It’s simple and unassuming. It makes no claims to be magnificent. It’s not impressively towering and colossal, with three decadent layers sandwiching a thick, buttery buttercream. The recipe is quietly tucked among the other fantastic recipes in the “caramel” chapter of Baked Elements. It’s quiet, smooth, and sleek… and of decidedly Southern gentility. It’s Antique Caramel Cake, this week’s selection for Baked Sunday Mornings. Despite all of these humble disclaimers, it just might knock your socks off. I know it did mine.
Last week I celebrated my birthday (on November 19th, to be exact), and I had no shortage of sweets and baked goods, whipped up by yours truly, with which to bust my calorie counter wide open! When this weekend rolled around and I was faced with making yet another yummy dessert such as this, I confess that I groaned a little inwardly. If it were a nut-laden dessert, I would have gladly passed. Unfortunately, it was caramel. I simply cannot resist caramel. My defenses were down, my resistance weak. I forged ahead!
One of the things I adore about the guys at Baked is that they relish taking traditional, old-fashioned – sometimes, family-cherished – recipes and dialing them up a notch, or putting a unique new spin on them. For this recipe, Matt Lewis borrowed a recipe from a college friend’s mother who hails from Mississippi. He claims that, for the most part, they kept the cake recipe as is, and toned down the caramel sweetness of the frosting with the addition of cream cheese. My overall verdict is that they made some pretty smart choices.
The cake itself is a sturdy yellow cake with a tinge of molasses flavor, thanks to the inclusion of brown sugar. The crumb is dense and moist from buttermilk. It clings to your fork – just the way I like it! There is a somewhat ‘fun’ step in the final process of beating together the batter for this cake, in which white vinegar dissolves baking soda. It foams and fizzes up gloriously, reminding you that baking is, after all, a bit of a science and you are the gifted kitchen alchemist who brings all of this deliciousness together. I wish I knew a bit more about baking science to explain how all-important this fusion of vinegar and baking soda is to the process and result of making this cake – but alas, I come up short. Perhaps one of my fellow Baked Sunday Mornings bakers can enlighten you (yes, be sure to read their blogs and support them as well!).
Unlike most of Baked’s stupendous cake recipes, this one is definitely more simple, yielding only two layers instead of three. These two layers are cloaked in a smooth caramel cream cheese frosting. I know what you’re thinking as you read this. Caramel cream cheese frosting? Really???!!! Trust me. It’s tremendously good. Butter and brown sugar is first cooked together in a saucepan, then heavy cream is added to make a sort of brown sugar caramel. This mixture is set aside to cool. Additional butter and room temperature cream cheese are whipped together in a mixing bowl. The cooled brown sugar mixture is then added, along with a bit of salt and confectioners’ sugar. From this point on, do your best to beat the frosting together gently in your mixer, as cream cheese frosting, when over-beaten, can become a touch elastic. The frosting is then carefully and luxuriously slathered over the cake layers. I’ve made Baked’s Caramel Apple Cake from Baked Explorations before, and while I adored the Caramel Buttercream on that cake, I preferred this frosting – I think it’s because of the cream cheese, which keeps the frosting from being too overly sweet. Typically, I appreciate cakes for the cake and not the frosting, as I find most frostings too sweet. This particular frosting complements and enhances the buttery cake perfectly.
To crown this scrumptious cake further, I made a half-recipe of Baked’s Sweet and Salty Caramel – also in Baked Elements, and a recipe I could probably make in my sleep by now! I poured the caramel into a small squeeze bottle and decorated the top of the cake with a spiral, ‘spider-web’ pattern. To do this, begin drizzling a thin line of caramel from the center of your cake all the way to the outside in a circular pattern. When you have finished this large spiral, take a toothpick and gently run it from the center of your spiral out to the edge in a straight line. Alternate these lines with another line from the edge to the center to create contrasting lines. Pretty easy – and a beautiful finishing touch sure to impress your friends!
One of my good friends, Jenny Kosek of Sensible Spoonful suggested that, while she adored every part of this cake, a bit of textural contrast would have been a welcome addition; perhaps a bit of toasted walnuts or pecans, maybe some crumbled Heath bar/toffee pieces. I agree. It would be fun to experiment with this, using ingredients with a bit of crunch that would compliment the caramel flavors nicely. I’m not certain if doing so would make the recipe a touch more newfangled (Neufangled? See what I did there?) and less vintage/antique – regardless, it’s worth trying!
Honestly – this cake may be one of my favorite recipes from Baked Elements. It’s so divinely good and dangerous to keep around, as I want to keep devouring slice after slice.
Pass along the caramel cake tradition and make your own Antique Caramel Cake today by following this link:
…and most of all, have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving with your family and friends! What are you baking for the holiday? Pumpkin pie? Apple pie? Pecan pie? Perhaps all 3? Might I suggest you try One Girl Cookies’ Fresh Pumpkin Pie with Salty Roasted Pepitas? (It’s fabulous.) Whatever you choose – HAPPY THANKSGIVING! It’s the holiday to end all holidays for us food lovers!