Sunday, August 16

A Hot Mess - {Chocolate and Caramel Cake}

The first time I made caramel, it was a disaster.

The plan was simple; make a huge sheet of caramel-y chewy goodness, cut it into pieces like delicious little bars of gold, dress each priceless nougat in parchment and adorn them lovingly with sophisticated bows of brown ribbon. It was going to be a perfect addition to the boxes of cookies I was handing out to my friends for the holidays.

But it was all downhill after pouring the sugar into my pan.

I cooked the sugar to a beautiful dark amber, hastily dumped in the cream and shrieked as the contents gurgled and sputtered their way higher and higher up the edges of an already full sauce pan. The burning mess climbed up my spoon and I sacrificed it - without thought - to the growling monster from hell, stepping backward in shock. The bubbles tested the round lip of the pan, edging higher and higher.

It was at this point the realization that there was no hope socked me square in the face.

I watched in horror as the sticky ooze spilled over the edge, racing for the burner and spreading over the surface of my oven. Smoke billowed up quickly, and the terrible and thick scent of burning sugar and cream filled not only my kitchen, but my entire house.

There were no caramels that Christmas.

But today, there is caramel. Thankfully this time it is soft, chewy, and contained in a nice, neat, small, oiled bowl instead of being completely inelastic and sprawled haphazardly like a hungry amoeba over my range.

On the flip side, the first time I made chocolate cake, was... Well, pretty unremarkable, honestly. The cake was mixed, baked and devoured. Easy as... Cake.

But this time my chocolate cake was a disaster. I was so excited to use my spankin' new, 3 mile (*cough*inch*cough*) deep, sparkly Fat Daddio's cake pan that I thought whatever I did was going to turn out beautifully. But I was wrong. I will just say that I have never before in my life seen a cake that baked up quite as terribly. When I flipped it onto the cooling rack, the unbaked center (which I tested with a toothpick - it came out clean!!!) flowed through the bars and all over my counter; a sticky ooze of a mess for me to clean. Just bad. So I tried again. (Don't judge me! I had to, because I had finally made caramel correctly, and I had to use it in something... Didn't I?)

But I don't blame the pan. I blame the recipe. This cake is uber rich and extremely chocolaty and I think it was soupy in the oven because it was, at that point, pretty much a melted chocolate bar. When I made a few changes and baked it in two pans instead of one, things went much more smoothly.

This cake is quite rich, but also a little dry, which seems kind of contradictory, but it's true. Maybe. My family didn't think it was dry... BUT... I think the addition of sour cream would help this recipe. It's up to you!

Oh, and to justify the eating a slice of this chocolaty, caramel-y, buttery, tasty monstrosity? You're eating for your soul.

And maybe PMS.

Chocolate and Caramel Cake
Printable Recipe

1 c (198 g) sugar
1/4 c (59 ml) heavy cream

Prepare a small bowl by rubbing it with shortening/butter or spraying it with Pam so that the cooling caramel will not stick to it completely. Set aside.

Cook the sugar in a heavy-bottom pan until a dark amber color (I don't know which temp is right... I got lucky, I guess!). Remove from heat and pour in the cream, stirring gently until combined and no longer bubbling. Pour into the prepared bowl and let rest until cool to the touch.

Be careful, hot sugar is.... Hot... It burns. lol. The goal is to have a very soft caramel that is a little runny when cooled. You'll be adding it to buttercream.

Caramel/Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Please click here for a step-by-step guide to making Swiss Meringue Buttercream and troubleshooting tips!

1 3/4 c (348 g) sugar
8 egg whites (save 2 yolks for the cake recipe!)
3 1/2 sticks (28 Tbls) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
Resulting caramel from above recipe
1/4 c (40 g) dark chocolate, melted and cooled

Cook the egg whites and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved (test by rubbing some between your fingers. If it's completely smooth, it's done). Pour into another bowl (a stand mixer is preferable) and whip on high speed until room temp. Then, on a medium-slow speed, slowly add the butter, a few pieces at a time, waiting until each addition is fully incorporated before adding more. After it has all been added, whip it until it thickens up, about five minutes, and add the vanilla. Remove half of the buttercream, place in a separate bowl, and whip in the chocolate. Add the caramel to the remaining half. It may be necessary to heat the caramel slightly to make sure it is the correct consistency, but be careful it's not so hot that it will melt the buttercream!

Super Chocolate Cake
3/4 c (177ml) heavy cream
1 c (160 g) dark chocolate chips (I used 52%)
2 c (250 g) flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3/4 c (177 g)butter, cubed and at room temp
1 c (142 g)firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs + 2 yolks, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C) then grease and line two 6 inch pans.

Heat cream until steaming, then pour over chocolate. Allow to set for 5 minutes, then whisk gently to combine. Allow to cool to room temp (put it in the fridge/freezer for a bit, if you like).

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then add both yolks plus the vanilla. Then, alternating between wet and dry (beginning with wet), add the flour and cream mixtures in 2 additions each. Be sure to scrape down the bowl!

Divide batter into the two prepared pans and bake 35-40 min.

