Sunday, November 30, 2008

Maturity; or, Blub

The process of retrospection is one in which we begin to engage early in life. When we’re children, we often ask our parents about what we were like as babies. The teen years are often marked with a disgust and dismissal of our childhood, even as we cling to small talismans of those first years or invest in them a kind of kitchy reverence. Who amongst us hasn’t pondered the manifold mysteries of the Kroftt Superstars, especially whilst under the influence of controlled substances? (Not I, of course. )

But those are external factors. A fascinating aspect of growing older is observing our internal changes—why something that once seemed so pleasing or wonderful to us is now appalling, or vice versa. Food is one of the best indicators of these changes. One day, we wake up, and smoked gouda cheese is suddenly delicious, but uncooked Pop Tarts are not. (Again, this might change under the influence of certain controlled substances....)

As a child, I had a boundless appetite for sweets. I used to be able to eat, in one sitting, two full-sized candy bars and drink an entire soda, and not feel like purging afterwards. It also helped that I had the metabolism of a bee, and could cram fistfuls of Rolos into my mouth without gaining a pound. The thought is less than appetizing now. Also, the metabolism has slowed considerably since then, which is not helped by my journeys into gourmandism.

In my childhood, anything chocolate, especially milk chocolate, was my favorite. A slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting was the height of gastronomic pleasure. Gradually, however, my love of intensely sweet desserts waned, until, one day, I discovered that my favorite desserts involved the salty sweet flavors of butterscotch and caramel. The innovation of adding salt to caramel was a revelation. The perfect sharp note that helped ground the fancies of caramelized sugar—the bliss of heaven, tempered by earthy reality.

This month, the DB challenge was a caramel cake with browned butter caramel frosting. I was ready to embrace the mature me.

To ensure that all facets of my personality were satisfied, I made sure to liberally salt the frosting with kosher salt. I also added some toasted pecans as a garnish, a touch which the young me would have sneered at. The cake was baked up as cupcakes, to be served at P.’s birthday dinner, and also to give to L. for her birthday present. Fitting that this cake, the signifier of maturation, was to be served for several birthdays, but yet in the shape that evoked the innocent years of childhood.

The verdict? The cake was moist and had a pleasing, dense crumb without being heavy. The caramel flavor of the cake was, however, muted. But the frosting...ah, the frosting. It won acclaim from both birthday girls as well as other friends. Sweet, but perfectly mitigated by the salt. I could have eaten it alone with a spoon and, in a moment of weakness, I did just that when alone with some leftover frosting. It was also liberally smeared upon some chocolate chip pumpkin bread. Z. and I were rapturous.

There was actually a little bit of cake batter left over from the cupcakes, so I caved my less mature side and baked up a tiny cake that looked exactly what I wished had emerged from my EZ Bake Oven twenty five years ago. (All the cakes that did come out of the EZ Bake resembled burnt little pucks, so now I have my retribution. Take that, Hasbro!) Perhaps not the most sophisticated and adult decision, but if we can’t indulge our childish whims every once in a while, then what’s the point of getting older?

I remain,
Your servant, &c.

Laura's Caramel Cupcakes - November 2008

Well, after many internet issues, I'm finally here to post my November Challenge!

• Recipe Source: the website link of the author Shuna Fish Lydon’s recipe Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon (, as published on Bay Area Bites (

Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111
• Host: Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater ( assisted by Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo:, Jenny of Foray into Food ( And since none of us know jack about alternative baking, we’ve once again turned to Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go ( to assist us.

I waited until the end of the month for this challenge because I decided right away to bring them to Thanksgiving dinner, as a lovely compliment to my usual (and very non-challenging) pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. However, I think because I waited so long and wound up reading so many other Bakers' posts, I was nervous not only about the degree of the challenge, but also about how they would taste! I do love sweet, but I was very concerned that these would be beyond my threshold and, therefore, a sad miss with the family. Well, I'm happy to report that I was thrilled with the flavor combination and so was the family :) I thought the cake had a wonderful flavor on its own; not nearly as sweet as I expected. Coupled with the frosting, I thought it was an excellent combination.

