Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Maya Angelou's Caramel Cake

I recently read Maya Angelou's "hallelujah! the welcome table." It's a recipe book and yes I did "read" it. I really loved how she had stories that went with each recipe. Rich stories talking about the memories of these foods and how they fit into her life and the recipes followed. The recipes almost seemed secondary in this book to the stories. I think one could read this book and be satisfied without cooking a thing. Although after reading the stories I dare you not to want to make something from the book. Martha Stewart had Ms. Angelou on her show making the Caramel cake from this recipe book. They talked about how great it was and I remembered the story from the book. I wanted to make it.

It's really 3 recipes... caramel syrup, caramel cake and then the caramel frosting.

Starting with the first recipe I found out my inattentiveness and inexperience with making caramel syrup bit me in the butt... twice. An easy technique, but I found a tip that will make you successful every time. When the syrup gets a little bit of color watch it like a hawk. It takes a long time to get to the "little bit of color" stage, BUT it goes from little bit of color to golden amber in a flash. The whole thing probably on takes about 15-20 minutes. Then you have a lovely cup of caramel syrup not a pan of burnt sugar. Maya and Martha claimed the cake wouldn't be the same without it. It didn't seem like the caramel I'm familiar with and smelled similar to that of molasses. Replacing it with molasses though would be too strong.

Next the cake... an easy recipe to follow and fit into the 2 eight inch pans perfectly. It took longer than the 25 minutes called for in baking... more like 35 to 40 for me and my oven. I used the convection feature too, which is supposed to shorten the time. Just set timer for 25 minutes and keep checking every 5 minutes for doneness.

The frosting had another technique I haven't done... "melting butter until it's nut brown." It's done over medium high heat. It foamed, it bubbled, stirring it down helped with the foaming, but not much. I poured it out once thinking I was done, but the butter was more of an amber color. Definitely not nut brown. I put it back in the pan and it quickly got to the nut brown color like the caramel syrup. It didn't smell very good and I wondered if I had browned it a bit too much. I tasted it and it wasn't burnt like my caramel syrup mishaps, so I kept it. I was hoping the sugar, cream, and vanilla would make it taste great. They did indeed make it taste great!

We each had a slice for dessert. I cut a quarter of it into 3 slices. This gave us each a generous slice. The cake was so rich and sweet I think I'll cut a quarter of the cake into 4 slices next time. This recipe is a bit more trouble than some with it's special techniques, but it's definitely a keeper.

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