Level and split each layer of cake so you have four layers of equal height. Fill with caramel buttercream, crumb coat with either frosting, and then frost completely with the chocolate buttercream. I decorated very simply by drizzling chocolate over the edges of the [chilled] cake. Additional caramel would also be great :)


  1. WOW! definately an awesome cake! I would love to make this delicious cake too!

  2. Wow, what a perfect cake with perfect layers and a perfect icing! Loved it.

  3. What a beautiful cake! Caramel buttercream sounds incredible too! Sorry to be a pest, small much melted chocolate do I use in the buttercream. It says 1/4, but 1/4 of what?

  4. Thank you!

    One of these days I will get my recipes right the first time; it's supposed to be 1/4 c. Oops!

  5. Total Awesomeness! :)

    It was very brave of you to build the cake that high... but worth it - Chapeau!

  6. This is the most beautiful cake I have ever seen! I can't stop looking at the pictures - your layers and icing job are flawless! Well Done!

  7. it's beautiful! Love the layers and it's so tall! I jsut want to dig in.

  8. almost knocked me off my sock just starring at those gorgeous layers! Must say, I will never ever be able to do anything like this!

    Thanks for sharing and for posting!

  9. That cake looks so elegant and yummy!

  10. Wonderful photos!!!! Delicious cake ;)

  11. PS - My first foray into caramel was similar to yours. You only have to make that mistake once!

  12. PSS - Give the Chocolate Fudge Cake recipe from The Cake Bible a try (Rose Levy Beranbaum). It's absolutely wonderful. The name is somewhat misleading because the cake is not fudgey as the name implies - rather it's intensely chocolate, very moist, and utterly delicious!!

  13. Ohmygosh, that cake is so high it's giving me acrophobia. Shame you didn't love the cake itself, but the caramel, phwoarrr. Looks incredible.

  14. I'm STILL terrified to deal with hot sugar - kudos to you! In terms of the cake recipe I'd say its probably the heavy cream's fault - too much fat in cake batter will never allow it to set properly (since fat doesn't evaporate). I learned that the hard way whem I made my fiance's birthday cake last year!

    I also totally agree w ButterYum - that fudge cake recipe is stellar!

  15. What a perfect cake! I want this now!!

  16. Lovely cake. I'm curious though.....where did you get your recipe from. I read your post several times but I do not see the source of your recipe.

  17. What a beautiful cake! I like the excuse to eat it - my soul would definitely need a slice!
    Love hearing that you have cooking disasters too! :)

  18. Thank you so much, everyone!

    @Butteryum: I am SOOOOOO glad that you know where I'm coming from with the caramel disaster! Haha. Thank you for the recipe suggestion - I just had to return that book to the library, actually. I didn't have a chance to give it a good looking-through. I might have to pick it up again :)

    @Sarah: Well, it set ok the second time I made it, and one of the changes I made was actually substituting the cream for water, which I had used the first time :) That's good to know, though. I never thought about that! Now that you've seconded the recipe, I'll REALLY have to look into it!

    @rrezatuese: Thank you! The original recipe is here, but I'd adapted it so much I didn't think it was necessary to cite it.

  19. @Jess: Hehe - thanks! My soul had a severe need for chocolate. My little bro will vouch for that ;)

  20. Haha... I remember checking that book out of my library over and over... finally I got my own copy. Now it's tattered and stained, with tons of handwritten notes throughout. If you truly want to make the best tasting cakes, and learn all the hows and whys... you don't have to look much further than that fabulous book.

    You might be interested in knowing that RLB is coming out with a brand new cake book in September of this year. It's called Rose's Heavenly Cakes. I'd love to invite you to join our little baking group Rose's Heavenly Bakers. As soon as we all receive our copies, we're going to start a Baking-with-dorie-like group. We'll take turns picking a different cake from the book each month. Then we'll all post about it on our blogs, or on Rose's blog with our results. It's going to be fun... I hope you'll consider it.

  21. I must know... how do you get your frosting so SMOOTH?? It's like glass!

  22. This looks delicious!

    Also... your first experience with making caramels sounds familiar--I hated that the recipe I used never said, "oh, p.s., this thing will QUADRUPLE in size the moment you add this ingredient, so you need a HUGE pot for it." I remember screaming for my brother to come help me and dumped half into another pan... and still had a ton of mess to clean up. Ugh.

    Hope your caramels turned out better, next time. I'm sure they did--you have quite a talent for this, all the recipes on your site are amazing! Nice work. :)

  23. omg, those look uh-mazing! I must have a slice of each, right now!

  24. beautiful blog! beautiful photos! love it!

  25. If you put sour cream into the cake like you said, how much would you need and how would you use it?
    And can I replace the cake with another one, such as the caramel mudcake from Taste that you posted in an earlier comment?

