Daring Bakers: Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

You know it is going to be an exciting Daring Bakers challenge when the words "very dangerous" and "for safety reasons" are in the baking instructions. I've been mentally preparing myself for this recipe all month. And, I am happy to say I came out virtually unharmed.

First, let me give a nod to Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater for this recipe. The direct link to her recipe is here. Also thanks to the November hosts: Dolores of http://culinarycuriosity.blogspot.com/, Alex from http://blondieandbrownie.blogspot.com/, Jenny from http://forayintofood.blogspot.com/, and Natalie from (http://glutenagogo.blogspot.com/.

I decided to make these as cupcakes. Just easier to share that way. I also opted not to do the extra challenge: the caramels. I remember the horror stories my Aunt Janie would tell me of the caramels she makes every year for Christmas. If I am feeling brave enough, I might attempt those in December. Otherwise, I am content just to make the caramel cake.

These cupcakes turned out very moist and heavy. You can do curls with them. I also didn't care much for the frosting...it is very sweet. It was suggested that you should add salt to the frosting to help cut the sweetness. I sprinkled the cupcakes with crushed peanuts and coarse sea salt. The salt works wonders!

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tin with paper cups. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy. Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform. Sift flour and baking powder.Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into muffin tins and bake for about 15 min. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

Caramel Syrup

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)

In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers.
Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

Caramalized Butter Frosting

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light.


Thanksgiving Sneak Peek & TWD

I don't think I have ever been so excited for Thanksgiving as I am this year. Jeff and I are busy packing up the Vanilla Bean kitchen and bringing it to the Lake of the Ozarks. After pouring over dozens of recipes during the last month, we finally came up with a menu. I wanted to keep things relatively simple...it is a vacation after all. The following won't keep us trapped in the kitchen all day:

Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey, brined in Williams Sonoma seasoning
Sausage Apple Dressing, adapted by Vanilla Bean from the Food Network
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Everday Food
Honey Glazed Carrots, Everday Food
Chocolate Pie, Kraft Foods
Thanksgiving Two-fer Pie, Dorie Greenspan, Baking From My Home to Yours

For leftovers, we will be making Turkey Croquettes, Martha Stewart, and Turkey and Cranberry Ravioli, Giada De Laurentiis. All recipes and photos will be posted when we return, so stay tuned!

Our first task is the brine. Thanks to the Pioneer Woman for her suggestion on the Apple and Spices Turkey Brine at Williams Sonoma. It smells awesome and includes apples, sea salt, juniper berries, star anise, garlic, bay leaf, lemon peel and other spices. Here it is....looking all delicious. We are brining it in a bag for about 36 hours.

Also, here is a peek at the Two-fer pie for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. It was chosen by Vibi from La Casserole Carrée. You can find the recipe on her blog. I made a smaller version of the pie...about 7 inches. Basically, it is a combo of pumpkin and pecan pie. I don't think mine layered quite how it was supposed to. It looks awesome, though. I'll let you know how it tastes after tomorrow! Happy Thanksgiving!


Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons

Everyone is doing it. Butternut Squash Soup. Acorn Squash Soup. One of the best is at Eleven Eleven Mississippi. This was my first time making it at home and this is a great recipe. I found it on one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen. The actual recipe came from Bon Appetit magazine.

I made some alterations to the recipe. Since Jeff won't eat squash (no matter how much I try to convince him that it is yummy) I halved the recipe. I used one acorn squash and I roasted it in the oven first for about 45 min. on 350 degrees (or whatever it said on the label). I am not sure I liked the cumin in the soup...next time I will probably try it without.

Winter Squash Soup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 14 1/2-ounce cans low-salt chicken broth
4 cups 1-inch pieces peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
4 cups 1-inch pieces peeled acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 cup whipping cream

Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth, all squash and herbs; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Working in batches, puree soup in blender. Return soup to same pot. Stir in cream and sugar; bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
(Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.)

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
24 1/4-inch-thick baguette bread slices
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage

Preheat broiler. Butter 1 side of each bread slice. Arrange bread, buttered side up, on baking sheet. Broil until golden, about 1 minute. Turn over. Sprinkle cheese, then thyme and sage over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until cheese melts, about 1 minute. Ladle soup into bowls.
Top each with croutons and serve.


TWD Comeback

Things have been quiet in the Vanilla Bean kitchen lately. Believe it or not, it is pretty time consuming searching for new and exciting recipes. Not to mention the grocery shopping, the actual time spent in the kitchen, setting up the camera equipment, and writing the witty commentary. Frankly, it is exhausting. To top it off, the largest event I plan was held this past Saturday. Finally I have my life back. First order of business, Tuesdays with Dorie.

I am not excited about the November line-up. If I can't get my husband or co-workers to eat it, I don't want to make it. Instead of missing another week, however, I decided to make a past recipe. I chose the Chocolate Whopper Malted Drops as chosen in September by Rachel of Confessions of a Tangerine Tart. You can find the recipe on her site.

Probably the most important thing is that Dorie neglected to put an oven temp in the recipe. After looking at all of her other cookie recipes, I chose 350 degrees (most were made at that temp) and they turned out fine. Delicious, in fact. The cookies have chopped malted milk balls, chocolate chunks, and cocoa powder. They went perfect with a glass of milk. And, tonight I am warming them up and putting them on some ice cream.