Monday, October 11, 2010

Buttermilk Cake with Caramel Frosting

My friend, Megan, has organized a book club.  I never actually thought I'd reach the point where I could participate in a book club, but it seems the time has come.  We're meeting once a month - and our plan is to read and discuss fiction and non-fiction selections.  This month our assignment was to read "The Help".  I highly recommend this feel-good novel [set in Mississippi] about black maids and the white families they worked for in the 1950's.

The host of our book club asked if I would make a caramel cake, which was mentioned in the book quite a bit.  After a bit of research, it seems that a caramel cake is usually a white cake with caramel frosting.  I have yet to discover a white or yellow cake recipe that doesn't taste like a piece of cardboard - with the exception of my mom's buttermilk cake.  This cake is dense, moist, and heavy - like, the heaviest cake you've ever had.  The ingredient list contains 1 cup shortening and 1 1/2 cups buttermilk.

I did a google-search for caramel frosting, and decided on this recipe from Chow.  The recipe is for a salted caramel frosting and it is decadent.  I did need to alter the recipe, though, as it only suggested 1 cup of powdered sugar.  I used more like four cups, but I think it's all about the consistency - I would suggest trying to add sugar until you feel the consistency is spreadable.  I also added a layer of sweetened whipped cream for some lightness (heaven knows this cake needs it).

can you tell how dense this is?

The result was a total success - but very, very sweet.  If "sweet tea" is any indication of the tolerance level for sweetness in the south, I think this cake tastes like it should.  I really loved how easily the cake cut and the way it held together so well.  The frosting really tightens when chilled and the recipe suggests chilling the frosting for 45 minutes before spreading.  I refrigerated the assembled cake overnight and then allowed it to rest at room temperature for one hour before serving.  Everyone loved it!

Buttermilk Cake with Caramel Frosting
1 cup shortening (I used half butter)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla

1.  Beat shortening and add sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla.
2.  Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour.
3.  Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. 
4.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes [in three greased and floured round cake pans].

Salted Caramel Frosting
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (or more if necessary)
  1. Briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. Set aside until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes.
  3. Combine butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar, and mix until completely incorporated.
  4. Turn mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add caramel. Beat frosting on medium-high speed until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until stiff, about 45 minutes, before using. 

To assemble the cake:  Layer cake with thin layer of frosting, top with sweetened whipped cream, then repeat with last two layers.  Create a "crumb" layer around the outside of the three cakes, then add more frosting if desired (I didn't).  Chill assembled cake for 4 hours or overnight.


  1. that looks amazing! love buttermilk cakes.. so good and so dangerous!:)

  2. It does look amazing, but I think even with my sweet tooth I would find it too sweet.