My biggest challenges were really all in my head - I have worked with caramel before, but very sporadically, so every time I attempt, I go back to feeling like it's going to be impossible. Again, happy to report there were no real disasters - although I will say I was petrified of having my strainer melt when I made the browned butter. Plus being that I only had a regular strainer and not a super-fine sieve, I wound up with quite a bit of the "brown" in there - however, not only do I think it had no effect on the flavor, but I thought the specks gave it a lovely appearance. My intention with presentation was to create leaf cut-outs from the caramel (which I made with regular pure vanilla extract because I didn't have time to hunt down vanilla beans, sadly) and serve them with the cupcakes. I blame my lack of a candy thermometer (which I really should own by now) and fear of over-cooking the caramel. I wound up with caramel that wouldn't really set up - great for heating and pouring over just about anything, but not so much for cookie cutters (what a mess!). Also, I used the remaining caramel sauce, in place of the golden syrup, which may or may not have had an impact on the set-up.

Well, here is the final result - I will definitely hang on to this recipe for future use and will probably attempt the caramels again as an addition to my Christmas cookie platter:

November Challenge Photo Essay

- Monique

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Nov. Challenge

The cake was a delicious treat on Thanksgiving Day. Moist, rich and perfect caramel flavor.

- ginny

November 2008 challenge

Wow, I finally managed (incredibly) to complete my challenge on time! Let me start (according to the rules) by mentioning the recipe appeared on this blog and is a creation of Fish Shuna Lydon. The blogs hosting this Daring Bakers November 2008 challenge are : , and .

Now for my post. As I first read the recipe (and other guys’ comments), I knew right away that I absolutely HAD to reduce sugar amount, and I did so at every step.
I started the previous day by making the sugar syrup. I made only HALF the recipe, and found it was plenty (I had some left over). No problem at all making it, I just had to be careful since from the moment sugar just begins to colour to the moment caramel is ready it takes mere seconds! When a very fine wisp of smoke started coming out, and the caramel was pretty dark (but NOT burnt), I pronounced it ready. I used a long spatula when adding water to the hot caramel (away from fire), and it did splatter, but fortunately I didn’t get burned.

No problem making the cake itself, as mentioned in recipe, it is an ordinary “dry, wet, dry, etc.” cake. I slightly reduced the sugar as well (used 1 cup and 2 Tbsp), and added more baking powder (a total of 1 ½ tsp). My rule of thumb for cakes than don’t have stiff-beaten egg whites is no less than 1 tsp per cup of flour. In my oven it took 1 hour to bake completely. The colour was lovely (thanks to the dark caramel).

As for the icing, I used only 6 Tbsp butter, 4 oz (about 1 cup) icing sugar, no cream, no vanilla, 2 Tbsp caramel syrup and 1 Tbsp of rum. With these quantities I had enough for filling and icing top of cake. I couldn’t have found takers if I had put in any more sugar. I still found it too sweet, but I used it to complete my challenge, and altogether the result is pretty good. I’m taking it to the office Monday, I’ll let you know how fast it goes!

