Monday, November 5, 2012

An All Saints Day birthday

My sister was born on All Saints Day which is the day following Halloween. My mother always said that the witches dropped her by and I don't think this is true at all. I think she is just as sweet as she can be and being born on what I have heard described as the holiest day of the year, suits her perfectly. We almost always have a birthday dinner to celebrate.

When I asked my sister what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, she asked if I could make her a caramel cake. I didn't mind at all, but I had only ever made one caramel cake and it was only okay. That recipe was for a browned butter caramel icing and instead of browned, my cake icing was slightly burned and also turned out to be grainy. For this one, I used a different recipe. I don't think browning sugar is on my list of skills.

I made the cake first, by my normal yellow cake recipe but separated the batter into three layers, rather than two.

After the cake was done, I made the icing which is basically the same technique as making candy. I put all the ingredients into a pan and while stirring, let it cook until it reached 238 degrees or a soft ball stage.

I then took a hand mixer and mixed it until it was "less glossy" but really I only saw that it was a bit stiffer. I could not see that it was less glossy.

You do have to work a bit harder with the frosting which pours easily until it cools and then it kind of forms a shell.

My sister loved it and that was my goal. Here are the recipes.

Basic Yellow Cake

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

Add butter and sugar in a bowl and mix on medium until combined. Add remaining ingredients and beat until smooth. Divide batter into 2 or 3 9-inch cake pans sprayed with cooking spray and lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees until centers are firm and the cake begins to separate from the edges. It will take 15 to 18 minutes for three layers and 20 to 25 minutes for 2 layers. Allow to cool before frosting.

Caramel Icing

3 cups light brown sugar, packed
1-1/2 cup evaporated milk (or cream)
1-1/2 sticks butter
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
A pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring

Add all ingredients to a large, heavy saucepan and stir constantly until it reaches a soft ball stage, 238 degrees. Remove from heat and beat with a hand mixer until it cools a bit and icing is a bit thicker. Put first layer on serving plate and carefully ladle frosting onto cake. Be careful not to let it run off the sides. Working quickly with a spatula, spread and icing that drips down onto the sides of the layer. Add the next layer(s) and pour more on the top and carefully spread on the sides. It may be necessary to use warm water to dip the spatula in to help in spreading the icing. If the icing hardens too quickly it may be necessary to put the pan back on the burner, on low, until the icing becomes softer and easier to spread. If icing is allowed to cool it will be very difficult to spread onto the cake.

Decorator Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 pound confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
Milk (add by tablespoons until it is the proper consistency)
Food coloring, optional

In mixer bowl, add butter and beat until it is smooth. Add confectioner's sugar and vanilla. Beat mixture slowly and add milk by tablespoonfuls until it is the consistency of decorator's frosting. Fill a decorator bag with frosting and use to decorate the cake. Be sure the caramel icing is firm before decorating.

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