Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Happy Birthday To The Maid: Butter Cake with Caramel Frosting

A vintage cake cover for a vintage cake

Butter and milk
Eggs and sugar
 Thing 1 informed me the other night that she knew what I liked to do with my time: cook and clean. Couple that with a birthday, all the extra baby weight I'm carrying and the natural restlessness I tend to feel at this time of year and you've got the makings of a breakdown.

...but I don't have time for a real breakdown because there's laundry to do and meals to cook and somebody colored all over the kitchen table without paper.

 Ok, maybe I can see why my eldest child just assumed that I was living my dream. Wow. Seriously, I must be, like, no fun at all....cue reservations for Breakdown City...for later, much later.

On the other hand, to be utterly and perfectly honest, I DO enjoy making my own birthday cake. It's an indulgence in my mind. Partly because it's something that is solely based on my preferences and partly because I never ever ever ever use a box mix (pahhtooey) for my cake.  Cake snob? Bet your ass.

The ingredients for this cake are simple and classic. The cake itself would be just a nice with any form of buttercream frosting but is sturdier than a box mix so it can also be filled with heavier fillings such as jams, caramel, fudge or ice cream.

Preheat your oven to 325. Grease two 9 inch round cake pans (or one 9x4 round pan--that's how I have 3 layers instead of the customary 2).

For ingredients, you will need:

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter
1 cup milk
Melt these two together in a saucepan over medium heat and set aside. You just need the butter to be melted so don't bring the milk to a simmer or anything. Set it aside to cool.

In a bowl, blend together--

2 cups AP flour
2 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

And, finally, in your mixing bowl, measure out
2 cups sugar
4 eggs

The eggs and sugar need to be beaten on high until their color changes to a pale yellow and the mixture is thick and light. You will notice the sugar dissolves somewhat and the blend will climb higher up the side of the bowl.

Scrape down the bowl to remove any sugar clumps that may have formed at the bottom of the mixing bowl before folding in the dry ingredients. Don't try to get all the flour absorbed at this point. You just want it somewhat incorporated because you still have some mixing to do and you don't want to make the cake tough.

Now fold in the milk/butter blend and to this add
1 tsp vanilla extract
Fold everything together until just incorporated and there are no pockets of flour. Be sure to get down to the bottom of the bowl.

Pour the batter into your pan(s) and place in the center of the oven. For two pans, bake for 20-30 minutes. For a single pan, bake for 30-45 minutes. The cake will get golden and begin to pull slightly from the sides of the pan when it is done. Check the center before removing from the oven.  I will also say this is one of the few cakes I've made that was perfectly level on top, no peaking or sinking--beautiful!

When the cake is finished, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out on a cooking rack. The cake must be completely cooled before you can ice it.

So let's talk frosting. The caramel frosting here is an old-fashioned cooked frosting that takes about 15 minutes to make. You need a solid, high-sided saucepan and a wooden spoon. The wooden spoon is actually non-negotiable for authenticity so don't get all oxo good grip on me, k?

I used a double batch of frosting because I had more layers. I'll give you the single form of the recipe but it can be doubled.

1 pound (about 2 2/3 cups) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
7 tablespoons evaporated milk (NOT condensed milk)
You'll need a tablespoon of vanilla at the end.

***At this point, have your cake ready to frost, because once you start the frosting, you have to

complete the cake.

Put everything in a the saucepan and turn to a medium heat. Stir together as it melts and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat so the mixture bubbles gently and set a timer for 7 minutes. Keep stirring to make sure nothing is burning but don't pull a muscle at it anything. Remove from the heat after 7 minutes and let cool for another 5 minutes.

After the cool down period, use that wooden spoon to beat the frosting for 2-3 minutes until it thickens.

Time to frost the cake!  Be sure to spread things quickly. Let the frosting roll over the sides of the layers as you go and then smooth them out at the end once the top is covered. Work quickly. Also, if you are going to garnish with pecans or walnuts, sprinkle on before the frosting sets or they will just fall off.

IF the icing gets too hard to fast, you can soften it over low heat. Stir in a little milk to soften it. If you have a "blemish" in the finished product, try dipping your spatula in hot water before smoothing out the area.

I know everyone likes to quote Forest Gump and say that life is like a box of chocolates, but I tend to think it's more like a scratch cake--you get the quality you put in to it and the results can be delicious or disappointing, but that depends on your expectations. 


Mother B said...

This is the most wonderful post. Good recipe....good directions....fantastic pictures and the totally relatability in the Mother, Age, baby leftover poundage, rolequestioning angst is over the top!!!! Your Momma loves you!!!!!

Principalk said...

Of course you have to bake your own birthday cake, who could ever top this cake????
and Happy Belated Birthday to you!!!