- milnead

Caramel Cake the Wrong Way

If you ever wanted to know what happens when you do everything the wrong way..then this is the post for you. This month's challenge was the Caramel Cake, given to us by Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater. It happens to be her signature cake so you know it's been tested and tried and has to be good. I tried to make caramels once and I failed. I tried again….and failed. The third time…totally failed again, so I thought here's where I can make caramels without making caramels. Right?! I admit…I've been a little preoccupied. Organizing for a move back to America has kinda been my focus (especially since I don't want to move), but I had no idea it was affecting me the way it is. I ALWAYS read a recipe before I attempt to make it. Not once but 3 times~just in case I misunderstand after the first read. Well apparently I retained absolutely nothing after I read. I'm talking NOTHING. It all started with the caramel syrup. I had just enough ingredients to make the challenge. We've used or given away all other food items for the move and we're not buying any replacement food. The syrup was tricky as I didn't want to burn it or I'd not have enough sugar for the cake. I cooked it forever at the highest flame and it would not caramelize. I couldn't figure it out. I finally got a light amber color out of it but didn't dare continue as I was afraid I would have day long sucker in my pan. It didn't taste like sugar syrup, but it didn't taste like caramel. Then I moved on to the cake. Shuna reminded us about how making this cake was about getting everything just right, from the fats to the acids. So of course I jump right in and combined everything out of order, even though I'm reading the recipe as I go. Here's my order…..Butter, sugar, salt, caramel syrup, eggs, vanilla and milk. HELLO!! What was I thinking? I then sifted the flour and baking powder into my sloppy, separated mess and prayed that it would somehow combine into a representation of cake batter. It did not look like great cake batter but it did look like batter so I threw it in the oven. I then went on to make the frosting. Thankfully I was able to pull that together even though my butter didn't brown. What's that you say? It didn't brown? How does butter not brown? I've browned it many times when I didn't want it to, and now when I want it to I can't. What's even more bizarre is that it tasted browned. So once I messed everything up and then combined it this is what I got.

Apparently the stars were aligned. YAY!!!! This is a fantastic cake. Yes it is sweet….but so worth the sugar high. I can only imagine how delicious it must be when the caramel flavor is a bit stronger. The man in my home said it was delicious…and I found the boy in my home eating with a fork digging out of the cake. That means it's REAL good. I would definitely not recommend making the cake out of order…I think it was definitely a fluke that it worked. Make sure when you make yours, you follow the directions. Thanks Shuna for a great recipe and taking the time to help everyone out with their questions. For the recipe go to … he-recipe/ and make sure you stop by Shuna's blog

- Amber

So Sweet!

This November I got excited about the new challenge of caramel cake. I enjoy baking recipes of the sweet nature as opposed to savory ones and since this is only my third daring bakers challenge it is the first dessert recipe that I'm participating in.

The caramel cake recipe that we were asked to try was from Shuna Fish Lydon. Reading the forum was a great help for me. I picked up on a lot of useful tips in making the syrup thereby allowing me to avoid burnt sugar and burnt arms/hands. Visually the cake turned out pretty much ok. It was not also too difficult to make and it did not require a lot of waiting time to come up with the finished product - no waiting, resting of dough etc such as with the previous challenge.

The taste though was not one of my most successful products. By this, I mean that my family did not gobble this cake with as much enthusiasm as others that i've done before. Main reason was that the cake was just way too sweet for our taste. This despite the fact that I already cut the sugar by a considerable amount on the icing recipe. I did not add the full amount of 1 lb of powdered sugar called for but instead just used 2 cups, still it was too sweet in the end. Taste of brown butter though was delicious. This type of icing/frosting reminds me of a donut glaze. I would have probably enjoyed a thicker creamier type of frosting. Maybe I did something wrong along the way in following the recipe.

Although the taste was not a winner for me or a keeper I'm glad I did this challenge because it made me work with sugar syrup, something that I think can be difficult.

- Aleli

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

The safety precautions for making the caramel syrup caught my attention, but I made a pan of syrup without any injuries. I made the batter exactly following the recipe and was pleased with the flavor and texture of the finished cupcakes. I drizzled some of the leftover syrup over the tops for decoration.

The caramelized butter frosting was melt-in-your-mouth smooth, but a little too sweet for my taste, but I knew that my Minnesotan book club friends would love it. Nothing is ever too sweet for them and they were declared delicious!

- Party Princess

Daring Bakers November 2008 Challenge

Hosts of the month are:
Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity
Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo:,
Jenny of Foray into Food ( ) Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go (
The recipe is from Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater
( and posted at


First of all, I really don't like caramel. But since there often is an exception to the rule, I love 'Kouign Amann'. And I love to try out new things. So why not a Caramel Cake? Maybe there is other caramelized stuff I like?

So I went to work on this challenge.
First I cooked the caramel syrup. This part didn't seem very tricky but even as the syrup only had a light amber colour, it tasted a little bit burnt.

