• Caramel Cake

    Caramel Cake.

    Caramel Cake.

    caramel13So here is the good news, this is one tasty cake. The caramel frosting has a crystallized, almost maple candy-like outer shell and a creamy, caramel-flavored interior. The yellow cake is moist and delicious. The combination is a perfect bite. You don’t even want ice cream with this cake. Just enjoy it as it is.

    caramelcaramel1So here is the bad news. This is a hard cake to make and not one that welcomes any messin’ around with the recipe. Caramel frosting is tricky stuff and you need to make a sturdy cake to handle such a heavy frosting. But if you follow the formula you get a delightful dish. And it is worth the effort.

    caramel2caramel5And we do use the word “formula” here. As we (and others) often like to note, baking is a form of chemistry. And in many cases you simply can’t play with the basic formula and get good results. To be fair, baking is hardly as exact a science as “real” chemistry. Humidity, inconsistent ingredients, finicky ovens and variations in cookware make baking a very inexact science, even in the best conditions. But we suggest that if you make this cake you stick with the recipe (at least the first time you bake it).

    caramel7caramel8We adapted the recipe (barely) from a Cook’s Country recipe. Cook’s Country is Cook’s Illustrated’s less  ridiculous? obnoxious?  “overbearing” cousin, and tends to feature recipes that you can make and actually work. This is one of those recipes. They do add some technique and tuning to a traditional recipe, but in real terms the big addition is using all-purpose flour in the cake and not softer cake flour. Using AP flour makes for a firmer, but still moist, cake that can handle the thick, heavy frosting.

    caramel9caramel11Otherwise, the other key technique is to beat extra butter into the frosting just before you apply it to the cake. Butter does make everything better, and if it makes the frosting easier to work with, then we are all for it. The bigger challenge will be keeping your fingers out of the frosting. It tastes so good, you can lose quite a bit as it makes its way to the cake. But we do encourage a little patience. When you combine the frosting with the cake, it is even better.

    caramel10caramel14So if you have the time this Memorial Day weekend, this is a cake worth making. Is it a bit of extra fuss? Well….yes. It it worth it? Without a doubt.

    Caramel Cake:

    (Adapted from Cook’s Country)

    Notes Before You Start:

    • No extra notes. Just follow the recipe and take your time.

    What You Get: A crowd-pleasing, sweet and flavorful cake with awesome caramel frosting. Yum.

    What You Need: A stand mixer (or electric mixer) and 2, 9-inch cake pans.

    How Long? 3 hours, with about an hour, maybe a little more, of active time. Details matter here, so taking your time is advised.

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  • Pumpkin Muffins

    Pumpkin Muffins with a little butter and fig jam.

    There is no doubt that it’s pumpkin season here in northern California. Everywhere you look, there are pumpkin farms and patches and the Half Moon Bay pumpkin Festival is this weekend. Lots of pumpkins, fun and…..traffic. We avoid the festival but we do like to go to the coast and visit some of the pumpkin farms for both eating and ornamental pumpkins, it’s fun and the kids love it. But until then, we can make these pumpkin muffins to satisfy any pumpkin cravings (and as a nod to the Great Pumpkin).

    And these are very good muffins, more like pumpkin-spice cupcakes. But that is a good thing, a very good thing. The recipe we use is a riff on Sarabeth Levine’s well-known rpumpkin muffin ecipe from Sarabeth’s Bakery in New York. You can also get the recipe, and many others, in her cookbook “Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands To Yours“. It’s a good cookbook, particularly if you like to bake. The instructions do assume a certain level of skill, but we simplify and clarify the recipe. And the process isn’t hard and you get a very light and tasty muffin with a cake-like texture.

    The process is pretty standard muffin-making. Get your muffin tin and cups ready, and preheat the oven. Sift together the dry ingredients, then beat some butter, sugar and eggs together. Add the pumpkin and then slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixture. Then put the batter in the cups, sprinkle on some sugar and bake. When the muffins are ready, cool and then serve.

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