Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Salted Caramel Frosting

Yesterday was my birthday.

I'm getting a little older. Usually I don't let this bother me. I have--as they say--an old soul. Which is all well and good until your old soul meets your aging body, and then you start to wonder if this whole getting older thing might be kind of pesty after all. In fact, in the making of this very cake, I was just standing there by the stove--just standing. And all the sudden my knee had this excruciating pain shoot through it. For the next two hours, it hurt to walk. And then whatever was pinched through the exertion of that intense bout of standing on my own two legs that I unkindly subjected my body to got unpinched and I was saved. When I told my husband (two years my elder, btw) about it, he said, "Welcome to 36."

Anyway, to celebrate getting older and being a masochist at the same time, I decided I wanted a swimsuit for my birthday. Which inevitably entailed swimsuit shopping. Which inevitably entailed confronting the fact that I now have armpit fat (that little lip of fleshy stuff that hangs over the top of the swimsuit--tell me I'm not the only one, people). Which inevitably entailed another reminder that I am no longer 16 (and, truly, thank heavens that this is so, armpit fat be darned).

So to celebrate not being sixteen and discovering the joys of armpit fat, I made the best cake of my life. And not to put too fine a point on it, I've made some pretty incredible cakes in my time. This was a 3-layer chocolate cake with caramel frosting on the inside layers and chocolate frosting on the outside. 

Disclaimer: This cake will not give you armpit fat per se. I don't want people deterred from making this delight because I--for reasons inexplicable even to myself--have prefaced this post with a discussion of armpit fat. Getting older gives you armpit fat. Because armpit fat is really a combination of loose skin and saggy boobs, being pushed up by the merciless spandex-y stuff that swimsuits are made of. I am not recommending you make this cake every day. In fact, I will take a moment right now to not recommend that. But for your birthday--you totally should. It will keep you young. Especially if you lick the beaters (and share them with your kids). It will keep you from that 16-year-old self that was so afraid of getting fat that she filled her journal with ramblings about that topic. It will keep you connected to your recently deceased mother who made you whatever cake you wanted for your birthday--always homemade, often homely, delicious. It will keep you the best parts of young and the best parts of old. Promise.

Today it is about the caramel frosting that I wish to speak.

My friend gave me the idea--nay, the obsession--by introducing me to an absolutely divine frosting a few weeks ago. Hers was amazing. I kept imagining it in combination with chocolate. Ah, such happy birthday imaginings. (Dieters--stop imagining. And, as a general piece of advice, stop writing about getting fat or hoping not to get fat or all the things that might make you fat in your journals, okay. Because one day you'll go back and read them and you'll think--sadly--"I wish I could remember what St. Nicolas Day was like in The Netherlands." But you won't be able to remember well because all you will have written about your time in that lovely country was your terrible fears that--even though you're biking miles every day and generally eat very healthfully (and incidentally--were not at all fat)--you will somehow manage to suddenly gain trillions of pounds and be repulsive to all around you. Just stop it. Not that I know this from personal experience or anything...I just think that as a general practice it's probably a bad idea.)

Okay, enough with speaking. Let me tell you how to make it.

Salted Caramel Frosting
frosts 1 9-inch cake (to have it frost a big one like this entirely--not a bad idea--you'd need to double it)
Prep/cook time: 30 minutes, plus a period of cooling
Cost: $1.25
sugar: .10, cream: .50, butter: .50, powdered sugar: .15

Note: Caramel can be a tricky beast, or at least a food you have to get to know. Below, I've put the method that works for me very well. I use water with the sugar and heat the cream before adding it. For me, this has been (so far) full proof. Then I add the cream in a steady stream whisking constantly until combines into a saucy sort of thing. At first it might seize a bit, but if I keep whisking, it unseizes and comes together. If I have trouble with it, I warm it a bit as I whisk. That said, I believe that altitude, humidity, and whatever Egyptian diety who happens to control caramel might also have a hand in this, so find a method that works for you and use it. Just be sure to add the butter after you've done the sugar and cream and it has cooled. If you add the butter before it's cool, the butter will melt and this will come out differently (probably a little runny and you'll have to add more powdered sugar and loose the oomph of the caramel flavor).

1/2 C sugar
4 Tbsp water
1/2 C cream (heated for 30-60 seconds in the microwave)
12 Tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 C powdered sugar

Note: If you can melt sugar just fine on the stove, skip the water and do so. I always burn mine, so the below method works best for me.

Put sugar and water in a pan. Heat. Don't mix it or anything. (Tip: As it melts, warm your cream--this will make it easier to mix when it's time to add it.) Just let the sugar melt and start to turn color.  The liquid sugar will start to bubble and boil. It might even crystalize a bit. That's okay. If it starts to crystalize (the bubbles will look a little crystally), just gently stir with a wooden spoon or spatula. Do this until it turns deep amber in color and smells awesome. This took me a while, but until the end, I didn't need to pay much attention to it. I did dishes and got stuff ready.

Then, take off the stove and whisk in the cream. Keep whisking until your stuff comes together. [Note: If it's clumping into a big candy mess, put the pan back on low heat and keep whisking--it should eventually melt and come together.]

Let this cool. I put it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

When it's cool (and it is important that it cool--otherwise this will not turn out right), put butter and salt (I'd start with 1/2 tsp salt) in a bowl and beat it. When it's fluffy add the caramel you made and beat. Then add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time and beat.

Allow this to sit for a few minutes. The flavors will meld. I know that sounds a little whacky, but it's true. When I first tasted mine, it was good. But after 30 more minutes, it was amazing. Of course, this would probably happen on your cake anyway...


To make a cake such as I did:

Make the above caramel frosting.
Make Kip's fudge frosting.
Make Best Ever Chocolate Cake.

Put the caramel frosting between layers and the chocolate frosting on the outside.


  1. That sounds like my kind of cake. In fact, I made a VERY similar one for my 35th birthday last month.

    To. Die. For. Salted Caramel frosting is one of the best things ever.

    Happy Birthday!

    1. It is so so good. Spring birthdays are the best.



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