You know a cake is good when you send a text message asking if it would be completely wrong to eat the whole thing and then tell our guests we’re dieting and didn’t make a cake. Then, maybe upon being told that it would be wrong, you reply by asking just how wrong. Yes, that actually happened, and yes, the cake is that good. While I loved Lane’s first birthday cake this year, I loved this one just a teensy bit more. I loved the actual cake portions equally, which isn’t surprising as they are pretty similar. After tasting the salted caramel buttercream for this cake, the competition was over and this cake was the clear winner.
Making caramel is easier than it seems, but it requires vigilance. There is one simple rule to making caramel- do NOT leave the stove, for any reason, not even for one fraction of a second. One fraction of a second can be all it takes for the sugar to burn and then you have to start from the beginning. Other than that, it’s simple and when you taste this frosting, you’ll agree that roughly fifteen minutes of hovering over a stove is a very small price to pay for frosting this amazing. The cake is moist and and has a hint of almond flavor but doesn’t compete with the frosting at all. In general when making cakes, I’m sure to measure dry ingredients by spooning them into a measuring cup until the ingredient is overflowing the cup and then leveling off with a straight edge. If the recipe says I should measure differently, then I follow that but if the recipe doesn’t specify then this is the method I use. The original recipe for the cake stressed that the “spoon and level” method was the way to measure flour, and that’s important. Too much flour and the cake will be dry, and one of this cake’s best features is that it’s a moist cake. Too little flour and the cake may collapse. A second feature I loved about this cake was that it didn’t collapse, so please take the few extra seconds and spoon the flour into a measuring cup, okay? When I first found the frosting recipe, it accompanied a chocolate cake recipe and I’m using my desire to try that combination as an excuse to make this frosting again. Soon.
Vanilla Almond Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
for the cake:
- 2 C. all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off with a straight edge
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 C. granulated sugar
- 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 3/4 C. whole milk, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. almond extract
for the salted caramel (needed to make the frosting):
- 1 C. sugar
- 4 Tbsp. water
- 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
- 1/2 C. heavy cream
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. salt, kosher or sea
for the salted caramel buttercream frosting:
- 1 C. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 3-4 C. sifted powdered sugar
- 1 C. salted caramel (ingredients above, instructions below)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center of the oven.
Grease two 9-inch cake pans with butter or spray with non-stick cooking spray, then line the bottom of each pan with a 9-inch round of parchment paper (trace the bottom of the pan, then cut out the 9-inch circle). Spray the parchment lining with non-stick cooking spray or grease with butter.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.
Whisk together the egg whites in a medium bowl just until combined.
Turn the mixer down to low speed and beat in 1/4 of the flour mixture just until combined.
Add 1/3 of the milk mixture to the bowl and mix just until combined.
Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle, and add another 1/4 of the flour mixture, then another 1/3 of the milk.
Continue to add the flour and milk, then scraping down the bowl until all of the flour mixture and milk have been incorporated, ending with the flour mixture.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth out the batter.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cakes have risen and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the wire rack to finish cooling completely, right side up (keep the round of parchment paper underneath the cake on the wire rack so the cakes don’t stick to the rack).
To make the caramel, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved.
Reduce the heat to medium, cover the saucepan and allow the mixture to cook for 3 minutes.
Remove the lid, turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil.
DO NOT STIR the mixture from this point until you have caramel, but swirl the liquid by gently shaking the pan so that the mixture doesn’t burn.
Continue to swirl the pan and cook until the mixture turns an even amber color. DO NOT leave the stove at this point, watch the mixture very carefully and keep swirling the pan to avoid burning.
Remove from the heat and let stand for 30 seconds.
Being VERY careful, pour the heavy cream into the sugar mixture. The mixture will bubble up considerably and is very hot. Again, be very careful pouring the cream in to avoid burning yourself.
Carefully stir the mixture, then add the butter, lemon juice, and salt and stir until combined.
Measure 1 cup of the caramel into a glass measuring cup and set it aside to cool for 20 minutes. The recipe made exactly 1 cup of caramel for me; if you have more than 1 cup, store the extra in a resealable container in the refrigerator.
To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth and creamy.
Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar into the butter mixture and beat to combine.
Add the 1 cup of cooled salted caramel and beat to combine.
Add additional powdered sugar (up to 2 more cups) until the frosting is the desired consistency (I stopped at 3 cups of powdered sugar, finding that the frosting was ideal for spreading over cake at that point. If you need a thicker frosting, continue to add the powdered sugar).
To frost the cake, place one 9-inch cake on a serving plate (I place four pieces of waxed paper under the cake so that I can pull them out from under the cake when I’m done frosting).
Top the cake with an even layer of the frosting, then top with the remaining cake layer.
Spread the frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake (I had a generous layer of frosting between the layers and on top of the cake and had roughly 1 pint of extra frosting).
Makes 16 servings (one 2 layer 9-inch round cake).