Shuna Fish Lydon's Caramel Cake, to be specific. Along with our hosts Dolores, Alex, Jenny, and Natalie (for those GF DBers out there), Shuna had us making caramel syrups, browning butter, and whipping up a cake "that is truly about baking." Uhh... little did I know that all those other cakes I made didn't have a thing to do with baking? Well, my initial skepticism disappeared after seeing some of the problems that people had - curdled batter, burnt caramel syrup, solid caramel syrup, collapsing cakes, unbaked cake centers... Yikes!
My solution? I actually made the cake before the last week of the month - I know! I've never done that, mostly because the challenges haven't taken too incredibly long. But after seeing so many people redoing the recipe, remaking the caramel syrup 1, 2, or even 3 times, I... umm... got a lil scared. You see, I'm not a really exciting baker. And my favorite things to bake aren't very fussy - bread, cookies, etc. Layer cakes have so many things that can go wrong, and really, what's so bad about a sheet cake with standard frosting when you want a little cake?
Luckily, I was stuck. I'm a Daring Baker, darnit! I have to make the caramel cake. It's a requirement, and if everyone else has to struggle through, I do too. So I rolled up my sleeves, pulled out my ingredients, and... revised the recipe. I just halved it, okay! Nothing really big, but what was I supposed to do with a 9" two-layer cake?!? There was only one tense moment actually during the entire assembly - I had forgotten to bring my milk to room temperature, which slightly curdled the batter. Well, it was already mixed up, so into the mini springform it went. With my fingers crossed. Because I'm rational like that. (Operators on the floor have asked if I spent thousands of dollars to go to a fancy engineering school to learn how to cross my fingers. Seriously.) There was a little extra batter after filling the pan 2/3 of the way full, so into a little 7 oz ramekin it went.
Honestly, I have no idea how long it baked, because I was browning butter by that point in time. And guys, there was room in my brain for only one thought - "Why have I never browned butter? OMG, I must brown butter ALL THE TIME. SOOO GOOD!" With a hefty dose of the caramel syrup and enough powdered sugar to get it to a spreading consistency, I realized that I would have to frost the cake asap so that I didn't eat the browned butter frosting by itself. Or at least not all of it. Out popped the cake from the springform (next time, I'd butter and flour the pan, it stuck a bit), cooled, split, and frosted.
As decoration, I was going to make Alice Medrich's Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels, but unfortunately the heavy cream that was destined for them was repurposed for whipped cream on Thanksgiving. What can I say? The boyfriend (and to be honest, me as well) can't have pumpkin pie without whipped cream. Lots of whipped cream. Byebye caramels, hello brittle. Pepita brittle. Love of my life. Seriously, this stuff is awesome. So complex, just | this close | to being burnt, sooo tasty.
The takeaway message? Make the frosting. Make the brittle. Dear lord, make the brittle. The cake? Eh, a little too fussy for not enough payoff. I'll stick with something simpler next time I need cake to slather that frosting on.
Seriously. Make the brittle.