I often have grand visions for my cakes, but unfortunately, those visions don't always come to fruition. Today was one of those days. I think my problem was trying to kill two birds with one stone while making this cake. As you may have read in my last post, I gave the Wilton Bake-Even Strips a test on my rich, dark chocolate cake and wasn't completely satisfied with the results. The two cake layers with the strips were slightly under-baked around the edges and didn't rise as high as I'm used to when I've baked the same cake without the strips. So, vision #1 of having a tall, 3-layer cake went down the tube early in the day. Instead, I ended up with a shorter, 3-layer cake. Not the end of the world, but looking back, I could have had a happier ending (looks-wise) with this cake if I had started over at this point (but really, who has time to remake a cake when their 2-year-old decides she doesn't want to take a nap and it's short day for their 1st-grader).
And then there was issue #2 - major cake crumbs in my frosting. Because the cake layers with the bake-even strips didn't cook completely along the edges, I ran into a major crumb invasion while frosting. Not even a crumb coating was going to hide what was going on under there. I did the best I could but ultimately wasn't happy leaving the cake with just the salted caramel frosting as the outer layer. (This bummed me out big time since the focus of this cake is the salted caramel frosting).
I ended up making a chocolate ganache and spreading it over the top of the cake. After snapping a few pictures I wasn't sure if I loved it, so, I decided to spread the ganache around the whole cake. Looking at the two versions below, I actually do like the look of the ganache falling off the top of the cake more... but, when I ate the cake, I about fell off my seat with every bite of the thin, even-layered ganache and the salted caramel frosting together with the rich, dark chocolate cake.
So, the good news? Even though this cake didn't turn out to look as I had hoped, the taste was beyond what I could have dreamed of!
Remember to pay close attention to the boiling sugar mixture. Once it starts to caramelize, it moves quickly. Also, you'll notice the recipe calls for sugar and corn syrup. The addition of the corn syrup helps to inhibit the creation of sugar crystals, and will ensure this is a foolproof recipe for you.
My first attempt at frosting/decorating
And my revised version
Salted Caramel Frosting (by Tikkido.com)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 lbs. confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1. Mix sugar, water and corn syrup in a small saucepan.
2. Bring the water and sugar mixture to boil over medium heat, but DO NOT STIR. (Stirring encourages crystallization). Let the mixture cook until it caramelizes into a golden brown color (as seen in the photo above). It happens quickly, so keep an eye on it.
3. Remove the caramelized sugar syrup from the heat and slowly mix in the cream. Pour in just a tiny bit at a time, especially at the beginning, and mix to combine. You can start adding more and more as you go along.
4. Mix in salt, lemon juice or vinegar and vanilla. Stir to combine.
5. Set the caramel sauce to the side and let cool completely before making the frosting.
6. Once the caramel sauce is cooled completely, combine the softened butter, confectioners' sugar and caramel together in a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth. If the icing seems to stiff, ad a bit of milk or cream - just a little at a time until it reaches a smooth, spreading consistency of your liking.