spreading consistency but is not completely cool. Frost cake immediately.

Poured Caramel Icing

Makes enough to cover two (8- or 9-inch single-layer) cakes. Recipe is adapted by Cynthia LeJeune Nobles.

2 single cake layers, cooled

½ cup dark brown sugar, packed

2½ cups light brown sugar, packed

1½ cups half-and-half

2 tbls. light corn syrup

¼ tsp. salt

2 tbls. unsalted butter

1½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

1. Place cake layers on a large rack set over a baking sheet to catch drips.

2. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add dark and light brown sugars, half-and-half, corn syrup and salt. Stir over medium heat until simmering. Reduce heat to low. For caramel that remains soft, cook until 225 degrees on a candy thermometer. For caramel that sets up harder, cook up to 230 degrees.

3. Remove from heat and immediately add butter and vanilla. Stir with a wooden spoon until thick but still warm and pourable. Divide between cake layers and spread, allowing to flow down sides. If caramel hardens before pouring, add a little milk and heat gently. Cool until icing is firm before removing cakes to platters.

Note: Store extra icing in the refrigerator. Gently reheat to serve over ice cream.