Caramel cake is a true Southern American classic. The base is a delicate butter cake that is covered in a caramel frosting; we make a salted caramel version. Ours has a bit of caramel in the cake batter too, which makes it even richer. The best part is that you can make this cake a day ahead of your party, because the flavors get even better with time.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and fine sea salt. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the caramel sauce and water and stir until completely smooth. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream the sugar and butter together on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary.
With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the caramel mixture and beginning and ending with flour, mixing just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops with a spatula.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of a cake layer comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 20 minutes, then remove from the pans, peel off the parchment, and cool completely on a wire rack.
To assemble the cake: Level the top of one of the cake layers with a serrated knife so it is flat, then place it cut side down on a serving plate (you can keep the edges of the plate clean while you frost the cake by sliding strips of parchment underneath the cake). Using an offset spatula or a butter knife, spread the layer with a big dollop of frosting. Place the other cake layer top side up on the first layer and frost the top and sides with the remaining frosting, making big swirls with the spatula or butter knife. Sprinkle a little flaky sea salt over the top of the cake.
The cake is best served at room temperature, but it can stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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