The Pantry: Caramel Cake—Part One

One of the biggest issues I have in the kitchen isn’t that I like to eat.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, eating is kind of important and no one that I know wants to eat food that doesn’t taste good, including me.  However, all too frequently, especially when I make things like this cake, I’m not baking it to eat it.  The biggest problem I have in the kitchen is that a lot of the time, I cook things just to see if I can.

Enter my Caramel Cake.  For many years, I’ve been staring at the Caramel Cake that our local grocery store offers.  I always take a peek at it when picking out birthday cakes, but I know deep in my gut that no one is really going to go for caramel and pecans on a birthday cake—at least not the little ones for whom the birthday cakes are being bought.  There is just something about that particular cake, though, that seems tasty.  The other day, we got the supplement to our local paper, which contains a few recipes each week, and lo and behold all of the recipes were for Caramel Cake.  The picture of Nathalie Dupree’s cake straight from their file folders set me to thinking, I can do this.  I shouldn’t do this, but I have all of the ingredients.  I can do this.

So…I did.

Not really liking any of the recipes I saw—too many ingredients, too complicated for what I wanted, just not right—I started looking for a new cake recipe that I could make my starting point.  Yellow cake seemed okay, but if it was going to be a caramel cake, then it should be a little more caramel-like.     I eventually settled on a recipe from the My Recipes site as a guide for my cake.  With a little tweaking, it’d be great.

Now for the frosting.  I didn’t want a tough layer of caramel, which is mostly what the recipes I was finding provided.  The Caramel Cream Cheese frosting on the My Recipes site seemed promising, but I didn’t have any cream cheese and…I don’t know…something about caramel and cream cheese just didn’t quite sit right with me.  Maybe it’d be amazing, but…no.  Not a fan of butter creams, normally, I realized that a caramel butter cream frosting was what I needed; however, every recipe was ridiculously complicated, and there was no way I was cooking egg whites to make a frosting for a cake that I strictly didn’t have to make.  Whatever happened to just mixing butter and powdered sugar together?

Again, I searched, and I did find some simple recipes. Most of what I found suggested adding store-bought caramel sauce to the butter and powdered sugar, but I didn’t have store-bought caramel sauce.  But, wait, I’ve made caramel about twelve different times and ways, and Annie from Annie’s Eats just did a caramel sauce for ice cream the other day.  I could do that, and add it to the basic butter cream.  So I looked up her recipe, and I quailed.  Yes, like, I totally used the world quailed, ‘cause it’s totally what I did.  I’ve always made caramel by melting sugar and water together—there’s something about the water that makes it seem better.  Here, she was telling me, just melt a big, old pile a sugar in the bottom over your thick sauce pan.  Huh?  Without water?  You want me to do what?  At this point I was uncomfortably aware of the 2-½ inch scar on my left arm—a parting gift from some very hot caramelized brown sugar almost seven years ago.  I haven’t made Monkey Bread since.  The thing was, though, I had all of the ingredients—except the vanilla bean, and I’m not paying $10 for 2 vanilla beans that have been sitting on Walmart’s shelf for heaven knows how long because no one else is going to pay $10 for them either.  But I do have vanilla extract, so it’ll all be okay.

This is all to say that this is how I found myself Friday morning in the kitchen, during the little one’s nap time, covered in cake flour, making a cake of which I really only wanted a little slice.

Hello, my name is M, and I have a cooking addiction.

Recipes and photographs coming up–soonish.

EDIT:  And they’re up.

Caramel Cake: the Cake, the Caramel Sauce, the Caramel Butter Cream Frosting, and Assembling the Cake 

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