Birthday Cake Club: Vanilla Caramel Cake
Homemade caramel just barely steals the show away from the fluffiest vanilla cake!
Happy 2022 and Happy Birthday to all my January babies! Speaking of babies, I recently had one. Our third baby was born just days before Christmas. It has certainly been an exciting and memorable holiday season for us Huffs. Everett and Amara adore their new baby sister, as do Brett and I. Now that the older two are back in school, Baby Carmen and I will be hanging out and baking together between naps, school pick-up, and trying to balance life with three littles.
I first had the idea for Birthday Cake Club in the fall. Having a child with a birthday so close to Christmas, I want to make sure Carmen is always celebrated in her own way and that her birthday doesn’t get swept up in the chaos of the holidays. So now, we will collectively celebrate everyone with a birthday each month in the Bake Club with a new, delicious party cake!
December and January are huge celebratory months in our family. Along with the new baby born days before Christmas, my brother has a birthday the first week of January and my son the week after that.
Everett turned 7 this year. And while he requested this Double-Chocolate Cake (like he does every year), I also made a new Vanilla Caramel Cake for us all to enjoy.
Salted caramel has gained its popularity in the baking world over the last decade or two. From ice cream to pies, it is a powerhouse ingredient in so many of our favorite treats. I tend to pair it with chocolate to make the ultimate, most decadent desserts.
This time, I wanted the caramel to shine even more. While chocolate and caramel are equal when it comes to flavor, the almost burnt, butterscotch-notes of caramel really stand out against a vanilla background.
What I love about making homemade caramel sauce is that you don’t need a candy thermometer or any other non-essential kitchen tool. Cook the sugar, without stirring, until it turns a medium amber color. The longer it cooks, the more flavor it will have. Pull the caramel from the heat before it becomes too dark to prevent it from tasting burnt or bitter.
In this cake, caramel is used both as a filling and to flavor the frosting. The frosting uses an Ermine buttercream base. This type of buttercream begins with a cooked flour custard that is then whipped with softened butter. It is silky and smooth like meringue-based buttercream, but without the eggs. The addition of vanilla bean seeds and caramel give it a marshmallow-like flavor.
Make sure the caramel sauce has cooled and thickened before using it as a filling.
Read more about Ermine Buttercream in this post:
To decorate, I added crispy pearls around the bottom of the cake. I found these salted caramel crispearls locally, but both Callebaut and Valrhona make similar varieties (two of my favorite chocolate brands).
Just because the flavor is more subtle and might take a backseat to the caramel, doesn’t mean that the fluffy vanilla cake isn’t extremely tender and definitely worthy of sharing a plate with the liquid gold filling. Made with the reverse creaming method, the cake layers have a tight crumb yet bouncy texture.
If you make this Birthday Cake Club creation, please tag it on Instagram so we can all celebrate together. Now let’s get to the recipe.
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