Monday, January 28, 2013

Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake

Chocolate + salted caramel = a match made in heaven. There is just something about that salt that make everything taste that much better. I can't explain it and no, it's not crack. I promise.

This cake was a cake that was very special to me. This cake was a surprise for the captain's momma for her surprise retirement slash congrats on your new home party. The captain was able to pull off the amazing surprise of getting all brothers and his sister (who live states away!) to come to town. You should have seen the look on her face when he showed up with his siblings. It's was amazing! I don't know how his mom didn't cry. I almost did. Good thing she didn't because then I would have started too. That would not have been a pretty sight. Let me just leave it at that. Keeping such a big secret was really hard and I honestly felt bad having to fib to her about where the captain was, but it was all worth it. Really, really, worth it. It was such a great moment to see her so happy with all her kids!

Okay, enough mush. Back to cake! Since this was a special occasion, I wanted to make a very special cake. Not just any cake though. I must have torn through ten cookbooks and spent hours online trying to find just the right recipe. It's not easy to find the perfect cake! Kris loves chocolate just like her son, so I knew it had to be something extra chocolatey. It couldn't just be plain chocolate though. It needed a twist. Something different. Something special. Then came the dark chocolate salted caramel cake. Just perfect and something I knew she would love. The combination of chocolate and caramel is pretty hard to beat.

This cake does take a little bit of work, but it's really worth all the effort. This cake is towering with three layers of chocolate cake filled with caramel swiss meringue butter cream and then covered in a decadent dark chocolate frosting that is sprinkled with fleur de sel. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is. I know it sounds fancy, but just trust me here - if I can make this cake, so can you. I promise! With a little bit of patience and time, you will have a cake that is perfect for any occasion and one that will be requested time and time again. If it's not, I promise to come to your house and make one for you. Seriously. Wait, what did I just get myself into? Yikes.

prepping station - guess I forgot to take an ingredient picture. Oops. I was probably too excited to make cake!
prepping the caramel swiss meringue

cooling cakes
adding in the homemade caramel!
just keep whisking, just keep whisking...

look at those layers!

frosted and topped with caramel glass!

want to know how to make this? find out at the end of the recipe!

inside of the cake!

Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake (slightly adapted from Annie's Eats)

For the cake:
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2¼ cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
2¼ tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. brewed coffee
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:
1 cup sugar, divided
¼ cup water
¼ cup heavy cream
Generous pinch of sea salt, such as fleur de sel
4 large egg whites
1½ cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the frosting:
12 oz. good quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
¼ cup very hot water
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. (18 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt
Fleur de sel, for finishing

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Grease the edges and the bottoms of 3 8-inch baking pans Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper and grease the top of the papers. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Mix on low speed to blend.  Add the vegetable oil, buttermilk, coffee, eggs, and vanilla to the bowl and mix on low speed until well blended and completely incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.  Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the cakes cool in the pans about 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.  Remove the parchment paper.

To make the caramel buttercream filling, place ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a medium saucepan.  Mix in the water.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Stop stirring and let the caramel cook, gently swirling from time to time, until it is a deep amber color (test a drop on a white plate or bowl if necessary), watching it carefully to avoid burning. Remove the mixture from the heat and slowly whisk in the cream and then the salt.  Set aside and let cool.

Combine the egg whites and the remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes. The bowl should be cool to the touch. Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (or longer - don’t worry, it will come together!)  Blend in the cooled caramel until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

To make the frosting, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.  Set aside and let cool to room temperature.  In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and water and stir until smooth.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually blend in the melted and cooled chocolate until well incorporated.  Blend in the cocoa powder-water mixture until smooth.

To assemble the cake, level the cake layers if necessary.  Place one of the cake layers on a cake board or serving platter.  Top with half of the caramel buttercream and smooth in a thick, even layer.  Place a second cake layer on top and smooth the remaining caramel butter cream over that.  Place the final cake layer on top.  Cover the top and sides of the cake with the chocolate frosting and smooth with an offset spatula. Before serving, sprinkle with fleur de sel.

You can serve this cake the a sprinkle of fleur de sel or you can make the caramel glass as a topping! To make the glass, heat up equal parts water and white sugar over medium to medium high heat and cook until golden brown. Once the sugar is done, pour in strings on parchment paper and let cool. Once the caramel is cooled, break it up and place on your cake for decoration!

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