For the cake I choose a springform ring pan. The cake didn't rise much but was light and fluff and just right. So I had hope. But then came the caramelized butter frosting... I even used only 30ml of the caramel syrup but together with the confectioners sugar it was sweet.... way too sweet for my taste. The added salt didn't help much. I cut the cake horizontal, filled and decorated it with the icing.

At least I made some caramel fragments for decorations as I had seen at Pilles Blog (
Therefore I caramelized some sugar, poured the liquid at a baking sheet and let it cool down. Then I only had to break the caramel to pieces and stick them into the cake.

This cake is way too sweet for our tastes. Only two people liked it as it was and my boyfriend even disliked the salt part in the frosting which he felt was too sweet, too. All of us liked the cake itself, most disliked the oversweetness of the frosting. Maybe I made some mistakes with the frosting as this cake went well with other daring bakers. So if I ever come down from my sugar high maybe I will try this cake again.
But this will probably take some time.

- bana

How to Tell When Your Butter is Hot...

I was excited to see this challenge as it would be my first sweet challenge. All that soon changed though and I am afraid to say that there is only one word to sum this challenge up - DISASTER!

After reading about other members progress I decided to attempt the caramel syrup. All seemed to be going fine and was happy with the colour and texture so left the syrup to cool as directed. I go back to my syrup to find it had solidified. Anyway, 3 batches of syrup later and I am out of sugar and still not managed to stop the caramel process in time so decide I will have to work with what I have. I re-heated my syrup and decided to work with it while it was still warm and hope it didn’t effect the cake too much.

The sponge was a simple process and looked divine. My sponge rose slightly and was a good height and lovely and dense with caramel flavour.

So, I finally felt that the challenge was improving and that surely with only the caramel butter cream icing what more could possibly go wrong.

I browned off my butter, sieved it as directed, did a double glance at my sieve -
yes you guess it I had melted it!!!

Still don’t get how that happened! I quickly hid the melted evidence and moved on to my second attempt (minus the sieving stage), again I had to re-heat my solid mass that I was attempting to pass off as caramel syrup. The syrup was divine though and struggled to stop eating it!

Overall the cake looked ok considering the troubles I had had and everyone who had a slice said it was very sweet but they still ate it all!

Can't say I would be rushing to make this again. Needless to say that after the trouble I had with the syrup I decided that the caramels were more than my nerves could take!

- Denise

November Challenge!!!

It was delicious!

- Ivana

Carmel? I LOVE CARMEL!!!!!

I have to admit, with this being my very first DB Challenge I must have checked to see what the challenge would be a thousand times!! When it was, finally, posted I couldn't wait to get started!! Forget chocolate.... it's all about the Carmel baby!!

Having never made Carmel anything before I was a little intimidated, but everything went really well... all three times I made it! My Carmel syrup turned out really well. The taste was good... the consistency was good... but... it always went too thick or hard by the time I got around to making the frosting. So I had to adjust. I thought it was cooking too long. My "slightly sticky" was too sticky. I though it was when it was slightly tacky.... not so much. The third time I made it I cooked it till it almost felt think between my fingers... if that makes sense. This time I was able to make the cake... the frosting... and it was still soft enough to decorate with. YAY!!

I made two cakes and one batch of cupcakes. My sugar and I agree that for whatever reason the cake had a much better crumb then the cupcakes. I have never noticed a difference before in other recipes. Don't get me wrong... they were both fantastic... but the cake was more dense and both times the flavor was better.

The first time I tasted the frosting I really didn't care for it. I was worried I used too much salt.. but I thought that I needed it to cut through the sweetness. However, after it sat for a few hours, I loved it!! It just gets better and better as it sits.

The verdict from friends and family is that this is definitely "a keeper".

- Bluzet

How Sweet It Is…

What a great challenge! Caramel is one thing I have not worked with very much, mostly out of fear, so I appreciated the push to get going with the sugar already. And the results were very pleasing all around.

