Monday, November 14, 2011

Cake of the Week: Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Cake

I sat in my kitchen, carefully contemplating the carton of heavy cream, bags of chocolate chips, and sifted sugar sitting on my counter, mentally preparing for the molten sugar mayhem soon to ensue. I was making a chocolate birthday cake, but not just any chocolate birthday cake…a Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Cake!

It’s a question of semantics – this is not a milk chocolate cake frosted with salted caramel frosting. No-no. It is a chocolate cake with milk chocolate salted caramel frosting, aka there is chocolate and salted caramel in the frosting. (Feel free to swoon here. Just come back and keep reading when you return to consciousness.)

This process involves melting sugar and praying it works, as all things with caramel do…

But first let’s rewind a day to the actual cake-making. I used my favorite Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe (recipe below), made into three layers. I wrapped the cakes in plastic and refrigerated them overnight to make handling easier.

Then it was the aforementioned caramel time. My first mistake was not reading the recipe thoroughly enough. So kids -- DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO. The recipe says to stir the sugar until it boils, then leave it alone. I kept stirring, and after ten minutes the sugar began to crystalize and I began to panic. I averted this crisis by swirling the pan for a bit, which made the caramel return to normal-ish consistency.

My second mistake came with the addition of the cream. I poured in most of it at once, and the caramel immediately seized up into a rock hard sugary island in the middle of a lake of heavy cream. Noooooo! I whined to no one but myself. Gaaahhhhh what am I going to do??? I didn't have time to go back to the store for more heavy cream! So I took a step back, contemplated the situation, and decided I had nothing to lose so I may as well be patient and see if I could make this work.

I returned the pan to heat and stirred continuously, and hallelujah! the sugary ball began to dissolve into the cream.

From there on out it was smooth sailing. The recipe makes a lot of frosting and it is intensely delicious. I imagine that had I not made mistakes 1 and 2, the resulting frosting would have been smoother-looking.

But as far as taste goes, I have absolutely no complaints. The hint of salt balances out the sweetness of the chocolatey caramel and it is fantastic!

Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Cake

For the Vegan Chocolate Cake (recipe from Organic and Chic)
  • 2 1/4 cups organic all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups organic cane sugar
  • 1 cup organic unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon organic vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup organic canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons organic white vinegar
  • 2 cups cold water

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line three 9” round pans with parchment paper. (Warning: This recipe tends to stick, so I strongly suggest you go for the parchment paper.)
  3. In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, water, vanilla extract and vinegar.
  5. Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients being careful not to over-mix. The mixture will be quite wet, but that's ok.
  6. Pour the batter into all 3 pans evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove from pan and cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. I recommend putting cakes in the freezer for an additional 30 minutes before frosting the cake, it will make them easier to handle.

For the Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Frosting (recipe from The Slow Roasted Italian
  • 18 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 10 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks room temperature unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 Chocolate Cake recipe, recipe follows
  • Sea salt (or kosher salt) flakes

  1. Put your chocolates in a big bowl. Put the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and bring up to a boil. As soon that happens, stop stirring and let it boil until it turns an amber color, 8 to 10 minutes or so. (If you think that it needs another stir, brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, and stir the entire mixture, picking up the pot itself by the handle, being careful not to touch the caramel or else it could crystallize.) 
  2. Once the mixture reaches that dark amber color, turn the heat down. Stand back from the pot and add the cream very slowly, stirring with a heatproof spatula. (If you are nervous about the steam, wear a kitchen glove to protect your hand.) Continue to stir until all is incorporated.
  3. Once the mixture is smooth, stir in the fine salt. Take off the heat and pour the caramel over the bowl of chocolate.  Whisk to combine, making sure all the chocolate melts. Pop in the fridge for about 1 hour until completely chilled.
  4. Take the frosting out of the fridge and beat it with a hand mixer just until it becomes spreadable. Add the butter in pieces and mix until it's all combined. Pop back into the refrigerator for another hour.
  5. Place 1 cake layer on a cake platter, flat-side up. (You want the cake flat-side up so when you get into it you'll have nice and even layers.) Evenly spread 1 1/2 cups of the frosting over the top. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes (I did about ¼ teaspoon between each layer), then put cake layer #2 on top and repeat with the sea salt flakes. Top with cake layer #3. 
  6. Spread the rest of the frosting over the top and on the sides of the cake. Sprinkle the top with more salt flakes.