“You are an idiot,” Suzen said. It’s a term of endearment I often hear. Sometimes softly, sometimes with passion. This time it was delivered with particular force.
“Sweetie, it’s really going to be really interesting. You love caramel. I picked this recipe for you.”
“Brian, it has TWO POUNDS OF BUTTER. Do you understand what that means?”
“Well, actually, I was doing the calorie calculation in Excel, and if you cut the cake into 24 pieces, then each one will …”
“Absolutely not. You are a dumb idiot.” She walked away.
And so, we did not, have not made this cake.
But, I came away with a victory. We are making this for New Year’s, which is why I call it a New Year’s Resolution Cake. I mean, what are you going to promise yourself for 2013? Lose some weight? Okay, that’s great. You are going to suffer in January and February. Maybe even into March if you are tenacious.
So, give yourself one great treat before the ordeal begins. Enjoy this cake. I will be making it with my 11-years old grandsons. They are becoming buttercream masters. There will be photos then, but you have the recipe now.
Perhaps you can plan a healthy end-of-year menu around this cake. You know, celery and carrot sticks for the entrée and this modest rich cake for dessert.
Just consider the idea.
Brown Sugar Layer Cake
Yield: 2 8” rounds [for two large, or four modest layers]
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
- 3 cups cake flour, plus more for pans
- 2 cups packed dark-brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 6 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces sour cream
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- Caramel Buttercream Frosting [recipe follows]
Preheat oven to 325°. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment. Butter paper, and flour pans. Beat together butter and sugars with a mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Whisk together flour and salt. In another bowl, combine sour cream and baking soda. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream mixture and starting and ending with flour mixture.
Divide batter between pans. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans, about 30 minutes. Invert cakes, remove pans and parchment, and let cool completely on a wire rack.
Trim tops of cakes with a serrated knife to make level, then cut each cake in half horizontally. Reserve 1 bottom layer for another use. Place remaining bottom layer on a cake stand and spread evenly with 1¼ cups frosting. Repeat with a second layer and another 1¼ cups frosting. Place third layer on top. Spread entire cake top and sides with 1¼ cups frosting. Refrigerate cake until firm, about 30 minutes. Spread with 1½ cups frosting smoothing top and sides.
Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 2 days; if refrigerated let cake come to room temperature before serving.
Caramel Buttercream Frosting
Yield: 7 cups [That’s a lot! You’ll have ~2 cups left over after frosting this cake]
- 2¼ cups sugar, divided
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 9 large egg whites, room temperature
- 6 sticks unsalted butter, softened, divided
- 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Combine 1¼ cups sugar and the water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Brush down sides of pan with a damp pastry brush, and cook, without stirring until dark amber. Remove from heat, and gradually stir in cream until completely smooth.
Whisk together remaining sugar and the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture is warm. Transfer bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whisk on medium high speed until fluffy and cool and stiff peaks form, about 10 minutes. Add butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla. Slowly pour in caramel with mixer on medium speed, and whisk until completely incorporated
Continue to whisk until smooth, about 3 minutes. Use immediately, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat until smooth.
I’ve been blogging recently about chocolate cake, simple one layer sheet cakes. My wife Suzen and her cousin Karen recently sat me down.
“You are wasting your time,” Karen said. “Zel’s is the best.” Zel was Karen’s mother and the “family cook.” With five daughters, Zel really did not have an option. She cooked for her growing tribe in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. She was busy and she was on a budget.
Zel was famous for her Hershey’s Chocolate Cake, made with that ubiquitous syrup that normally goes on ice cream. It makes, I admit, a very, very good chocolate cake. There are many versions of this recipe but Zel’s is different in significant ways and those ways yield a great cake. Her recipe calls for butter, not vegetable oil, and 4 eggs instead of 2. The result is rich cake, dense, but not “thick.” That flavor tone that Hershey’s Syrup is famous for is muted here. It’s a chocolate cake, but you don’t know that the key chocolate flavor comes from a can.
Zel served her cake with a dusting of powdered sugar. I made a simple chocolate frosting. Frosting, glaze, or sugar, anything will do. And, of course, a scoop of vanilla ice cream would be in order.
This recipe is so old that it calls for a “heaping” cup of flour, which will affect how much batter you have and how long the cake will take to bake. Zel’s heaping cup must have been very big because she says to bake for a full hour. We made the cake with 1 cup of flour, and found the cake to be done at 40 minutes. I suggest you set your timer for 40 minutes and check with toothpicks until the cake is fully done.
Here is Zel’s recipe for you to enjoy. It’s a tradition in Suzen’s family and can be one for you too.
Hershey’s Chocolate Cake
Yield: one 8” X 13” sheet cake
- One stick of butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup of sugar
- 4 eggs at room temperature
- 1 can Hershey’s Syrup at room temperature
- 1 heaping cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Butter and flour an 8” X 13” cake pan. You may have one that is 9” wide or 12” long. That’s fine to use, but it will affect the baking time.
In a mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Then gradually add the sugar, taking at least 3 minutes, and continue the creaming process.
Add the four eggs, one at a time to the creamed butter-sugar mixture. Make sure each egg is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next one. Patience is key here.
Add the whole can of Hershey’s Syrup, mixing it in thoroughly.
Add the flour and baking powder, mixing just until combined. Finally, add the vanilla.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour [checking for doneness after 40 minutes].
Let cool and serve with the topping of your choice.
Source: Zelda Mines