and the end of another semester teaching college literature, to do something fun and rewarding. I have long
considered starting a blog where I could blend all of my favorite things - food, fashion,
literature - into one inspiring, effervescent, and of course delicious amalgam of photographs, do-it-yourself's, and sometimes witty commentary. As a new wife, and literature doctoral candidate now working on my dissertation, it seems necessary to add yet another time consuming (and certainly fun) activity to my
daily routine. This being said, and as the Cajuns here in Lafayette, Louisiana say, laissez les bons temps rouler!
I will start with cooking - my favorite activity! Lately (meaning for the last three years) I've been obsessed
with Southern cooking. I'm from South Florida, but that does not necessarily mean Southern. Actually, the further South you go in Florida, the more Northern the people seem to be. Nonetheless, I live in South Louisiana now, and all I seem to want to do is emulate the fantastic cooking that thrives here. And since my wedding, this whole cooking hobby has become more fun than ever since I now have nearly every
fancy kitchen gadget known to man - including my prized possession, my pink Artisan
KitchenAid standing mixer! In honor of this tasty new toy, and of all the food-heavy Southern
literature I have been reading since my wedding, including Mississippi native Eudora Welty's Delta
Wedding, my Louisiana neighbor Ernest Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying, Fried
Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, and Southern literary
newcomer and writer of the controversial novel The Help, Kathryn Stockett’s magnificent character
Minnie, who is famous for her caramel cake, today I am going to demonstrate how to make a similar recipe.
The revelatory caramel cake, compliments of the lovely folks in the newest Southern Foodways
Alliance community cookbook edited by the lovely Sara Roahen and the amazing John T. Edge, with a Forward by none other than Alton Brown, is the basis for the recipe I will use today.
So without further delay, first, we begin with the ingredients:
You will need: two boxes of white cake mix, 1.5 cups whole milk, 3 cups sugar, eight eggs, 3
tablespoons light corn syrup, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, half a stick of butter, plus extra for greasing pans, and a bag of crushed Heath bar toffee chips.
Yes, I realize that is a boxed cake mix, but in an effort to simplify things with the near guarantee of great results, that is the route I chose. Sorry SFA. Also, to get a really fluffy and light as a cloud white cake, it is
imperative that you use only the egg whites. Since I doubled the recipe in order to get a four layer
eight inch caramel cake, I used eight whites.
Follow the recipes as otherwise indicated on the box, and blend it on medium speed, KitchenAid speed #5, for just one minute to get a really moist, fluffy cake. If you beat it for too long, it'll be hard and dense.Next, pour the cake mix evenly into four eight inch round pans and bake for 30 to 36 minutes. If you use dark colored pans, bake for a little less time, as they cook faster. They're ready when they are just separating from the cake pans and a tooth pick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans on top of a wire rack for ten minutes. After ten minutes, remove the pans, and let cakes cool completely before making the caramel icing.
You can see the different results from the two top cakes which were from a lighter colored pan than the two bottom cakes. The bottom cakes are more golden-brown, but were still spongy inside. I used all of them and the cake was a success.
To begin the caramel icing, you will need to put two and half cups of sugar in a sauce pan with one and half cups of whole milk (even though I only had reduced fat...), and three tablespoons of light corn syrup.
Stir constantly over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, then reduce to low heat. Meanwhile, in another larger and deeper sauce pan, evenly cover the bottom of the pan with half a cup of sugar, and cook on medium heat, not stirring, until it is caramelized to a nice amber color. You can see both pans below:
Then, pour in the the sugar and milk mixture, stirring vigorously until the candied sugar at the bottom of the pan dissolves once again into the mixture.
It's going to bubble it's going to hiss, but don't worry, just keep stirring until all of the hard candied parts are dissolved. It takes about three to five minutes. When it is ready to be taken off the heat, it will look like this:
Next, once it is no longer on a hot burner, yet still warm, you will add half a stick of butter, and one teaspoon of vanilla extract.
Once the butter is completely stirred in to the mix, finally you will pour it all into a mixing bowl:
Once it cools for about ten or fifteen minutes, you will beat it vigorously, either by hand or electric mixer (the mixer makes a big difference) for about twenty minutes or until it is no longer shiny, but rather thick and creamy, and spreadable with a spatula. Then you will place a layer of cake on a cake stand and pour enough icing over each layer to cover the tops. Do not worry about the sides yet - that will be done after all of the layers are stacked.
Remember that if the cake layers are domed at the top, then you can simply cut off the round portion with a very sharp bread knife like in the photo below. It makes the layers less likely to slide off of one another.
Then simply keep layering and icing:
After each layer is stacked and iced, then pour plenty over the top of the cake and spread it all down the sides of the cake being careful not to tear the cake.
Once you have spread a generous amount on the top and sides of the cake, then I add chopped up bits of Heath toffee candy to the top of the cake. It gives it a finished, decorated look, and of course it tastes fantastic!
And Voila! You have made a beautiful and decadent, husband and grad-student pleasing confection!
I hope you have enjoyed this little Southern cooking demonstration, and I hope you'll frequent Automatic Doll for future adventures in food, fashion, photos, and literature.
**In this cooking demonstration I am wearing a dress from Ebay, a belt and apron from antiques shops in Washington, Louisiana, and pink feathered epaulette shoulder pads of my own design. See the link to my Etsy store at the top of this page for more of my unique handmade and vintage designs.