C-a-r-a-m-e-l. The very sound of the word, not to mention the tantalizing aroma of burnt sugar, makes me long for it, so I created this cake with a soft, very moist crumb, filled and frosted with creamy caramel buttercream and topped with a crunch of caramel nut brittle.
The cake was actually inspired by a cookie I heard about but have never tasted, from the Cascade Mountains in the state of Washington. Supposedly it was called “copper topper” because of its copper-colored caramel topping.
To honor the spirit of the mountains, I chose towering biscuit de Savoie cake layers (a butterless génoise) from the French Savoie because the cake can be made at high altitude since it has no chemical leavening. The brittle, broken into jagged pieces and inserted into the buttercream on top of the cake, is meant to resemble the mountain peaks. Store-bought peanut brittle, broken into pieces, can be used in its place.
This cake is for the caramel lover. It’s even more delicious than it looks.
|Biscuit de Savoie|
|superfine sugar, divided|
|pure vanilla extract||•||•|
|sifted cake flour|
|cream of tartar||•|
|Caramel Silk Buttercream CRÈME ANGLAISE|
|cream of tartar||•||•|
|Copper Candy Topping|
|sliced unblanched almonds (peels on)|
*A vanilla bean offers the most delicious flavor, but if not available, replace the bean with
In a large mixing bowl, preferably with the whisk beater of a heavy-duty mixer, beat the yolks and
Stir together the flour and cornstarch. Sift over the yolk mixture without mixing in and set aside.
In another large mixing bowl, preferably with the whisk beater, beat the whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the remaining
Pour into the prepared pans. (They will be almost half full.) Bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and unmold at once onto lightly greased racks; then reinvert to cool. The firm upper crust prevents falling and results in a light texture.
When ready to complete the cake, remove the crust with a long serrated knife by scraping it lightly across the top and bottom of each layer.
In a small saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, bring the sugar and water to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Cover immediately, remove from the heat and cool. Transfer to a liquid measuring cup and stir in the liqueur. If some of the syrup has evaporated, add enough water to equal
Sprinkle the syrup evenly over the tops and bottoms of the cake layers.* Cover them with plastic wrap while you make the buttercream.
*After syruping, a biscuit layer becomes fragile and more prone to splitting when moved. Use a cardboard round or removable bottom of a pan to support it.
Have ready a sieve suspended over a bowl near the range.
In a small saucepan, scald† the milk and vanilla bean. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
† Bring just to the boiling point (small bubbles will begin to appear around the edges).
In a medium-size heavy pan, combine the
In a medium-size heavy noncorrodible saucepan, place the yolks, and gradually add the caramel mixture to them, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until just below the boiling point. The mixture will start to steam slightly and an accurate thermometer‡ will register 170°F to 180°F. Immediately strain through the sieve, scraping up any of the mixture clinging to the bottom of the pan.
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the custard, and cool to room temperature. (To speed cooling, put the bowl in another bowl or a sink partially filled with ice water.) Cover and refrigerate until ready to complete the buttercream, or up to 5 days.
‡The Cordon Rose candy thermometer is available through Dean & DeLuca (800-227-7714).
Have ready a heatproof glass measure near the range.
In a small heavy saucepan (preferably with a nonstick lining), combine the
In a mixing bowl, preferably with the whisk beater of a heavy-duty stand mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the remaining
Increase the heat under the syrup and boil until an accurate thermometer registers 248°F. to 250°F. (the firm-ball stage). Immediately transfer the syrup to the glass measure to stop the cooking.
If using a hand-held electric mixer, beat the syrup into the egg whites in a steady stream. Don’t allow any syrup to fall on the beaters or they will spin it onto the sides of the bowl. If using a stand mixer, pour a small amount of syrup over the egg whites with the mixer off; then immediately beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Stop the mixer and add a larger amount of syrup. Beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Continue with the remaining syrup. For the last addition, use a rubber scraper to remove the syrup clinging to the glass measure. Lower the speed to medium and continue beating until completely cool, about 2 minutes.
Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and, preferably with the whisk beater, beat on medium speed for 30 seconds or until creamy. Gradually beat in the crème anglaise until smooth. Add the Italian meringue and beat until just incorporated. If the mixture looks curdled instead of smooth, it is too cold. Allow it to sit at room temperature to warm to 70°F. before continuing to beat. Or place the bowl in a hot water bath very briefly until the buttercream around the edge of the bowl just starts to melt. Remove at once and beat until smooth. Place in an airtight container. The butter- cream becomes slightly spongy on standing. Rebeat before using.*
*Do not rebeat chilled buttercream until it has reached room temperature or it may curdle.
On a lightly greased baking sheet, spread the almonds in a single layer. Set aside.
In a small heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water and stir until the sugar is completely moistened. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to medium high and boil undisturbed until the sugar begins to caramelize. It will begin to look like dark corn syrup and take on the characteristic smell of burnt sugar. (The temperature should be 370°F.) Immediately pour the caramel evenly over the nuts, covering as much of the nuts as possible. Allow the caramel to harden completely, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove it from the sheet and break it into pieces.
Spread a little of the buttercream on a cake plate or
Arrange the Copper-Candy Topping on the cake top. (If you are planning to refrigerate or freeze the frosted cake, add the candy topping only after removing it from the refrigerator as it will become sticky if refrigerated.)
Serve the cake at room temperature or lightly chilled. Make sure that each serving contains a few pieces of the caramel nut topping. If the pieces become detached from the frosting, lay them decoratively on top of the cake.
© 1992 Rose Levy Beranbaum. All rights reserved.