Run, Cook, Eat!


Sweet and Salty Cake
September 12, 2009, 7:18 pm
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Oh my goodness. I baked my first layer cake. It was incredible. What an expedition. Plenty to report back about.

This cake is responsible for a very important realization I had about my life. I had a stroke of genius and I figured out that (listen closely, this is important…) that if you run dozens of miles each month, *it’s OK* to eat crazy awesome bad-for-you cakes like this one. Because running -> burning a bajillion calories.

Sweet and Salty Cake

I kid you not, this insight was directly caused by the amount of butter involved in this cake/frosting combo. 5 and a half sticks. Really. Kind of icky to think about, but oh so good.

But back to the cake – the name caught my eye in the brand-new-to-me Baked cookbook. I love all desserts that involve salt, so when my friend asked for a salted caramel cake from Arizmendi for her birthday, I asked her if I could make this instead. I learned later that Martha Stewart really likes it, so it must be good.

I don’t think I realized what I was getting into when I began making this at 8 PM on a weeknight. Layer cakes take a lot of steps, and they don’t transport so well. So I frosted and assembled it at work the next day.

Since the recipe’s all over the internet already, I’ll skip posting that and go straight to my commentary. Here’s the recipe via Martha Stewart, and here’s a blog post that includes several important corrections (in the comments section) to the recipe on Martha’s site. And of course, the original recipe is in this book.

  • The sour cream in the chocolate layer cake really made a difference in the moisture level of the cake. Even though I baked the cakes the night before and I don’t have tight-sealing cake storage containers, the cake stayed moist enough that people positively commented on it several times.

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  • The salted caramel tastes REALLY salty on its own. I’m calibrated to more salt than most people (ie I’m the weirdo who adds salt to pretzels) and after tasting the caramel, I wondered if I’d screwed up and added too much salt. I proceeded with the recipe, worrying all the while that I had just ruined the birthday cake. But no – once tasted with the layers of cake and with the whipped caramel ganache, the salt level was just perfect. Don’t forget to sprinkle a bit of sea salt between the layers.
  • The layer cake assembly part was easier than expected. I’m not great at cake decorating, but it certainly was presentable, and layers instantly equal a bit more impressive than a plain old square birthday cake. I luuurve doing a spackling/basecoat layer of frosting that collects the ugly crumbs, chilling it, and then adding the pretty topcoat layer of frosting.
  • When using a handheld mixer, HOLD ON TO THE BOWL. Somehow I shot the bowl of frosting across the table and it managed to remain upright and not spill when it landed on the floor. (What amazing luck!) This may or may not have been due to the beer I was drinking while baking.
  • And finally, the whipped caramel ganache frosting was really incredible. I made this the morning of the birthday and allowed myself to lick the bowl for breakfast. Generally I’m not even a huge frosting fan. (Must have been the 4 sticks of butter it contained.) I had at least 3 cups of frosting left over, which would probably go well with crepes, or atop some simple vanilla cupcakes or shortbread cookies.

Verdict: This cake was a huge huge success. Arizmendi Bakery’s chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting had set the bar for me, and Baked’s Sweet and Salty Cake knocked Arizmendi off its throne. The salt level was just right, and the moist cake was perfect. This cake was awesome and special enough that I want to make it for all of my good friends’ birthdays, to convey my boundless love for them.

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And my boundless love for salt+chocolate.

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