Thursday, 16 May 2013

Caramel cake and hand biscuits

The other night I found myself in a sticky situation.  Literally.  It was a matter of a cake for a community event.  I've seen many an accomplished baker quiver at the very mention of caramel.  Yet I blithely put my faith in the Australian Women's Weekly and set out to bake a caramel cake.  Fortunately after throwing out two batches of caramel icing, I finally listened to intuition and made the sort of icing that would make my foremothers proud.

The cake was a variation on a basic butter cake.  But I couldn't work out the recipe for the caramel icing.  It said to stir brown sugar and butter until sugar melted and then to simmer without stirring for 3 minutes.  Then to stir in icing sugar.  The first time I think I overcooked the caramel and the icing was so grainy.  The second time I thought I had the caramel lovely and creamy but when I added the icing sugar it seized into a crystallised sugary mixture that set hard as soon as it cooled.

I actually thought the second caramel might work.  Yet once it was on the cake and set hard it was horrible.  Too sweet and sugary and flaked off at the merest touch.  I almost just left it at home.  But then I thought about how I would make the icing and decided to have a third go.  It was a moment when I heard the force calling me.  Only I think it was the voices of my mother and her mother and her mother and so on.  They were telling me to just do what we had always done and mix icing sugar with butter.  I added a bit of golden syrup for a caramel flavour.  Bingo!

I also made some plain biscuits and made them into hand shapes to reflect the theme of the community event.  (Raise your hand!)  I used the sugar cookies recipe that we used to make cookie wands a few years back.  I put a few on sticks but didn't have the energy to do them all on sticks.  I followed my mum's advice and only added one third cup of sugar and found that they were not at all sweet.  Probably not a bad thing at an event where there was lots of sweet food.

There were lots of great food at the event.  After all my stress about the cake, it was the biscuits that got all the attention.  It was probably the brilliant idea (I wish it was mine) to stand the biscuits on sticks in a wedge of watermelon.  E was happy I brought home some cake with soft buttery icing.  Sylvia seemed quite taken with the cake too.  The next day she was at her toy stove making caramel berry cake for Dolly's birthday.

Has anyone tried to make this caramel icing (or frosting)?  Do you have any advice on this caramel icing or a foolproof caramel icing recipe?

I am sending this to Archana at Tangy Minds for Bake Fest, an event founded by Vardhini of Cook's Joy.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: WW Beetroot, chickpea, tomato and kale bowl
Two years ago:  Blogging: reflections and ch-ch-ch-changes
Three years ago: Gingerbread, mixed peel and grandmothers
Four years ago: Heidi’s Chocolate Cake
Five years ago: Rosy Russian Bread (and Grumpy Baker)

Caramel cake
Adapted from The Australian Women's Weekly Cakes and Slices Cookbook

Cake:
125g butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup self raising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup milk (I used soy milk)

Caramel icing:
2-3 tbsp of nuttalex (or other margarine or butter)
about 3 heaped dessertspoons of icing sugar
1 tsp golden syrup
trickle of milk

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla essence,  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then the golden syrup.  Gently stir in flours, cinnamon and milk.  Bake in moderate oven at 180 C until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  (It took me about 1 hour and 15 min but the AWW recipe suggested 50 minutes.)  Sit in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn on to a wire rack to cool.

When cool, make the icing by mixing all the ingredients together until you have a smooth spreadable mixture.  Spread icing over cake.

On the stereo:
Back to basics: Billy Bragg

30 comments:

  1. Your cake and bikkies turned out well in the end - the icing looks scrumptious.

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    1. Thanks Cakelaw - the icing was actually lovely and soft but a bit messy because it never set

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  2. It still looks great! I made a mistake with my caramel icing and turned it into a hokey pokey icing. It was on last week's blog if you need it (you can do it without the caramel bits) :)

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    1. Thanks Lorraine - your mistake with the caramel icing looks so much more successful with mine - I rarely throw out food because I can usually rescue it in some way but there was no help for this icing

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  3. I'm a bit wary of caramel too, and as it's not my favourite flavour (I loved it as a child, but now it's often too sweet) I haven't experimented much. I am impressed with your three efforts though, and that you got there in the end! I also like the look and sound of your hand biscuits, and hope you enjoyed the tea.

