Saturday, 29 November 2008

Pat A Cake, Pat A Cake



Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake,
Baker's Man!
Bake me a Cake
As fast as you can!

Pat it, and prick it,
And mark it with D,
Put it in the oven
For the Daring Baker's and me!




Yes, its THAT time of the month again! Welcome to the November, 2008 Edition of The Daring Bakers! The once a month baking group that challenges itself to . . . once a month . . . stretch their baking skills and go beyond the limits of their comfort zone, baking a different, luscious and demanding creation each time. I've belonged to this lovely group for over a year now, and during that year I have seen myself bake some lovely things such as Baby Boston Cream Pies, Yule Logs, and even Pizza. (You may recall my All Day Breakfast Pizza from last month!) This month's challenge was no less delightful. Our hostess has been Dolores of Chronicles In Culinary Curiosity, and the recipe she chose to challenge us with was a delicious caramel cake by Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater, with an optional challenge of Alice Medrich’s Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels.



One of the first things we had to do in order to make this cake was to make our own caramel. Caramel has always scared me a bit. Anytime you are working with HOT sugar you should be a little bit afraid. Hot sugar sticks to the skin and really BURNS!! I still have visions of Home Economics back in Grade 10 when we were making divinity fudge and a pass of my spoon through the sugar mass, found my fingers getting a bit too close to the hot mixture and some getting caught between the end of my finger and my fingernail . . . an excruciatingly painful experience! You need to have a lot of respect for hot sugar syrup. But, that's not what scares me most about making caramel . . . it's the fact that it can turn from caramel to burnt sugar in a matter of seconds! I usually have to do it more than once, but I'm happy to say that this time I managed it in one try!



The cake itself was a bit of a doddle, as long as you had all your ingredients at room temperature. I decided at the outset that I was going to do cupcakes, and the recipe yielded 12 medium cupcakes, that took about 35 minutes to bake to a lovely golden brown.

The icing was really different. It required browned butter. I'm a bit of an expert at burning butter, but browning butter I had not really done . . . another step up on the learning curve.

I kept the burner on high under the butter, and kept a close watch on it the whole time. As soon as I saw the slightest hint of a brown colour appearing in one corner I turned the burner off and slowly swirled it over the heat until it was all evenly golden brown, and once that happened, I immediately removed it from the burner all together. I then strained it through a fine tea strainer and into a small bowl to cool.



The icing went together like a dream and my . . . oh my . . .
D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S doesn't begin to describe it. This Caramelized Butter Frosting is to die for!!!

I piped the frosting on top of each cake, and then used some of my precious gold glitter and golden dragees to decorate the tops of each baby cake, giving them a wonderfully festive and glittery touch. (I had orignally thought to fill each one with some delicious Dulce De Leche, but will have to save that trick for another time. )



All in all, my cakes were a huge success and a delight to all who got to savour them! I managed to master several new baking techniques and had a lot of tasty fun in the process. That's what being a Daring Baker is all about after all, growing your skills and having fun along the way!

Be sure to check out DARING BAKERS BLOG ROLL to see all the other completed challenges! There's bound to be some really lovely creations. It always amazes me to see just how creative and innovative some of these lovely gals can be!



*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 180*C/350*F. Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

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 prepared cake pan.Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. 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 water1
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. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}**Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

*CARAMELIZED 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

(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

I didn't get around to making these, but for those who are interested, here's the recipe for the Caramels:

*GOLDEN VANILLA BEAN CARAMELS*
- makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels -

Ingredients:
1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

EquipmentA 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer

Procedure:
Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.)

Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305*F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305*F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245*F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265*F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm. Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.

Variations:

Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.
(recipe from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert)

26 comments:

Starr said...

Those are unbelievably beautiful. Cami's birthday is Tuesday & I've been planning to make our regular family birthday cake recipe for school cupcakes. I think that frosting may be the substitute to frosting-in-a-jar that I've been needing!

Isabelle said...

tes cupcakes sont vraiment superbes :) belle réalisation !

Engineer Baker said...

Perfect! Love the dragees. And I think browned butter frosting will again be in my future, because it really was fantastic. Dulce de leche might have taken it over the top, so good idea leaving it off this time.

Sheryl said...

Oh, my goodness, I can imagine those beauties in a high end bakery window. So beautiful, and tasty as well! I could reach right in and take one!

marye said...

MArie- you did a beautiful job! They look very classic and festive....Elegant even!

Raquel said...

Ok now I will be drooling all day!!!! You did a superb job, as always! Lovely presentation. Much love, Raquel XO

Judy said...

Beautiful cupcakes! I love the gold dragees on top.

Di said...

Lovely job on this month's challenge! I thought about cupcakes, but went with a big cake after all. I love your decorations. I've been wanting some dragees, but so far have resisted the temptation to buy them. =)

Erin said...

Your cupcakes look beautiful!

Amy said...

I've got nothing original to say, but....those cupcakes are BEAUTIFUL!!

Jan said...

They look really yummy Marie!

Grammy Staffy said...

Hello dear,
Loni and I were just looking at your post today and we have decided to try to make this yummmy looking cake together. It is our last day here (sniff..sniff)and we wanted to do something special together.

So picture in you mind, Lonica and me making your cake in Lynells lovely kitchen. We will have you with us in our hearts. I wish that you were here with us to be our caramel making chef teacher. I hope that we won't mess it up.

Wish us luck. Love, Lura

Tina said...

glad to hear you are back baking and making such amazing things! I can just taste those cupcakes!!! yummmmmmmmmmm.
and while I was drooling over the pictures and your very descriptive words, I was enjoying your Christmas playlist!
hugs
tina

Mary Ann said...

After seeing all the wonderful cakes, I am really wishing that I would've made the time for this challenge! Your cupcakes look lovely and I am sure they tasted delicious.
btw, great pick for Craving Ellie- I already made it and loved it!

vibi said...

Beautiful job, Marie... I'd kill for golden beads, never seen them before!
They match the caramel theme perfectly!

Gina said...

Your cupcakes are *so* beautiful! I love the gold dragees on them! And I'm with you on how delicious the icing for this cake was. I actually made cupcakes again on Wednesday for my mother's birthday.

The Blonde Duck said...

Those look fabulous! I hope you're feeling better today! Bitty is licking my fingers as I type this!

pinkstripes said...

Your cupcakes are gorgeous! I love challenges and this was a perfect opportunity for them.

TeaLady said...

Your cupcakes, Marie, are beautiful. I am so glad yours turned out. DB is fun, isn't it.

HoneyB said...

Your cakes look awesome!

swmpgrly said...

i wish I could reach in and grab one...lol

Gloria said...

Marie, your cupcakes are absolutely amazing and beauty!!!! Love them,xxxGloria

Claire said...

Your cupcakes are PERFECT! I think you got the timing just right. Great job!

Rosie said...

Beautiful cupcakes ~ you did a great job!

Sandy said...

Wow, wow..so many links, such beautiful photos! I should make your blog a daily round or I'll never get caught up. I could look at your photos all day.

Dolores said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed our tribute to sugar last month. You'll have to let me know how your dulce de leche version turns out when you get around to baking it... sounds delightful. Thanks for baking with us.