Monday, April 28, 2014

Almond Caramel Rose Cake

Here's a round cake!
So, my mother-in-law called up and said, "hey, three of father-in-law's sons are coming to town for his birthday. Could you bake him a birthday cake? I can only bake square cakes."

Well, hmmmmm, that's interesting.

"Any flavor but chocolate," she said. But if I was too busy, she'd go to the grocery store and buy a cake.

And I said, sure, no problem. And then I started plotting. If I'm gonna do a cake, I'm gonna do a show-off cake. So I hunted down a few recipes.

Right off the bat, I knew nuts had to be involved, because FIL loves nuts. Then I decided that caramel would be a good idea for a filling.

Betcha that's not chocolate!
And then I decided I wanted four layers, because I had a cake slicer I wanted to test.

First, I found this yellow cake on The Kitchn. It looked pretty good, and the recipe said it would fit a 9x13 pan or two 9-inch round pans. Well, okay, then.

First problem was that I didn't have two matching 9-inch round pans. Which is totally weird, but true.

So, I baked one layer in a dark pan and one in a light pan. The cake in the light pan took longer to cook, but the one in the dark pan browned a LOT more.

I wasn't really happy with the huge difference in color on the outside of the cakes, but as my husband pointed out, "It will all be covered in frosting, right?"

Those are 8-inch layers right there.
The worse problem was that the layers were much too thin to be sliced in half to make four substantial layers, and I didn't want super-thin layers for this cake.

On the plus side, the cake tasted pretty good and the texture was nice. So I didn't want to have to hunt down another recipe. I figured I'd make the cake AGAIN but this time in two 8-inch cake pans.

Guess what else I didn't have a matching pair of?

Yup, no pairs of 8-inch round pans, either. Don't ask me how this happens. I haven't a clue.

So I went out and bought two light-colored 8-inch cake pans with straight sides. I had to go to FOUR different stores before I found what I wanted. But I got them, and proceeded to make cake.

Oooooh, pretty! And tasty, too!
I used the same recipe from The Kitchn, but used 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Butternut flavoring and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Oh, and since I live at high altitude, I decreased the baking powder from 3 1/2 teaspoons to an even tablespoon.

Where the instructions said to add all the flour, then all the liquids, I added the flour in thirds, alternating with the milk in two additions. Just because. The cakes took about 35 minutes to bake.

Perfect! They came out of the pans flawlessly, and when they were cool, I evened out the tops, then sliced them in half, vertically, to make four even layers. Then I froze them to make the filling and frosting easier.

Four layers of cake. The caramel was PERFECT.
For the caramel. I wanted something thicker than a sauce, but not as chewy as a caramel candy. Soft, but not runny and drippy. So I found a recipe on Cake Central for a thick caramel sauce or filling.

It sounded perfect.

But, after it cooled, it seemed a little too dense, so I reheated it and added more cream. In all, I added an additional 1/2 cup of cream to get it to a state I wanted. So far, so good.

The almond filling was easy. I bought a can of SOLO filling.

Then came the buttercream. I knew that I wanted to decorate with roses like the ones I Am Baker makes, so I used her buttercream recipe.

Some assembly required.
Or sort of.

I started with her Perfect Crusting Buttercream, but used 1/2 butter and 1/2 butter-flavored shortening. Then I added 1/2 teaspoon of salt. For flavoring, I used 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon almond extract, and 1 teaspoon vanilla butternut.

The frosting was a pleasing cream color, which was nice. Not wedding white, and not too yellow or tan.

Assembly was easy.  Seriously. Much easier than I expected it to be.

The caramel got a little more dense as it hit the cold cake, but the frozen cake stood up to me spreading that caramel around. Another option might have been to use a slightly warmed caramel so it would have spread easier, but it still would have cooled as it hit the frozen cake, so I don't know if that would have made any difference.

I slathered the almond paste on the middle layer and used about 3/4 of a can. I had plans for the rest.

Buh-bye cake! Have fun at the party!
Since the almond paste was soft and I knew I'd be putting a bit of pressure on the cake to get that next layer of caramel down, I put the caramel on the next layer before I put that layer onto the cake.

One of my smartest decisions of the day.

I used about half of the caramel that I had made for the two layers of cake. I'm sure I'll think of some uses for the rest.

Spoon, maybe. It's insanely good.

Then, a crumb coat. The buttercream crusted quickly on the cake, so I didn't even need to freeze or refrigerate before I moved on to the roses.

This is my second attempt at making a rose cake using the tutorial from I Am Baker, and I have to say that these things are FUN.

The result looks good even when the flowers are a little off kilter, and you can fill in the holes with little frosting swipes or stars. I wasn't totally happy with all the stars, but that's just because I need a teeny bit more practice.

You wanted a slice, right?
I could see some flaws, but overall, I thought it looked pretty good. And really, who is going to study a cake that close? You slice, you eat, it's gone.

If you're wondering how I got photos of the sliced cake, my mother-in-law sent the cake to me for photos the day after the party, and then I returned to so they could keep enjoying it.

And ... this is probably going to sound a little weird, but when I got the cake back for photos, I saw a few smudges of melted birthday candle wax on top, and that made me happy.

I heard that all the guests were impressed with the cake, and my father-in-law was over the moon about it. Mission accomplished.

So ...

Remember those two 9-inch layers? Well, I decided that since I had no idea whether I'd get to sample my cake (it was attending the party without us), I'd use one of the layers to make a half-cake.

Six layers of cake, five layers of filling.
I split the layer into three very short horizontal layers, then cut the layers in half, so I had six half-moon pieces. I layered the cake with two layers of caramel, two very thin layers of almond filling, and one layer of buttercream.

I got a little boggled as I was making the layers. I had planned on having the buttercream in the center, but for some reason it ended up second from the top. No biggie. This was just for fun, anyway.

I didn't have a lot of frosting left, so I had enough for a super-thin crumb coat and then a thin top coat. No flowers or anything fancy. But that's okay. I like cake better than frosting, anyway.

The other 9-inch cake layer is in the freezer, waiting for me to be inspired. Or hungry. Whatever.

Want some cake?