Since no one else in my family likes Pumpkin Pie as much as I do, my little sister Caroline (see below) and I decided to make another contribution to the dessert offerings. This Martha Stewart recipe for a Salted-Caramel Six-Layer Cake looked like a worthy challenge for two semi-talented bakers and so we could not say no.
Between the two of us, it still took about two hours to complete all the tasks involved, and there was a good bit of wait time in between steps. Since I had never made my own caramel before, I took this as a stellar learning opportunity. I also learned how to masterfully butter and line a pan (thank you, Martha). Originally, this is meant to be a six-layer cake, but Caroline and I simplified things by making two much larger layers of cake, a choice I recommend for future bakers. The best part about this recipe though, may be the fact that you end up with an incredible excess of caramel, perfect for jarring and distributing to friends as inexpensive Christmas gifts.
This cake turns out to be incredibly decadent. If you can finish an entire piece in one sitting, you should consider entering eating competitions.
One last note: safflower oil sounds exotic but you can most definitely purchase it from your local grocer at an affordable price point.
Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pans
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tablepoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons safflower oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 warm water
2 cups heavy cream
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
(You may also want a candy thermometer)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 and 2 tablespoons warm water
1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped, melted, and cooled
Garnish: flaked sea salt, such as Maldon
1. Preheat that oven of yours to 350 degrees.
2. Before you do anything else, butter and line your cake pans (two, most likely). For this step, cut out two rounds of parchment paper, measured to fit each cake pan. Butter the bottoms and sides of the pans, then place one paper on the base of each pan. Add more butter to the top of each parchment paper. Ta-da.
3. Sift together your flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and powder, and add in 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt. Mix on low with an electric mixer until it is just uniform.
4. Now add the eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla and 1 1/2 cups warm water. Continue beating.
5. Pour your batter into your two pans and bake! With two large rounds, they should take about 50 minutes total, but start checking after 40 minutes.
6. The next part is the best part. You get to make caramel. First, combine the sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup of water in a pan. Set to high heat.
7. Let this cook for about 15 minutes, until it reaches a luxurious deep amber.
8. Take it off the stove and carefully pour your heavy cream in, stirring it in fully.
9. Put the pot back on the stove and cook until your candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees. This will take about one minute.
10. Transfer your super-hot caramel-like product to a glass bowl, and stir in 1 teaspoon of coarse salt. Let it cool (for no more than fifteen minutes) and then add in two sticks of butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. This is kind of a time-suck but is super important to do right.
11. While your cakes and caramel cool, let them do their own thing and you can make the frosting. Combine cocoa powder with 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons warm water.
12. Beat in butter and sugar, plus a big pinch of coarse salt. Keep mixing until smooth and delicious. (Depending upon taste you can add a few more pinches of sugar).
13. Once the cakes are completely cool, top one cake with caramel and very carefully set the other cake on top. Refrigerate for one hour so the caramel can set.
14. The cakes should now be totally cemented together and it is time to frost!
15. Be sure to frost the cake generously on top, and get the sides as well.
16. Using the excess caramel, you can dribble caramel across the cake in whatever patterns you choose. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve, but be sure to cut small pieces. This cake is an undertaking to cook and to eat.