Musical pairing – Human by Jon McLaughlin
When I asked The Professor for his advice on which angle to write this post . . . his reply was, ‘What about how much of a struggle the recipe was?’ To which I said, ‘Oh, you mean from the point of my failures?’ He then said, ‘I don’t like using the word ‘failure’ . . . I prefer the word . . . ‘challenging” . . . well alrighty then . . . let’s just say that the recipe was ‘challenging’ and at the end of it all, I had one ‘failure’ . . . of epic proportions . . .
I’m somewhat of a oxymoron in that there are times when faced with something new and uncharted I say to myself, ‘I can do that, let’s go for it!’ And then there are times when I clearly understand the confines of my limitations and concede that I should run in the other direction . . . say for instance, sky-diving. There is not one ounce of me that will ever say, ‘I can do that, let’s go for it!’ Nope. These feet are firmly, and I do mean quite firmly, planted on the ground. If God had wanted me to fly, I’d have arrived on this earth with feathers and a pair of wings, of that I am certain. Cliff-jumping is another one . . . again, feet planted firmly on the ground, thank-you-very-much. And while belly-dancing may be fabulous exercise, the mental picture alone causes me to chortle and laugh hysterically. But when I saw a photograph of a 6-layer, Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake? It was love-at-first-sight, pedal-to-the-medal, heck-yeah-I’m-all-in, let’s go for it!!!
I mean really, you bake a chocolate cake, slice the layers in half, schmear said layers and salted caramel, stack said layers and frost those six layers with a chocolate frosting . . . not necessarily beyond the realm of my capabilities . . . right? Like totally capable, right?
I read the directions thoroughly several times, understood that I would be making this gem in stages, i.e., cake, caramel, frosting and allowing each to ‘rest’ a bit before moving on to the next step. I consulted one of my talented baking gurus, reviewing instructions, asking about pan-types, purchasing new pans based on those recommendations, purchasing a high quality cocoa powder and chocolate, assembled all ingredients and re-read the directions. All good so far, yes indeedy, I was ready.
Cakes baked, cooled, wrapped and stored for a day; salted caramel made reaching the temperature listed in the instructions paying special attention to that fact, because said instructions listed an exact temperature was a must to ensure success. Frosting was made and allowed to cool as per the instructions as well. So far, so good, yes?
I was golden. Cakes sliced up beautifully and the salted caramel was some of the best I’d ever made. I measured the amount listed to spread on each layer and was meticulous . . . measure, spread caramel, top with another layer of cake, repeat . . . it was stunning!! And I was so blasted thrilled with myself that I was shaking . . . as in, ‘YES!! I DID IT!!! I CAN BE A BAKER!!’ All I needed to do now was place the cake in the refrigerator and let it set up for an hour, remove and frost . . . except that when I opened the fridge an hour later . . . yep . . . the entire cake had slid . . . no, actually slid is not the appropriate word here . . . slid, as in ‘completely-slid-off-each-layer-down-into-the-shelving-grates-and-broken-off-into-chunks‘, kinda slid . . .
Well crap (only that was not the word that so eloquently spewed from my mouth), what now? What in the HAY’ell was I going to do now???
What any respectable food-blogger, wannabe baker who needs to get a post done would do if found in the same situation . . . I removed the cake in as many whole pieces as possible and put it back together using frosting, then quickly, ‘slam-the-door-shut-when-you-see-a-mouse’ quickly, frosted the whole damn thing and took a picture . . .
You know what? It was the best-tasting cake I have ever, ever ever eaten or made . . . oh. my. gawd. was it good . . .
But now you know why there is only one photo of a slice of cake . . .
SMITH BITES NOTE: Because the assembly of this cake was an EPIC failure for me, I am listing this recipe exactly as written in Martha Stewart. If anyone has any clues as to why it didn’t work or can offer other suggestions for success, please let me know – the cake is spectacular and I’d really like to attempt it again – I will prevail!!
SALTED-CARAMEL SIX-LAYER CHOCOLATE CAKE
FOR THE CAKE
- Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pans
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1-1/2 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 tablepoon baking soda
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- Coarse salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1-1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons safflower oil
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
FOR THE CARAMEL
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 2 cups heavy cream
- Coarse salt
- 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
FOR THE FROSTING
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- Coarse salt
- 1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped, melted, and cooled
- Garnish: flaked sea salt, such as Maldon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cake: Butter three 9-inch round cake pans, and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Sift flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and 1-1/2 teaspoons course salt into the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined. Raise speed to medium, and add eggs, buttermilk, 1-1/2 cups warm water, oil, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.
- Divide batter among pans. Bake until cakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool in pans set on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks, and let cool completely.
- Make the caramel: Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cook, without stirring, until mixture is dark amber, about 14 minutes. Remove from heat, and carefully pour in cream (mixture will spatter); stir until smooth. Return to heat, and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees, about 2 minutes. Pour caramel into a medium bowl, stir in 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and let cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Stir in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Let cool completely.
