Chocolate and Caramel Layer Cake

Two months post my birthday, I am sharing with you my birthday cake for this year. I hadn’t planned to make anything necessarily, but I happened to have buttermilk and cream that needed to get used, so this was a good recipe for it. Plus, it was something I had been wanting to make. I was able to make it in a few stages, which helped since the Fudgelet and I were both super sick and naps weren’t happening. He actually helped me make it. I asked if he wanted to “help Mommy bake” and he stopped playing with his cars, pointed where we keep his stool and said “over there” (for me to move the stool over where I was working). I figured he would like to help since there was some whisking involved (his favorite part).

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His second favorite part was tasting the frosting. He kept asking to lick it, but I taught him something my mom taught me…clean up first, then let yourself taste the goods. It’s a sweeter reward (puns always intended).

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The cake assembly didn’t go perfectly, partially because I rushed it. The directions had said I could refrigerate the frosting and leave it out at room temperature for an hour to use it. That didn’t work at all. I ended up microwaving it to soften it, but over-softened it and that made frosting the cake tricky. Another problem was the caramel filling. Again, the directions didn’t work for me. It was still way too runny. It tasted fine in the end product, but I refrigerated the extra filling and found that it was much easier to use at that point. So, I added that step to the directions. The caramel and frosting taste amazing, though, so I still recommend the recipe overall. Just be prepared for a bit of mess. 😉

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Directions for Chocolate and Caramel Layer Cake

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Chocolate Cake

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (either should work, but I used Dutch processed)
  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1.25 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter/spray 2 8-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, then spray again. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

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In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, water, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

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Then, whisk the wet ingredients into the first bowl until smooth.

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Divide evenly into the cake pans and smooth the tops, if necessary.

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Bake for about 25-30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick comes out clean or with a few crumbs.

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Let the cakes cool in the pans on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes before removing from the pan and letting cool completely for at least 2 hours. You can leave the parchment on until completely cool to help avoid crumbs everywhere.

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You can make the caramel filling immediately because it can chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to frost the cake.

Caramel Filling

  • 1.25 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan. In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, letting it cook until amber colored (8-10 minutes).

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You can stir or not stir depending on your personal caramel feelings (haha). Reduce heat to low and let it cook until a bit darker, again, stirring or just swirling the pan. The caramel should be between 375-380 degrees F and this will be an additional 2-4 minutes.

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Remove from the heat and stir in the cream, butter, vanilla, and salt. Be prepared for the mixture to bubble and steam. Return the pan to medium heat and stir until it is smooth and reaches a temperature of 240-245 degrees (3-5 minutes).

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Pour it into the prepared pan. Let it cool at room temperature then cover and refrigerate until it has firmed up a bit.

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You can begin making the frosting now, if the cakes are almost cool. The frosting can be made up to 3 hours in advance, so plan accordingly.

Frosting

  • 2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Dutch processed)
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • Optional coarse sea salt for topping

In a food processor, process the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt until smooth.

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Add the corn syrup and vanilla, processing until combined. Scrape down the sides as needed.

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Add the melted chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy.

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Assembly

If desired, you can split your cake layers in half and make four layers. One of my cake layers was much bigger after baking, so I split that one in half (only) and made a three layer cake.

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Spoon some caramel onto the tops of your cake layers (except for the top layer), spreading it evenly. Leave a small border around the edge.

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Stack the cake layers, then frost the sides and top of the cake.

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Let it stand for at least one hour before serving. Sprinkle with coarse seas salt right before serving, if desired.

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Directions for Chocolate and Caramel Layer Cake (without pictures)

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Chocolate Cake

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (either should work, but I used Dutch processed)
  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1.25 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter/spray 2 8-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, then spray again. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, water, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Then, whisk the wet ingredients into the first bowl until smooth. Divide evenly into the cake pans and smooth the tops, if necessary.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick comes out clean or with a few crumbs. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes before removing from the pan and letting cool completely for at least 2 hours. You can leave the parchment on until completely cool to help avoid crumbs everywhere.

You can make the caramel filling immediately because it can chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to frost the cake.

Caramel Filling

  • 1.25 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan. In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, letting it cook until amber colored (8-10 minutes). You can stir or not stir depending on your personal caramel feelings (haha). Reduce heat to low and let it cook until a bit darker, again, stirring or just swirling the pan. The caramel should be between 375-380 degrees F and this will be an additional 2-4 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the cream, butter, vanilla, and salt. Be prepared for the mixture to bubble and steam. Return the pan to medium heat and stir until it is smooth and reaches a temperature of 240-245 degrees (3-5 minutes). Pour it into the prepared pan. Let it cool at room temperature then cover and refrigerate until it has firmed up a bit.

You can begin making the frosting now, if the cakes are almost cool. The frosting can be made up to 3 hours in advance, so plan accordingly.

Frosting

  • 2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Dutch processed)
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • Optional coarse sea salt for topping

In a food processor, process the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt until smooth. Add the corn syrup and vanilla, processing until combined. Scrape down the sides as needed. Add the melted chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy.

Assembly

If desired, you can split your cake layers in half and make four layers. One of my cake layers was much bigger after baking, so I split that one in half (only) and made a three layer cake. Spoon some caramel onto the tops of your cake layers (except for the top layer), spreading it evenly. Leave a small border around the edge. Stack the cake layers, then frost the sides and top of the cake. Let it stand for at least one hour before serving. Sprinkle with coarse seas salt right before serving, if desired.

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