I was nervous going into making the caramel syrup because of all the comments about it on the message board, but either I got very lucky or I’ve got a caramel thumb, because it came together perfectly, no problem. The eruption of molten sugar was quite exciting, and the syrup tasted heavenly. I let that cool while I started the batter for the cake, which I made into cupcakes. My batter looked curdled after adding the eggs, but became creamy and smooth after adding the flour and milk. I got 21 cupcakes from the batter, and they were done after 20 minutes in the oven. Those cooled while I scrubbed caramel sauce from my counters, my mixer, several spoons, then they were packed away to await frosting the next day.

This challenge was my first foray into browned butter, and man was I missing out! It took longer than I expected for the butter to get brown, and then I thought I had actually burnt it. I strained it anyways, and realized that all the burnt looking pieces were stuck to the bottom of the pan, and the strained butter smelled so good it couldn’t possibly be burnt. I had to strain it twice, as the first sieve I used wasn’t nearly fine enough to get out all the little bits. I had to re-warm my caramel syrup to make the frosting, since it had become so thick it was hardly moving in the pan when I tilted it, so I put it on a low burner while the butter cooled off. I wish I had measured as I made the frosting, because it came out really good, but mostly I just started dribbling in a bit of sugar, some caramel, a little sugar, some cream, until all the sugar was in, and enough of the caramel and the cream to make a smooth, creamy frosting. A few pinches of kosher salt, and it was done. I will be going back to this frosting for sure, it was incredible. I piped it onto my cupcakes, then used the leftover caramel syrup to make some decorations for them. I boiled it for a while, then drizzled it onto some foil to make little sugar candies for the tops of the cupcakes.

I brought these cupcakes to a potluck, and within 2 minutes of opening the box, they were gone. Is it bragging to say they were the hit of the party? Personally I found the cake to be too dense, but the frosting more than made up for it. I’m trying to figure out what would be the perfect thing to use that frosting on, because I certainly will be making it again.

- Brooke

Olivia’s Caramel Layer Cake

From the bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater ( for sharing with us her signature caramel cake. Her recipe for Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting can be found at (, as published on Bay Area Bites ( If you’d like to try the recipe, additional guidance on the cake can be found here ( … ake-a.html) and here as well ( … he-recipe/). Thanks also to the co-hosts this month ( Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo:, Jenny of Foray into Food (, and Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go (

The assembly of this cake requires the careful coordination of 3 recipes: a caramel syrup, the cake, and a caramelized butter frosting. The latter two rely on the perfect execution of the first. Much ado is made about balancing the addition/incorporation of liquid and dry ingredients to form the cake batter. This part was not a problem for me. I was most nervous about the syrup, wondering if I cooked it long enough—if the color was deep enough. I took pictures so that I may compare with others. It certainly tasted good and it did its job in flavoring the cake and frosting.

I love making layer cakes and so chose to do so with this challenge. The amount of batter this recipe generates was perfect to fill two very deep 6-inch cake pans. In my opinion, splitting each layer (for a total of 4) always makes the assembled cake look stately as it is sliced and plated. I brushed each layer with caramel syrup and drizzled the top and sides of the cake with syrup once it was frosted. Admittedly, my piping skills leave a lot to be desired. To finish, I sprinkled the frosted cake with Murray River Australian Sea Salt ( (I’ve been sampling the gourmet salts at my local spice shop. Read further below for more details on its appearance and texture.) It made the cake sparkle with a slight iridescent sheen and was a good counterpoint to all of the sugar.

This little 6-inch layer cake was a huge hit! Smaller and smaller portions were shaved off of the last slice—no one wanted to take the last piece. The most repeated compliment was “moist”. It was even suggested that this would make a superb wedding cake. I feel so fortunate to have access to such professional talent as Shuna and to be able to reap the accolades as well.

