Salted Caramel Cake
This was a birthday cake for a very good friend of mine who absolutely adores salted caramel! She is also incredibly talented at photography and some of her stunning work is displayed alongside.
As for the cake, this has a moist, tender crumb, with a salted caramel core (very satisfying!) and a sweet caramel icing. To counteract all this sweetness, I like to top this with a rich dark chocolate ganache - so delicious!
FOR THE CARAMEL
220ml double cream
1tsp vanilla extract
220g caster sugar
1tsp sea salt
FOR THE CAKE
220g vegetable oil
220g soft light brown sugar
2tsp vanilla extract
220g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1/4tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g natural yoghurt
FOR THE SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
2 egg whites
150g caster or granulated sugar
200g butter, cut into cubes and softened at room temperature
1tsp vanilla extract
150g salted caramel sauce (prepared earlier)
FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE
50g dark chocolate (aim for at least 60% cocoa solids)
50g double cream
FOR THE CHOCOLATE SHARDS
50g dark chocolate
15g milk chocolate
15g white chocolate
Firstly, make your caramel. Make sure you have everything for the caramel measured out first, as this can move very quickly!
Place your sugar in a large saucepan (do make sure it is big and deep) and cover with the water.
Place over a medium heat and be patient! Do not stir for the entire duration of this - simply swirl the pan briefly from time to time to ensure the heat is evenly distributed.
The sugar will begin to dissolve and bubble away. Eventually it will start to change from colourless, to an increasingly golden yellow colour. I find this can happen anywhere between 5-20 minutes, so do be patient! Just make sure you keep watching it, as burnt caramel is not pleasant.
Once the contents of the pan are an orange-yellow colour all over, immediately remove from the heat and pour in the cream whilst constantly stirring with a heatproof utensil. Keep stirring until all of the cream is mixed in, and the bubbles subside.
Stir in the butter, vanilla and salt whilst the caramel is still hot. Do not taste it at this point as it will be painfully hot!
Leave to cool slightly whilst you prepare your cake.
Next, make the cake. Preheat your oven to 170°C. Grease (either with a small amount of butter or oil) and line a 3lb loaf tin with a strip of parchment paper (it should line the base and overhang on the sides so you can lift the cake out later).
Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the oil and sugar until combined. Add the eggs one by one, mixing well between each addition. Add the vanilla and mix again.
Fold in half the flour mixture, followed by the yoghurt. Finish by folding in the second half of the flour mixture until just combined - cease mixing once you find no dry flour in the batter (especially at the bottom of the bowl - make sure you scrape with a spatula!).
Pour into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for roughly 50 minutes. Check it is done by inserting a skewer or knife - if any wet batter comes out, then return to the oven for another 5 minutes and repeat until your cake is completely cooked (it should come out clean).
Leave to cool completely before icing.
Next, make the buttercream. I'm afraid you cannot make this icing without a hand mixer or stand mixer.
Place the egg whites and sugar in a large, heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (a couple of inches deep), making sure the bottom of the bowl cannot touch the water.
Keep over a low heat, and gently whisk until the sugar is dissolved. You can check this by taking a small amount and rubbing it between your fingers. If I am making this for other people, I do like to use a food thermometer to check the mixture is at 160°F before proceeding to ensure the eggs are cooked through.
Remove from the heat and mix on high for 10 minutes with an electric whisk or mixer. The mixture will become very stiff and meringue-like as you mix.
After 10 minutes, add the soft butter, a few cubes at a time. As the first few cubes of butter dissolves into the icing, add the next few. Keep going until all of the butter is incorporated.
Mixing on low now, add in 150g of your salted caramel sauce and the vanilla extract. If at this stage the icing is too runny, place it in the fridge for half an hour. Whip it up again, and it should have thickened nicely.
For the chocolate shards, place the chocolate in separate heatproof bowls and microwave for 20 seconds at a time on high, stirring well between each blast until completely melted.
Onto a small baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, pour over the dark chocolate first, and spread out into a single thin layer.
Dot the other two types of chocolate on top of the dark chocolate randomly with teaspoons, then ripple them through using a skewer or knife to create a marbled pattern.
Freeze for 5 minutes. I then like to use a sharp knife to score out shapes in the chocolate (I tend to aim for triangles). Return to the fridge or freezer until ready to use, after which snap the chocolate into pieces (it should break at the scored out sections from earlier).
Now to decorate - though only do this once your cake has completely cooled as you don't want your icing to melt!
Start by making the chocolate ganache. To a small heatproof bowl, add in your dark chocolate (break it up into pieces so it melts more easily). Warm the cream in a small pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer (it should be bubbling just slightly at the edges of the pan) and pour over the chocolate. Leave to sit for about 30 seconds, then stir until smooth. Set aside.
Place the leftover salted caramel sauce into a piping bag (no nozzle required, just snip off the end).
I then like to make a row of holes running through the centre of the cake. I like to use an apple corer (you could use a melon baller, teaspoon or end of a wooden spoon) to do this. Next, fill each hole up with salted caramel for a surprise filling - don't be shy, be generous!
Then, spread over the chocolate ganache on top.
As for the buttercream, fit a piping bag with a nozzle of your choice (I always use a Wilton 2D or 1M nozzle) and fill with your buttercream. I like to fit the bag over a tall glass to hold it in place whilst I fill the bag with buttercream. Push the buttercream to the bottom of the bag, and bring the sides of the bag up and twist the top well so none can escape from the top.
Pipe rosettes around the cake in whichever pattern you desire! One advantage of swiss meringue is that it is not overly sweet, so a large amount isn't too sickly.
Top with the chocolate shards from earlier, and your work is done! Enjoy!
Keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
The frosting can be made a day in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to use. Whip it up again before using.
The salted caramel will last a week in the fridge in an airtight container, as will the chocolate shards.