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    1. Thanks Kari - the only caramel I can do is to cook condensed milk into dulche de leche but making it from scratch is too challenging - though I did realise why people like salted caramel after all that tasting the caramel - I actually had to buy a packet of crisps for morning tea the next day to combat all the sugar!

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  4. I hate making caramel also...it's just so hit or miss. some days it works and some days it doesn't!

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    1. Thanks Joanne - that is comforting because you seem to have some amazing caramel creations

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  5. I love this simple caramel icing. It is not true caramel but it is delicious. Over low heat, melt 1/2 stick butter in saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon flour and stir thoroughly. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar and stir til sugar melts. Slowly add 1/3 cup milk (preferably at room temperature) and stir, stir, stir till completely incorporated. Bring temperature up to medium and stir constantly until mixture boils and thickens. Turn off heat. Add sifted icing sugar to desired consistency (usually between 1 and 2 cups, depending on whether I plan to drizzle or spread). Don't let this sit around at room temperature for too long or it will set hard and can't be used as icing.

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    1. Thanks Anonymous - sounds like you know this one well - it is similar to the one that didn't work for me but I think it has more butter and milk which may make a difference. Will have to have a go when I next need caramel icing!

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  6. Haha, those little hand biscuits are brilliant!!! I love them!

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    1. Thanks Jac - I was quite pleased with the hand cookie cutters!

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  7. Caramel can be such a bitch to work with... Maybe this needs more of a dulce de leche/confiture de lair affair on top? Sounds fancy but it's just sweetened condensed milk meets caramel to create a spread? Looks great regardless! x

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    1. Thanks Nat - I love dulce de leche made of condensed milk - never tried spreading it on a cake but must do

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  8. oooh that sounds so delicious! I could go for a slice of that cake right about now! :) glad to see you're doing well! :)

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    1. Thanks Caralyn - nice to hear from you - the cake was quite yummy even if the icing frustrated me

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  9. Wow, I don't get the science behind the original icing recipe at all! But, then again, I quit science after year ten, so...

    Caramel cake > chocolate cake! ;)

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    1. Thanks Hannah - Caramel is a mystery - I've never had such problems with chocolate cake!

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  10. I nominated you for a blogger award! Feel free to play along if you wish x
    http://www.skinny-vegan-food.com/2013/05/sisterhood-of-world-bloggers-award.html

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    1. Thanks Claire - very kind and would love to play along - though might take a little time

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  11. I've been on a caramel kick lately, so this looks particularly yummy! But I know that traditional caramel can be SO fussy. Your frosting sounds great, though!

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    1. Thanks Ricki - was interested in your latest caramel frosting on the chocolate caramel slice - I have a vegan recipe for caramel sauce made from coconut milk, maple syrup and something else which sounds so much easier than traditional caramel

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  12. Love your cute little hand bikkies and that caramel cake looks great. I too have had mixed success with caramel icings - I used the same recipe twice - first time was really successful but then a repeat a few months later wasn't the same at all. I don't know what I did wrong. I've resorted to golden syrup icing too - it tastes great!

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    1. Thanks Caroline - I got so confused doing the caramel recipe that I couldn't remember if I did the same thing twice or not - I thought I did but who knows - it was definitely different both times. Love golden syrup in anything so I knew it would be good in icing

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  13. I'm not sure I've ever made caramel icing before, but now I think I need to give it a crack.
    Those little hand biscuits look very appealing, I think my lot would have their *ahem* hands all over them.

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    1. Thanks Brydie - love to hear if you crack the secret of caramel icing - and it was good to remember those biscuits work quite well

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  14. That looks so great :) and those hand biscuits are super cute! I made caramel to stir through ice cream the other day but haven't done caramel cake or caramel icing in a long time!

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    1. Thanks Cass - caramel in ice cream sounds great

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  15. Amazing and best cake ever seen..So new to me :) :) Thanks for linking this entry in the event Bake Fest

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