Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Love of Cake

     There are few things in life that I love more than cake...the moistness of the cake, the gooey frosting, I really cannot say enough about it. One thing I do love more than cake (other than my husband and kitties) is baking a cake. I enjoy taking somewhat random things out of my pantry, putting them together in hopefully interesting ways, bake and voila--a cake is born! I have inherited my love of baking from my family and grew up baking bread on weekends and cookies for special occasions but one big thing that my family and I differ on is our view of recipes. They believe that a recipe is an exact science that must be followed. I'll never forget when I made a family recipe with my own modifications, my aunt peered that the dish suspiciously and remarked that the recipe is the way it is for a reason. Now, my point of view is that a recipe is a starting point. It gives you a general idea and then you get to put your own spin on it and off you go--you have an original creation!
     For example, when Logan is on call on weekends I try to make him and his other residents a dessert. Last week it was a chocolate cake (family recipe) but infused with cinnamon (unique twist). Also, I always substitute 1/2 the sugar for splenda and 1/2 the flour for whole wheat flour--you can try to do more but it gets tricky because you start running into problems with taste and texture. This week I was enjoying the cooler weather and decided that for once in my life, chocolate was not the right answer (I just hope hell has not frozen over.) Therefore I found a recipe for a butterscotch cake that sounded delicious but it wasn't quite what I wanted so I gave it some thought and poof! the idea of the coffee butterscotch cake zipped into creation. Now, the first step of this creation (and yes, all cooking is the art of creation. It is not simply throwing some things together in a half-hazard manner. No! It is an act of passion and love. Love your food and your food (and significant other) will love you back.) was to make a caramel sauce. I am sure there are many caramel sauce virgins out there and it really isn't as difficult as it sounds. Sure you could buy a jar of sauce but where is the fun in that? So the first step to making caramel is to dissolve sugar in water at a low temperature and once your sugar is dissolved you get to crank the heat up, let it boil and thus bite your nails and pray that it doesn't burn.
See? When you first start your sugar water is still clear but as you continue to boil all hell is breaking loose as the starches in the sugars are breaking down. As it boils it will continue to get darker and darker and if you don't pay attention it will burn and you will have a smelly, dangerously hot mess! But if you watch it, you will get a velvety caramel color. Don't worry if it takes a while; it may take as long as 20 minutes to get to the right color but really watch it, a good caramel is almost burned, key word ALMOST!
 Now, the fun starts because you get to add your heavy cream! You whisk it in and you my dear, have created a delicious, all purpose caramel sauce.

For this particular recipe, the caramel must be chilled because it is going to become an icing but really caramel can be used for all sorts of delicious things like on ice cream, pancakes, fruit etc. Anyway, so the cake in this recipe is your basic butterscotch which essentially is just a cake that uses more brown sugar than most but to make it more interesting I threw in some instant coffee powder and that will give it a yummy coffee zing and will also contrast with the fairly sweet caramel icing. This is a layer cake so you use two 8 inch pans because you put lots of yummy frosting between the two layers. Once your cake is done you beat some softened cream cheese and then fold in about 3/4 of your cooled caramel and I must say, the end result is one of the most delicious frostings ever created. The homemade caramel is just so smooth and with the cream cheese it helps cut the sweetness so I think if allowed, I could eat it on toast, fruit, my fingers but thank goodness, this is a cake for others so I try to resist (although there may have been some tasting involved.) You build your cake by putting one layer down on your plate and spreading about half of your frosting all over it and top it off with the other cake and other half of frosting. Finally, you take that leftover caramel and drizzle it all over your cake...I love drizzling things on cakes because it helps keep them moist and it is like playing with your food! Final result:

As you can see, I was very generous with the caramel because its yummy! But if you want cleaner lines just use less. Alas, this cake is not for me so I can just request Logan save me a piece but the bits I sampled were delicious and I can already tell I will use that frosting over and over again.

Original recipe credit Nigella Lawson-my variations are in the parenthesis 

1 cup of sugar (can't really mess with this one with splenda since candy making it very precise business)
1/2 cup of cold water
1 1/4 cups of heavy cream ( I did 3/4 heavy cream, 1/2 cup skim milk and it came out fine)
14 oz of cream cheese (I used fat free and it still tastes decadent)

For cake
1 cup of salted butter softened (I use 50/50 butter for baking which is 50% butter 50% heart healthy substitute)
7 TBS of brown sugar
1/2 cup of sugar (1/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of splenda)
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups of self-rising cake flour (I NEVER  stock self-rising cake flour so the easy fix for this is to use your regular flour but add a bit of salt and a teaspoon of baking powder for every cup so in this recipe I used 3/4 flour, 3/4 whole wheat flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder)
2-4 TBS of heavy cream (I just used skim milk)
*I added 1 TBS of instant coffee powder for a yummy coffee kick!

2 8 inch pans lined with wax paper

I lined out how to make the icing but for the cake it is ridiculously simple...just cream your butter and sugars and add eggs one at a time. Each time you add an egg toss in a spoonful of your flour mixture and then once your eggs are in, fold the rest of your flour into your batter. Finally, you are looking for a runny but not liquid consistency so add enough skim milk till it looks right which was about 3 TBS for me. Bake it in a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes and take out when a toothpick comes out clean. Cool them and then have a blast frosting your beautiful creation! The biggest thing with baking or really any cooking is to make it to suit your tastes. If you like nuts, throw some in! If you want some chocolate flavor, hell yes you can add some cocoa powder!

Happy Baking!