  26. Thanks so much, guys!

    As for the sour cream, I would substitute it for 1/2 c of the heavy cream. Add it in just after you add the eggs, then follow the recipe as written. Replacing the cake with another would be perfectly ok, although I can't vouch for the flavor of the one I linked. I've never made it myself :P

  27. That's a pretty cake...... except it looks pretty impossible to eat lol

  28. OH. MY. GOD. this cake looks phenomenal!!!! seriously, this is one of the most gorgeous, picture-perfect pieces of baking glory I've ever seen.. I'm in shock.

    and I want a piece. really, really badly. so I guess this means I'll have to overcome my caramel-phobia soon.. thanks for the beautiful kick in the butt!! xx

    once more - YUM xx

  29. This cake was delicious. As is everything that the Whisk-Kid makes. But as she is leaving for college soon, I think I may have the opportunity to lose some weight. And no, I don't bake. Love you sweetie.

  30. wowie....that cakes looks good, i wish i could reach thru the computer and grab a slice

  31. I like baking and I stumbled upon this blog after looking for new ideas and things to try to bake. I must say I am impressed with the detailed explanations of what you have done to make your creations. This Chocolate and Caramel Cake looks delicious. Keep up your good work!

  32. Hi there, I love your blog! I wanted to try and make this cake, but I only have the boring, run-of-the-mill, standard 8 and 9 inch round cake pans. Would cooking time vary? Is there a temperature I should aim for to determine doneness? Help! :)

  33. I sucked this recipe up! I had to make the buttercream twice, just to fail. and caramel 3 times. Does humidity play a factor in this? It whipped up fine, and then when I added the caramel it was either too warm and it melted it (which you specified not to do haha) or it was too cool and wouldn't incorporate. But the cake part turned out wonderful! Your blog makes me soooo happy. I live just south of you in northern IN and have pretty much been telling everyone I know how amazing you are ever since seeing you on the Martha Stewart show! Keep up the great work!

  34. Add some nuts to make it more mosest. take out some flower and try some ground nuts.

    I love chocolate cake, MMMMM, or anything with caramal and chocolate.

  35. you are amazing and your pictures are wonderful. this is the cake I need for my birthday!

  36. Oh my gosh that looks so pretty! How do you make stuff like that?

  37. This cake is just incredibly gorgeous. And so perfect. How do you get the icing so perfect? I would love to make this. It just looks toooo Good! WOW!

  38. This cake is amazing! I made it today for my family.
    I had some big problems with the caramel, but eventually I got it right and it worked fine. I only had one large cake tin, so I had to make a bit more cake batter to compensate for that. The cake looked like a complete disaster, since I've never made a layered cake before, but it tasted outstanding!
    Thanks so much for posting all your amazing recipes. I'm going to try and bake my way through your blog :D

  39. holy crow you're really good at baking aren't you...!

  40. :I have been looking at this cake since August and think I will finally make it! I wondered if the chocolate on the edges was just the regular melted dark chocolate and how you got it to set up so quickly?

  41. WOW this cake looks amazing! I will definatly give it a go for an upcoming birthday!

  42. uhm.. this cake is like REALLY awesome (baking it right now), but you made a minor mistake in the delicious cake recipe ^^; you are supposed to bake it at 175 celcius degrees, NOT! 275 celcius! D: our cake is maybe ruined because of this, but we hope that we discovered it in time and that it isn't that bad.. but it looks pretty burned on the surface. else than that, this recipe is AWESOME! x'D

    - Have a nice day

  43. I was just wondering if, maybe, you could someday post a tutorial as to -how- to make the frosting so incredibly smooth? I tried baking the cake but it turned so ugly! (I decided to call it rustic)

  44. This makes me want to die of happiness...I might be making it this weekend. Just found your blog and love it!

  45. See I'm not into cakes. I don't like eating them too much. I like making them but the fall back is when I make them I kind of like to eat them too. Confused? Well , I meant to say you make me want to get back to making cakes, and that's not good for my thighs. Hello! from a new fan !!

  46. i made this cake a few weeks ago and although it didnt look nearly as proffesional, it tasted great! kinda like coffee cake though

  47. don't you need to put water with your sugar when you are making caramel. You can't just put sugar in a pan and turn it on can you?

  48. Looks brilliant! Nice job. Gotta watch out for those 3" deep pans because most batters aren't designed to bake that thick. They do turn out marvelously tall at-least-2" layers though! (Love the soul/pms humor)

  49. How much sour cream should I add if I were to add any to the cake?

  50. Made this as one of my desserts for Thanksgiving. I love SMBC. I totally agree with you. Cake is delicious but I also found it a little dry. If I do make it again, I will tweak it a bit.

  51. So I had no trouble with cake or caramel, it was the buttercream for me! I have never made it before and didnt beat the egg sugar mixture until stiff peaks formed. Note, you need to do that or you will end up with soup. So I just whipped up some extra whipping cream and added the caramel and also made some caramel hearts n doodles to decorate with. Dissapointed :-( mayb next time cause I used all my eggs n butter up.

  52. When I made this cake, it was my first time to make swiss meringue buttercream and it turned out so beautifully! I was amazed to feel how fluffy it was and how well it kept its shape. For my cake I had to double the cake recipe (to make 26 cm diameter rounds), and everybody loved it. This double buttercream is great, and I am about to make it again for a different chocolate cake. Thanks for the recipe and the good explanations.


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