As a token of appreciation for the nanny who took care of our children this summer, we decided to bake her a cake. The Sep 2015 issue of Cook’s Illustrated provided the recipe for this sweet treat, combining chocolate cake with the bittersweet flavour of caramel.
The chocolate cake was a straightforward, two-bowl affair. I have two identical 9” pans, so it was easy to weigh them after filling, to ensure the batter was divided evenly. The baked layers didn’t need two full hours to cool: in an air-conditioned basement, they were done in about an hour.
On the same evening, I made the caramel filling. The tips in this recipe were very informative. Molten sugar seizes and crystallizes when the heat is too low, causing the sucrose to bond, rather than melting and breaking down into other sugars. This CI recipe is a “wet” caramel, one that has added water, to help dissolve and spread the sugar mixture so it melts evenly. The only tricky part is that the boiling sugar bubbles vigorously, so you want to use a deep enough pot, and to tilt it so that your thermometer can accurately check whether you’ve reached the target temperature.
Once the caramel had cooled, I split the cakes into four thin layers, and spread the caramel between them. I wrapped the whole thing in plastic until the next morning. The original recipe calls for a from-scratch chocolate frosting, but we had some leftover ganache in our freezer. A thin coat provided a nice chocolate kick in every forkful.
I wasn’t certain that I would like this cake, but it turned out to be very delicious. The caramel wasn’t too cloying, and its distinctive burnt sugar flavour stood out.