Having a copious portion of caramel syrup left over, I decided to make a half portion of Alice Medrich’s Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from her book, Pure Dessert. The recipe calls for golden syrup. After researching exactly what that was (including appropriate substitutes) and perusing other caramel recipes in which honey or agave nectar were implemented, I determined by the viscosity of my caramel syrup left over from Shuna’s recipe that it would be a good substitute. It worked beautifully. I chose to make a softer caramel by allowing the confection to reach only 260°F. Each caramel was dusted with a pinch of Murray River Australian Sea Salt ( The salt is a new favorite of mine. It has a lovely, fluffy texture, a pale peachy color, and the salinity was a good contrast to the sugar. I wrapped the caramels in wax paper, twisting each end. They will be a birthday gift for my officemate who keeps a candy bowl full of Werther’s on his desk. I think he may notice a distinctive difference in these handmade treats!


Delicious Cake!

It is the sweetest cake I have ever concocted.

The caramel syrup was a little tricky- I did not know when dark amber colour was really that I guessed and it worked out! It is a delicious cake.

- Katie

Maryann, Fruit & Caramel = Delish!

So let's talk about the cake. I made the syrup on Saturday night (without any problems) and made the cake on Sunday. The syrup had a yummy caramel taste to it. I had about 3 tablespoons of it left in the pot after I transferred the rest to a glass jar, so I decided to make steamed milk with it...I added a dash of vanilla plus a combination of heavy cream and fat free milk...Boy was that delish.

I have lots of cake pans. After a bit of contemplation, I decided on the MaryAnn pan...It's quite forgiving.

The batter was quite easy to make. At first it seemed to curdle. Once all of the flour was incorporated the batter looked fine. I was really surprised by how little the batter raised. I provided pictures of the batter before and after baking the cake. The cake stuck a bit to the pan once it was cooked. I probably should have waited a little longer before flipping the pan. I think that I'll start a "walk around the block rule" before flipping. You can see a few flaws on one of the pictures.

I quartered the frosting recipe. This worked out perfect for the MaryAnn well. I made just enough frosting to cover the inperfections in the well. I decorated the cake 'til this point on Sunday night. The frosting was slightly soft, so I refrigerated the cake until 5 am on Monday morning.

I thought that the frosting was delish. I really loved the brown butter taste. I was very generous with the sea salt. I used flaked sea salt from Zijautenejo (sp???) that partially smashed with a rolling pin. I made the frosting a bit on the thin side. It was definitely much thinner than a Wilton "thin".

On Monday morning, I added the fruit (blueberries, rasperries and strawberries) to the frosted well of the MaryAnn cake. I drizzled lots of the caramel syrup on top of the fruit. This probably added to my out focus pictures. As you can see from my pictures, the fruit is quite shiny.

I took the cake to work. My coworkers went bonkers over it. No complaints of sweetness. I noticed that once the berries were added to the cake, it lost it's caramel flavor. Some of my coworkers were shocked when I told them that it was a caramel cake.

I was told that the cake was very pretty but I attribute those compliments to the pan. My husband told me that this was the best cake that I have ever made...I don't think so, but I am glad that he does.

I think that the base of the cake was quite moist but the sides/walls were a little dry...I have had this happen with other cakes that I have baked in the MaryAnn pan.

I would definitely make this cake to take to a party or if I had company. I would also use the same pan and fruits on top.

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this challenge.

Kind Regards,


Thursday, November 6, 2008

I need to work on my pizza tossing skillz...

But other than that, everything went well with the pizzas. I was so happy when the challenge was pizza because it is my FAVORITE food!

I split the dough into 6 balls but only used 2 for now. The first pizza was a shrimp, garlic and broccoli pizza (yum!). I didn't use pizza sauce for either pizza, just some olive oil (thanks for the tip, Jess:-). I used canned shrimp with fresh garlic and fresh broccoli. I actually got the idea for this one from a new pizza place I tried a couple of weeks ago. Mine wasn't as good as theirs but I have no complaints...because I ate it all.

The next pizza was a buffalo chicken pizza. Again, just olive oil at the bottom. I mixed some buffalo chicken sauce with canned chicken and baked up a winner. My peeps loved it. It was their favorite. I will definitely have to make this one again.

Tossing the dough was comical to say the least. I had fun and that's what it's all about. Trying to get an action shot of that would have been even funnier. I'm glad I have the recipe as I will definitely be making this dough again. See you next month, DBs!