Friday, September 13, 2013

Deconstructed Turtle Cake

One of my simple joys in life is getting to bake for people, especially new people.  I love seeing their reactions when they try a dessert, because I like to view them as "semi-unbiased" taste testers. Last weekend I had the honor of baking a birthday cake as a surprise for the former CEO of a large health system in the northwest and a long time member of the company I work for.  I wanted to make something he would really enjoy, so I did a little baking detective work. I began by first asking his daughter what she thought I should make...something "turtle" or a hula pie was her response.  Then to get a second opinion I asked his about a chocolate mousse cake?  Since they ended up giving me very differing ideas, I called his admin who decided I should go for the "turtle" cake.

The result was this cake.  I thick single layer devils food cake, frosted just on the top with salted caramel frosting.  Then a layer of toasted chopped pecans drizzled with semi-sweet chocolate and salted caramel sauce.  This came out perfect moist, with fluffy frosting, crunchy pecans and the drizzle of chocolate and caramel on top, really make this a sort of deconstructed turtle cake.  This cake is very rich and full of flavor, but I knew it would be and that is why I left this cake naked on the sides.  This is the perfect cake for any one who likes chocolate, salted caramel and pecans...aka turtle candies.  Also, if cupcakes are more your thing, you could definitely turn these into cupcakes.  Either way, cake or cupcakes, both are delicious.  Enjoy!

This recipe required two types of caramel...both salted but slightly different.

Cake then salted caramel frosting.

Then toasted pecans, semi-sweet chocolate drizzled and salted caramel drizzled.

Deconstructed Turtle Cake:
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cold coffee
1/3 cup skim milk

Salted Caramel Buttercream:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick salted butter, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups powdered sugar

1.  Line the bottom of a 9" springform pan with parchment paper, and spray the sides with non-stick cooking spray.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees f.

2.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

3.  Using a whisk or a hand-mixer  cream together the butter and sugar.  Then whisk in the vanilla extract and eggs one at a time, until well mixed.

4.  Alternately add flour mixture and coffee/milk to the butter mixture, whisk between the addition of each just until combined.  Fill the prepared pan 2/3 full.  If you have extra batter, pull out a muffin tin and a couple of paper liners, and fill them 2/3 full.  Bake the can for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean in the middle, check after 35 minutes.  Bake the cupcakes for 16-20 minutes.  Let the cake cool in the pan, until mostly cool, then remove the outer ring.

5.  While cake is cooling, prepare the frosting, in a saucepan, stir together granulated sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cook without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color. Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring until very smooth.  Let caramel cool about 20 minutes, until it is just barely warm and still pour-able.

6.  With a hand mixer, beat softened butter and salt together until lightened and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar. Mix until thoroughly combined.

7.  Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the caramel. Beat on medium high speed until light and airy, and completely mixed. Mixture should be ready to use without refrigeration. If your caramel was too hot when added, it will cause your icing to be runny. If this happens refrigerate for 15-20 minutes. Frost cake once fully cooled. 

8.  Then top with toasted and chopped pecans.  Drizzle with melted semi-sweet chocolate.  I melted mine using a double boiler (aka metal bowl over sauce pan filled 1/4 full with water being heated over medium heat).  Then drizzle with salted caramel sauce(recipe below) or store bought caramel sauce.  Store this cake at room temperature in an airtight container until ready to be served.

Almost Burnt Salted Caramel Sauce: (recipe courtesy of Joy the Baker adapted to make a smaller quantity)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 tablespoon corn syrup
3 tablespoons good-quality salted butter
1⁄4 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1.  Place a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
Add the sugar, water, and corn syrup to the warming pan. Whisk the sugar occasionally as it begins to heat, to ensure that the sugar cooks evenly.

2.  Cook the sugar to a nice dark copper color. The sugar will go from golden to dark copper fairly quickly. To help control the sugar, turn off the heat and move the pot to a cool burner just before you reach the dark color you’d like. The bottom of the pan will still be hot enough to continue to cook the sugar.

3.  Over low heat, whisk butter, all at once, into the copper-colored sugar. When butter is melted, pour in the cream. The mixture will bubble and froth, but keep mixing. When bubbling subsides, add vanilla extract. Stir. The caramel might feel too loose. Don’t worry; it will thicken as it cools.

4.  Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. To thin, warm in the microwave for a few seconds until you reach the desired consistency.

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