Monday, July 12, 2010

Caramel Cake

 Do you ever feel like the miscellaneous leftover bits of foodstuffs lurking in the depths of your fridge are giving you the evil eye? Woefully staring at you and muttering, "You should really use me. You're so wasteful. I cost money, and there are starving people somewhere, and you're a bad person."
No? Maybe I just have a guilt complex, but that's what this rich, salty caramel was saying to me. It added, "I'm delicious, and the fact that you decided to be lazy and store me in the sauce boat means that I'm really in the way."

Oh, what to do? Luckily, inspiration struck with the help of a fellow blogger, who made a white cake with a caramel icing. 'Hey,' I thought, 'I could just make a fluffy white cake and pour the caramel on top! Brilliant!'
What was not brilliant, however, was putting the cake in the oven, pouring a glass of wine, and taking some cheese and crackers out to the porch in order to bask in the glorious evening.
"I totally will not forget that I put a cake in the oven. It'll be just fine."

Of course, I walked back inside for a refill, and was greeted by the timer's persistent 'BeepBeep! BeeeeepBeep!'
'Oh, man. I wonder how long that's been going off.'
Well, all was not lost. I scraped the overcooked bits off the bottom and pretended that this confection was supposed to be dry and dense rather than light and fluffy. Plus, the caramel, much like Spanx on a fat girl (which I'll need after all this baking), worked to hide some of the cake's imperfections.
Also effective was pouring a bit of milk onto the plate on which the cake rested. Sort of like a tres leche cake. But not really. It did make it a little more moist, though. Or, like Nick's co-worker discovered, the traditional glass of milk on the side worked quite nicely, as well.

The caramel and cake combined to make the kind of not-too-sweet dessert that has you coming back for one more little slice, and then another little one, okay, just one more tiny little one. In fact, it was yummy enough that I might just have to make this cake again in order to score myself a redemption, and to use up that last little bit of caramel, as its gaze is becoming increasingly malevolent.
The cake can certainly be redeemed because for one, it's a Julia Child recipe, and because it's simple and inexpensive. And the caramel? It needs no redemption, it just needs to be eaten. I know I can do it.
Julia Child's Biscuit Au Beurre 
Butter Sponge Cake

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup cake flour

Butter and flour a 10 inch cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.

Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks, add  the vanilla, and continue beating for several minutes until mixture is thick, pale yellow, and forms ribbons.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and salt together until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.

Scoop one fourth of the egg whites over top of the egg yolks and sugar mixture. Sift on one fourth of the flour, and delicately fold in until partially blended. Then add one third of the remaining egg whites, sift on one third of the remaining flour, fold until partially blended, and repeat with half of each, then the last of each and half of the tepid, melted butter. Do not over mix; the egg whites should retain as much volume as possible.
Turn into the prepared cake pan and tilt the pan to run the batter to the rim all around. Set in the middle of the preheated oven and cook for 30-35 minutes. The cake is done when it has puffed, is light brown, and has just begun to show a slight line of shrinkage from the edges of the pan. Note--Julia Child states that the cooking time is 30-35 minutes. I have found, however, that the cake is ready far earlier than that--I would suggest that you start checking the cake at 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let stand in the pan for 6-8 minutes. It will sink slightly and shrink more from the edges of the pan. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and reverse on cake rack, giving the pan a sharp little jerk to dislodge the cake. If cake is not to be iced, immediately reverse it so its puffed side is uppermost. Allow to cool for an hour or so.

No comments: