A tale of cake. Fraught with peril. Featuring pictures.

Last month, I decided to provide refreshments for my book club’s April meeting. Just cookies or something. Nothing too dramatic. And then I read April’s book, Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg (which I am waiting to review until after my book club meets), in which a caramel cake is prominently featured. “I should make caramel cake,” I thought. “I can use Grandma’s recipe.”

Now, the last time that I made a layer cake was sometime before Mike and I got married. It did not go well. Let’s just leave it at that. Suffice it to say, this was going to require a little extra courage on my part, especially if I would be serving it to strangers, because even Mike, who loves me dearly, was appalled at my last attempt. Of course, strangers would not know what it was supposed to look like, which is always a plus. I decided to go for it.

I have Grandma’s recipe from her church cookbook. She gave me a copy of the cookbook when I . . . well, basically, I complained about not having one. And she gave me her copy. And I took it, because that’s the kind of selfish person I am. But, look! It has Grandma’s caramel cake recipe! I totally needed a copy of that!

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Last night I baked the cakes. Even this was a perilous task, because I didn’t actually have two round cake pans anymore. I am fairly sure we had some at some point. We could only find one. So I bought two new cake pans that are guaranteed for 100 years. I hope my grandchildren find them useful, though I expect they will be having their meals created by computer like [geek alert] in Star Trek. [/geek alert]

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Really, though, baking the cakes was not that difficult. What I was really nervous about was the icing. I have heard that:

-It’s like fudge. Or maybe even sludge.
-Once it’s on the cake, it doesn’t move.
-You have to keep the knife very very wet.

All these instructions, as you can imagine, made me fairly nervous.

Here is the first stage of the icing:

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Starting to get smoother:

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Not yet too nervous (oh, how foolish):

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Cold coffee to help thin the icing (I used the Luke’s cup for good luck):

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The icing is boiling. This is a good sign:

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Stirring the syrupy mixture in with the powdered sugar (I was supposed to sift the powdered sugar, but I don’t have a sifter. I think this caused some problems later):

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Starting to actually look like caramel icing:

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I think you can tell from this picture, things are starting to get difficult. The icing, it does not move. Not an exaggeration.

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An action shot:

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What there are no pictures of is when I tried to use the hand mixer to smooth out the icing (I never could get rid of all the lumps) and . . . icing ended up all over the wall. Let us never speak of it again. Instead, let’s talk about how I am icing the cake so quickly that mere cameras can’t capture it:

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There was a moment when I was sure that I was not going to have enough icing to finish the cake (remember, I lost some icing . . . but do not speak of it), but I used some coffee (thank you, Luke) and stretched it out enough that it worked out okay. It is not the most beautiful cake, but I will better know what the icing is supposed to look like next time. The main problem is that there were still some lumps, especially on the top. But, again, none of the ladies have to know that this isn’t exactly how it’s supposed to look. Let’s not tell them, okay?

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In all, I am fairly proud of this attempt. I think I would add the powdered sugar more slowly and probably add more coffee. The top would be more smooth if I could have gotten the icing more smooth. But it was only my second attempt EVER at a layer cake, and my first with the incredible thickening caramel icing, so I . . . feel pretty proud just the same.

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(I’m only including this last one because of how thin I look. As a reminder that I probably shouldn’t eat any of the cake myself. The icing has two cups of brown sugar and an entire box of powdered sugar!)

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