- Meanwhile, make the frosting: Whisk together cocoa and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water in a bowl until cocoa dissolves. Beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and a generous pinch of coarse salt in a clean bowl with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in melted chocolate and then cocoa mixture until combined. Let stand for 30 minutes before using.
- Trim tops of cakes using a serrated knife to create a level surface. Cut each in half horizontally to form 2 layers. Transfer 1 layer to a serving platter, and spread 3/4 cup caramel over top. Top with another cake layer, and repeat with remaining caramel and cake layers, leaving top uncovered. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.
- Frost top and sides of cake in a swirling motion. Sprinkle with sea salt.
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So, I made a chocolate layer cake (two 8-inch layers) and I made caramel and I attempted to put the caramel between the two layers. My strategy to avoid layer slippage was to freeze the cake layers so they were nice and cold, and also to let the caramel cool overnight so that it was nice and thickened. This failed. I rode the metro to deliver said cake, and caramel oozed out from in between the layers, and the top layer slid off the bottom by a good inch. The only reason it didn’t slide more was because the whole thing was contained in a box, so that box prevented further damage. I called it “caramel explosion” cake and it was a huge hit, though not the prettiest 😉
Conclusion: I think to sandwich caramel, the cake layers have to be pegged in place.
Sorry this is so long, but I thought you might be interested on hearing what didn’t work! Haha!
I would recommend bamboo skewers to pin the cake together until the caramel is firm.
That still looks amazing, even if it didn’t work out as planned 🙂
On another note-I just found out about Jon McLaughlin a couple days ago and I am completely obsessed (replay, replay, replay)
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it sure looks amazing! sliding is always my biggest fear when it comes to layer cakes–which is why I’ve yet to attempt anything more than 3 layers. I give you credit!
shoot me now, I’m about to try this. But since I’m a wimp I’m doing cupcakes instead.
Happy New Year Debra & Rod
Hope you had a wonderful holiday season. I finally have a few minutes to breath and came over to read through some of your posts.
Absolutely loving this cake. I went through this for almost 2 weeks, I think I lost 3 or 4 cakes, I know your pain. I’ve started using ring moulds, about 4 inches high, keeps the cake in place and then once it’s layered I pop it in the freezer until firm. I run a hair dryer or creme brulee torch on the sides of the mould and pull it off and then frost the cake. I’ve found this method very successful. I have also used acetate paper. I have a large roll that is I believe 4 inches high. Wrap around the cake once the layers are all filled and use tape to secure, again I pop it in the freezer to firm up, then remove the acetate and frost.
Hope this helps. I have to make a cake for my sister this week for a ladies function she’s attending. I think I may try this cake, sounds absolutely divine!
Would love to catch up if you have a few minutes next week. I feel terrible that I haven’t kept the communication open. I’ve had some terrible technical difficulty and I’ve had to remake 20 desserts 3 times, can you believe it?! I am down to my last few and it will be so nice to finally reshoot them and finally be done.
All the best!
I am wondering if you made each layer level by sawing off the top of each layer. That is the only thing I could think of that could possibly have made the layers slide off. Chilling the layers before cutting is sometimes helpful. In the past when I made multiple layer cakes, I used toothpicks to stabilize the layers. I am at a loss, but I think your slice looked phenomenal as did the picture of the whole cake.
Next time use wooden skewers like Lori suggests & you’ll be fine. My mother told us about a Shirley Temple movie where she bakes a cake that caves in, so she fills in with lots of icing. Wish I could remember which movie it was. Keep baking – your cake slice looks delicious.
Cake looks fabulous.
Maybe these two things can give you some ideas for assembly
It seems like such a masterpiece that it is worth the extra time to make it hold together.
omg, I can’t believe that happened to you!! I had something similar happen with a layer cake that had some sort of berry filling in between layers and I finally had to use long wooden skewers to hold it together from the top during the chilling process. Once it was good and chilled (like several hours), I took them out and frosted it. That worked perfectly.
It sure looks good though!!
Such a bummer that it slide after all that meticulous work, but at least it was delicious! And guess what, it makes a better story than, “I’m the best baker in the world!”
I am speachless, which is a first! What a beautiful cake! I need to come up with a reason to make it! Actually this would be perfect for Valentine’s Day!!
Hmm no clue but I remember this recipe b/c I ripped it out of my Martha Stewart Living to try and attempt =). I think I’ll try the toothpicks another reader suggested. BTW your cake looks wonderful! I made a cake for our last fellowship before my hubby left for Korea and it was so ugly I told friends I didn’t want to serve it to which I got lots of jokes that I needed to not serve it (so they could take it home). It was seriously the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made taught me that cakes can be lopsided and sliding but taste divine.
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You’re a genius if you can get a layer cake to stay together without thin wooden toothpicks to hold it together! I sure can’t. Learned the trick from my mother years ago….works every time.
try using 3 wooden skewers strategically placed through the cake while it is resting in the fridge for an hour. Worked for me.
