Once in a way, there comes along an unassuming cake that knocks the socks off your feet. The luscious and caramelly Karmel Cake is just that cake. This demure caramel-coloured, caramel cake is just what you need when 1. you want all the fanfare inside the cake, 2. you’re baking for a cake lover or caramel lover.
Named after Rose Levy Beranbaum’s friend Elizabeth Karmel (she calls her ‘one of my dearest friends’), this cake recipe is a definite keeper. It’s a play on words, and since it’s named after a friend, it has obviously been created with care and love. Trust Rose to do that! I’ve adapted this recipe from her book Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, where there are so many more cakes like this that surprise and delight you so!
This buttery cake is so simple, once you have the caramel sauce ready, that is. Don’t bolt! Yes, making caramel is tricky. I should know — I made it for the very first time when I made this cake! I’ve never made caramel sauce or caramel toffees before because I’ve been intimidated by the process. I know now that it definitely is not difficult, although it can be tiring. All you need is a thermometer or a good eye for detail, and a little patience (to stir the sauce), and you’ll sail through just like I did.
It is the caramel sauce that gives this luscious and caramelly Karmel Cake its heart and soul, making it (duh) lusciously moist and soft, delightfully caramelly, and gorgeously light and airy. If you love caramel and cake, then I urge you to include this in your cake repertoire. It’s unlike that cakes with the caramel sauce outside, infused into the cream or poured on top, because then, the cake still tastes different from the cream. Hmmmm. Let me put it this way: if you wanted chocolate cake, would you make a vanilla cake and frost it with chocolate buttercream, or would you bake a rich chocolate cake?
The Karmel Cake can be eaten warm or cold, and you can top it off with some coffee infused whipped cream (it has a few more ingredients) called Coffee Cream, as Rose suggests in Rose’s Heavenly Cakes (I’ll make it soon and let you know!), or if you’re like me with a not-so-sweet-tooth, you can add a smidgen of brown sugar and coffee to crème fraîche, whip it lightly, and spoon it over a slice of this cake. I loved that combination and this: plain crème fraîche with some butterscotch nuts, served with coffee, or mixed fruit juice and orange slices. When eaten warm, some time after you take it out of the oven, you’ll find that the crust has this lovely crispness to it. It gets sticky after the first day though. That reminds me — this cake has a very smooth crust, something that you get to see rarely. And the colour! A lovely deep golden brown. That is why you ought to leave it unfrosted. Enjoy the little treats and surprises the luscious and caramelly Karmel Cake throws at you!
- 1 and 1/4 cups milk 10.6 fl oz
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 28 g, 1 oz
- 1 cup light brown sugar Muscovado preferably (217 g, 7.6 oz)
- 2 cups cake flour sifted into the cup and levelled (200 g, 7 oz)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- Caramel sauce
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter 85 g, 3 oz
- 2 large eggs
- 1 and 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Add the brown sugar, butter and 3/4 cup of milk to a saucepan and place it on medium-low heat, while you stir it with a silicon spatula.
Continue to stir it till it starts boiling, then once it boils, stop stirring and allow the liquid to boil for about 10 minutes.
Stay nearby when it begins to boil though. Five minutes after it starts boils, insert an instant read thermometer, and once it registers 114ºC (238ºF) which is the soft ball stage, take the saucepan off the heat immediately and transfer it to the heatproof glass measure. When the sauce is almost done, it will look a little curdled. Also, once the thermometer registers a reading that is a few degrees lower than 114ºC, you can take it off the heat because the caramel sauce at this stage will continue to get hotter very quickly. For a while the temperature will hover between 102ºC and 106ºC, then it’ll slowly but steadily climb up. Once it hit 111ºC, the temperature will continue ti climb quickly. Thereby, it is a good idea to take it off the heat slightly sooner than 114ºC.
Now when you pour it into the heatproof glass measure, the liquid must measure 1 cup. If it is slightly less, add a little cold water to bring it up to 1 cup. It’s quite alright if you find that some of the liquid has crystallized at the bottom — it’ll melt as the cake bakes. then, slowly an gently stir in the remaining milk.
Allow the caramel sauce to cool thoroughly — it doesn’t have to become cool; just tepid will do; it just shouldn't be warm when you touch it. This should take approximately an hour (it depends on your local temperature!). To facilitate faster cooling, you can place the glass measure (or whatever pan you have used) it under a fan, or close to an air conditioning duct, or in a bowl of ice water. Stir it every now and then too.
Preheat the oven to 175ºc (350ºF) 20 minutes before you start baking. In fact when you know that the Caramel sauce will require another 20 minutes to cool, you can start prepping for the cake.
You’ll also have time to prepare the cake pan thus: use a bit of butter to secure the bottom with a circular parchment paper, then spray the side and bottom with baking spray that has flour, or grease it with oil or butter and dust with flour. Use a cake strip on the outside of the pan, or fold a double-sheet newspaper into a 5-cm (2-inch) strip (I got 8 sheets of paper when I folded it) and wrap it around the outside of the cake pan with a thick cotton string. I had to use two big strips of newspaper (that overlapped) to cover the circumference. You could also use a long thick towel, that is is soaked in water then wrung. Secure it with a thick cotton string.
In a big bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder for 30 seconds to mix thoroughly.
Add the caramel sauce and the butter and whisk away for about 2 minutes on medium speed (if using a stand mixer or hand-held mixer).
Break one egg into this mixture, and add the vanilla extract and beat for 20 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
Then, add the other egg and beat for 40 seconds — this way each addition is incorporated well.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Smoothen the surface gently and then place it in the oven.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted, and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the centre. The cake ought to shrink from the side of the pan only once you take it out of the oven.
Once you take it out, allow it to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Then, run a thin metal spatula or the blunt side of a knife around the cake, pressing firmly against the side of the cake pan. Remove the cake from the pan and keep it the top side up to prevent splitting (invert it onto a plate or wire rack lightly coasted with nonstick cooking spray, then reinvert it onto a serving plate).
Equipment: One 23 by 5-cm (9 by 2-inch) cake pan. To prepare the pan, use a bit of butter to secure the bottom with a circular parchment paper, then spray the side and bottom with baking spray that has flour, or grease it with oil or butter and dust with flour. Use a cake strip on the outside of the pan, or fold a double-sheet newspaper into a 5-cm (2-inch) strip (I got 8 sheets of paper when I folded it) and wrap it around the outside of the cake pan with a thick cotton string. I had to use two big strips of newspaper (that overlapped) to cover the circumference. You could also use a long thick towel, that is is soaked in water then wrung. Secure it with a thick cotton string. For the caramel sauce keep ready a heatproof glass measure that is coated thinly with butter or cooking spray, a medium saucepan or any pan with a side that is high (to keep the hot splashes of caramel away from your hand). When you know that the Caramel sauce will require another 20 minutes to cool, you can start prepping for the cake.