Daring Bakers' Challenge: Caramel Cake

Talk about creating a monster. This month, the focus is sugar. Caramelized sugar, to be exact. Now, sugar is an amazing thing. Despite the fact that it has a certain power over many of us, albeit subconsciously, the true power lies in its ability to change. Cooking sugar causes numerous changes to its molecular structure, and the changes continue with rising temperatures. At 235°, sugar is just right for fudge. At 270°, you're ready to make pulled taffy. At 300°, it's all about brittle.

But that's just sugar. What happens when you start adding things? Butter? Milk? Cream? Well, that changes everything. And thankfully, we had a real expert guiding us through this one. Our hosts this month, Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, Alex (aka Brownie) of Blondie and Brownie, and Jenny of Foray into Food got ahold of Shuna Fish Lydon (of Eggbeater among many others) for this challenge. Not only is Shuna's recipe (Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting) the challenge, she was gracious enough to hold our hands through this otherwise trepidant world of sugar. In fact, if you ever need to know something about baking, chances are, Shuna has talked about it on Eggbeater. Oh, and PS: Natalie of Gluten a Go Go provides the gluten free expertise for this challenge.

Thanks to Shuna, I followed directions this time around. Primarily because she said so. I don't know why this was different. A book says so, and I don't seem to listen, as if I seem to know better than that book. That tested book, that written by some culinary heavyweight book. I know better, sure. But when Shuna speaks, it's gospel, people. Yes, I'm being overly dramatic (but you wouldn't have it any other way).

Caramel (or, carmel - with some part of me still in denial that the proper is car-a-mel) is browned, cooked sugar often provided the addition of some sort of dairy. For this cake, and its cover, a caramel syrup was required. The syrup did not rely on the addition of dairy to stop the caramelization of the sugar, but water instead. So even if you decide that this cake is not for you, I implore you to make this syrup. It is essentially caramel simple syrup (though decidedly less simple than its antecedent) and would do well in anything from cocktails to fruit syrups to meat glazes.

But enough of that, back to the cake. It's only one layer. It doesn't need two. Okay, who doesn't need two, but the fact of the matter is, this cake, in two layers, may cause some sort of frenzied commotion amongst guests. So, for the sake of yourself and your loved ones, you may want to stick to just one. It is rich, buttery, and so, so moist. Strikingly moist. It almost didn't need the caramelized butter frosting.

What, what am I saying? Of course it needed the frosting. Browned butter sweetened with powdered sugar and more caramel syrup? What cake wouldn't love that? It was so good, I ate it by the spoonful, and there was still plenty for its intended use. Not to mention, it would be a great filling for sandwiched cookies or used just as butter on toast or pancakes. Or, as I said, it's just perfect on a spoon.

Please check out Shuna's post on Bay Area Bites, for the recipes used in this callenge.