Friday, July 18, 2014

Black & White Salted Caramel Pecan Cake

I think I might need to take a little break this weekend.  I have been on a bit of a baking in between this week and last there have been 5 pies (2 apple, 1 lemon meringue, 1 chocolate peanut butter and 1 strawberry rhubarb), 3 mini apple crumbles, lemon bars, blueberry pie bars, cherry preserves and this cake.  Oh and we have two office birthdays on the same day next week.  Not saying I don't love it; just saying I might need to take a baking break this weekend.  It has been a lot for my little kitchen, and my hands are a bit tired of washing dishes.  

In between the baking though I have been trying to get "fit" this summer, and get ready for long bike rides (I am supposed to ride from Philadelphia to Atlantic City next weekend...say what?!?) and start training for long runs.  It's tough though!  It is seriously hot and humid in DC...I mean I am literally dripping when I get done with a morning run, and I am finishing by 6:30 AM!  But sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do...that or give up, which is not an option.  

Plus, let's be real I exercise so that every now again I can eat what I want, or at the very least to be able to not feel terrible about trying all of the desserts I bake.  This week I really tried to get back on the bike, save some gas, and bike to work.

The best part about a bike ride to work is watching the sunrise over the Potomac.  In the far left really small you can even see the Capitol Dome.

It is officially that season where ice cream is necessary, so Adam ordered the Uber ice cream car today.

Okay so about this cake...It was made for birthday, but not one in the office.  I got to put on my creative hat too, and was trying to think up something the birthday boy would enjoy.  I took into consideration cakes he has liked in the past and the fact that he grew up in North Carolina.  I ended up with two layers of vanilla cake, with a layer of devil's food cake in the middle.  Then in between the layers of cake there was salted caramel frosting, caramel drizzle and toasted chopped pecans.  I'll have to admit that I didn't get to taste the cake...I thought it might be a little rude to just cut a big old slice out the birthday cake.  I used my old stand by recipes though, and just created a new combination.

From the top...

But it's really the side profile that tells the story of this cake.

I even got my real camera out to take pictures of this cake.

Caroline took some pics for me of the cake and described the finished product:

"The amazingly delicious cake was a hit with all nut and non-nut lovers.  I don’t like nuts-but loved the cake!! I love simple. Vanilla cake, vanilla frosting= heaven. This cake looked simple with frosted top, naked sides, crushed pecans and salted caramel drizzle. It was gorgeous. That said, one bite and I noticed the complex flavors and textures...we all had a second piece. Yum.  Definitely, not your average birthday cake."

...I want to be eating cake by the water.

Black & White Salted Caramel Pecan Cake:
Devil's food cake layer:
4 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup strong coffee
1/4 cup whole or low-fat milk

1.  Line the bottom of three 9" round cake pans 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 cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, 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.  Next, add the 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. (Note: Start and end with the flour mixture.) pour the batter into one of the three prepared pans and spread out evenly.  Bake them for 20-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean in the middle, check after 20 minutes.  
 Let the cake cool in the pans.  While the devil's food layer is baking, prepare the vanilla cake layers. 

Vanilla Cake layers:
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
2/3 teaspoons salt
1 1/3 (11 tablespoons) sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/3 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  (You will be using two of the prepared baking pans for this recipe.)

2. In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. In another large bowl, cream together softened butter and sugar.

4. Add in eggs one at a time to the butter-sugar mixture, mixing well between each addition.  Then whisk in the vanilla.

5. Add dry ingredients and buttermilk to the wet ingredients, alternating between the dry ingredients and buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.

6. Pour the batter evenly into the remaining two pans, and give them a quick knock on the counter to remove the air bubbles. 

7. Bake for 24-28 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow to completely cool on cooling racks.  While the cakes are baking, prepare caramel frosting.

Almost Burnt Salted Caramel Sauce: (recipe courtesy of Joy the Baker adapted to make a smaller quantity) - I keep this caramel sauce on hand because it will last in your refrigerator for at least two weeks.
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.  While cakes 

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.  While cakes are cooling prepare the frosting.  It can be made a day before.

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
1/2 cup pecan toasted and chopped

1. 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 - 30 minutes, until it is just barely warm and still pourable.

2. 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.

3. 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.

To assemble the cake:  Cut off the top of the bottom layer (a vanilla layer), so that it is flat and place on cake plate.  Top the cake with a light layer of frosting, then drizzle with the caramel sauce and cover with a thin layer of pecans.  Next cut the chocolate layer so that it will lay flat and place on top of the bottom layer.  Repeat frosting and caramel sauce with pecans then top with remaining layer.  Frost with remaining frosting.  I frosted this cake so that it was "naked" aka frosted all the way on the top and then lightly frosted on the sides so that you could see all the layers.  If you want to cover the entire recipe you will need to double this recipe.  Serve and store at room temperature and Enjoy!

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