I still can’t get this cake out of my head! It’s truly amazing… Thanks so much again for sharing and today I am featuring this cake as one of the most memorable fetish worthy foods from 2011. MORE please!
This cake looks and sounds amazing!
That cake is stunning (the one slice 🙂
What could you do to prevent the sliding? Because I need that cake.
Well – howdy!
You pulled it off marvelously!
The same thing happened to me about 10 minutes before a bride-to-be was due at my house for a cake-tasting appointment. This baby slid right off the platter, and onto the countertop. I “may” have put back together (sloppily) and pretended I was going for an artsy look. I even dusted with pearl candies.
They must have bought the story, because the couple used me as their wedding baker. WHEW!
This cake is incredible and thanks for sharing! I’ve been inspired to feature this post in today’s Friday Food Fetish roundup. If you have any objections, please let me know. Have a wonderful holiday and keep amazing food coming!
The result looks perfect. Happy Holidays Debra!! This cake is perfect for ringing in 2012 in style!! Salted caramel is a flavor I was taken with only in the last couple of years and now cannot believe how I ever did without it?!
I will say nothing about Martha Stewart (biting my tongue) but boy does that slice of cake look outrageously fabulously delicious! The moist chocolate cake, the caramel, wow I can tell how good it was. And isn’t that what counts? Yeah, pushing it all back together and putting into a clear bowl like a trifle would work…and taste just as good!
Challenging??? *snort* too funny!
this cake is droolworthy & dreamworthy ! love listening to the songs deb 🙂
Oh my goodness… what a story! But the thing is that it doesn’t look like an epic fail to me!!! Looks like it was a complete success, in fact! Hopefully you’ll be able to figure out what the problem was… or maybe it was just a fluke.
It slid into the shelving grates and you got it pieced back like this…wow!! This is amazing and I would’ve never known had you not shared this story. 6 layers is not easy and you did an amazing job. That 1 slice is all I need. Just beautiful!!:)
The best things in life often require the most work, right? This cake looks so delicious…even though it didn’t go exactly as planned. All I know is that I certainly want to eat a slice! Thanks for sharing. Many blessings this week!
Well I think the cake looks beautiful. But you have more will powder than I because if I did all that work and opened the fridge to a sliding pile of cake I probably would have sat in the floor and cried. Glad it tasted good tho!
I read this as if it were happening to me. I could really picture it! Like others have said, who cares if it didn’t turn out as you’d hoped – the delicious factor totally makes up for that.
Deb – You had me at chocolate and salted caramel. When can I come over and get my slice for breakfast??
I have experienced that exact same slide before, and I am not talking about sliding into home base. GREG
This post makes me happy. I love when you bake! 🙂
Well, you did a stellar job of putting together this cake after that experience…and it does sound amazing.
I’m SO curious but can’t think of it being anything but the caramel. Maybe each layer should have been chilled a bit to insure the caramel was firm before putting that much weight together? That caramel sauce is unusual for me since I never use corn syrup; I’m sure that helps to keep it from getting hard but have to wonder if it also kept it from getting firm enough?
Oh well…you got the thing done against all odds; perseverance sometimes pays off. My father liked to call me stubborn. So? Sometimes it’s what we have to be!
Cake sliding…it is a nightmare. the same thing happened to me at my dad’s 65th birthday party. A bunch of his friends were coming to OUR house to celebrate and EVERY TIME I opened the fridge, that cake had slid just a bit more. Ugh.
Well, your pictures are great, despite the sliding! And it was tasty, so that’s all that counts, right?!? 😉
In the words of Monkey 2, who is drooling over this with me, this is s a BIG YUMMY cake! We would like a couple of slices purty please ;D
I am more impressed that you put the whole thing back together (and took a lovely photo of a whole cake!) than the fact that you attempted a 6-layer cake recipe. I did a 6-layer cake, once. Just once.
It looks so delicious. If it were in front of me, I might actually spontaneously combust from temptation.
Amazing cake, amazing flavors regardless of your results. If you hadn’t told us of the challenges, we never would have known. But, I am oh so grateful that you did. It gives the rest of us with more than one “failure” courage to plunge ahead and stretch our limits in order to learn. I can’t give you an authoritative answer as to why the cake slid other than to point out a possibility. Commercial walk-in refrigeration and household refrigeration have different humidity levels. Humidity and caramel are known enemies. I had made homemade caramels for gift baskets for a reunion I was attending. They tasted wonderful and even traveled beautifully. Baskets were made up and stored in refrigerators in the rooms. The caramels melted into a pool in the bottom of the cellophane bags. It was not my proudest moment! Thank you, Debra.
Love the story behind this recipe. Hey, who cares what it looks like as long as there is salted caramel and chocolate involved?
Totally sounds delicious regardless of shape.
I have no tips to help out, other than do try it again.
Wow. That’s all, just wow!!!!!