My friend, Jaci, in Texas contacted me last week to order a cake for her sister’s birthday. Her sister and I are both in Kansas and she figured since she was unable to make a cake for her herself, she’d get the next best thing.
After she told me that Liz loves chocolate and caramel, I started brainstorming and finally settled on this conconction: two layers of devil’s food cake, filled with caramel buttercream, iced with whipped caramel ganache and decorated with ganache and caramel sauce. With all the chocolate, caramel, cream, and butter involved, this is definitely a special-occasion cake!
Rich Chocolate and Caramel Cake
1 recipe of your favorite chocolate cake, made into two round layers and cooled (I used a Pillsbury devil’s food cake mix)
1 c sugar
6 T unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 t vanilla
1/4 t salt
1/2 c heavy cream
6 T unsalted butter, softened
1 T dulce de leche, room temperature
1 c powdered sugar
2 T caramel sauce, room temperature
Whipped Caramel Ganache
1 c sugar
1 ½ c heavy cream
1/8 t salt
1 lb semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 lb (4 sticks) butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, softened
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
Prepare the Caramel Sauce at least 4 hours in advance: Heat the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until the sugar has begun to melt and is brown around the edges, about 3 minutes. Using a heat-safe spatula or spoon, pull the melted sugar toward the center until all sugar is melted and caramel is deep amber in color, about 3 minutes more. Continue pulling and stirring until all the sugar is melted. It will be amber in color. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the butter, vanilla and salt. When mixed, whisk in the heavy cream. Pour into a heat-proof bowl and allow to come to room temperature. After removing 2 T for the buttercream, cover and refrigerate the remaining sauce.
Prepare the Caramel Buttercream: Beat the butter, then mix in the dulce de leche until smooth. Beat in the caramel sauce and then the powdered sugar.
Prepare the Whipped Caramel Ganache: Make a dry caramel with the cup of sugar by putting it into a large saucepan and setting it over medium heat. When the bottom starts to melt and the sides turn brown, start pulling the melted sugar toward the center. Continue doing this, constantly pulling & stirring, until all the sugar is melted and it has turned a deep amber color. Remove from heat.
While the sugar is melting, take a minute to bring the cream to boiling and then remove from heat.
Immediately pour the hot cream into the burnt sugar as soon as you remove it from the heat. It will bubble like crazy and scare the heck out of you, but just keep stirring until all the caramel is dissolved into the cream. If some of the caramel seizes up, put the saucepan back on medium heat and stir, stir, stir, until all the caramel is dissolved and you have a thin, smooth mixture.
Let the mixture sit for five minutes.
Meanwhile, measure your chocolate into a metal or glass bowl. Pour the caramel mixture over the chocolate and allow to sit for a minute before stirring. Stir until all the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth. Allow to sit until the mixture is room temperature, about fifteen minutes. You can pop it in the fridge to speed the process, stirring every few minutes.
With an electric mixer, beat the softened butter into the caramel ganache on low speed and then increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture is thickened and lighter in color, about 2 minutes.
Prepare the Ganache: Bring the cream just to a boil over medium heat (or in the microwave). Place the chocolate in a glass or metal bowl and pour the hot cream over the top. Allow to sit for a couple minutes and then stir, stir, stir, until the chocolate is completely emulsified and you have a smooth, shiny dark ganache. Allow to cool slightly before using. You’ll want it still slightly runny but not hot.
Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer on a plate and spread the caramel buttercream over the top. Place the second cake layer over that and then smooth the whipped caramel ganache over the top and sides of the cake. Garnish the cake with the ganache and caramel sauce. Serve at room temperature. The butter and chocolate in the whipped ganache get hard when refrigerated, which isn’t as fun to eat as a light & velvety frosting. For a pretty presentation, you could drizzle some caramel sauce over each plate before placing the cake slices on them.
If you wish to write a message with the ganache as I did, you will have to let it set up further, so wait until it’s the consistency of thick buttercream before attempting that. Otherwise, it will just leak out of your pastry bag and you’ll have smears and pools of dark shiny ganache on top and your sentiments will look like a threat rather than the good thoughts you’d intended. :)
You can use the extra whipped caramel ganache to pipe a border around the top and bottom. There will be enough leftover whipped ganache to make 1-2 dozen cupcakes, so do it and take them to work to brighten everyone’s day!
Recipe by Veronica Miller
A word of warning: because of the light, velvety texture of the whipped ganache, it couldn’t support the weight of the ganache and caramel I put around the edges of the cake and the sides slid down to the bottom of the cake eventually. (Luckily Liz got her cake while it was still pretty and everyone enjoyed a piece before this happened). Next time I make this cake, I will pour the ganache over the iced cake and let it ooze down the sides so that the weight is evenly distributed. Then I’d use caramel buttercream (I’d double the recipe so there’s enough for decorating) to write on top. I’d recommend the same to you, unless you plan on serving the cake shortly after applying the ganache.
These are (poor) photos of a birthday cake I made last year that illustrate my suggestion about pouring ganache over the top and letting it ooze down the sides.
Thanks to Liz for providing the following photos!