She who dares bakes...Caramel Cake

This month's challenge is caramel cake with caramel icing and, uh, caramel toffees to boot. Yes, after two savoury challenges, this month the daring bakers have decided to go big on the sugar. Hello Diabetes, welcome to my world.

The tip of the sugar mountain:

I decided to make cupcakes rather than one large cake, not just because they look cuter, but because I was going to serve the cake for Mr AB's birthday and I wanted to be able to eat some of it before I did. Unfortunately, no amount of candles will cover up a big chunk of missing cake. Believe me, I'm talking from experience.

The caramel flavour in the cake comes from the sticky syrup which is incorporated into the batter before baking. Unfortunately I don't think I allowed the syrup to develop sufficient depth before removing it from the heat. I blame this on the fact that I am fundamentally risk-adverse so when the liquid started to approach the edge of the saucepan I chose to turn off the heat rather than risk a caramel-encrusted cooker top and third degree burns. As it was, the sponge had a delicate toffee hint rather than the full-on caramel hit I was looking for.

The icing, however, was delicious. Making up for my nerves with the syrup, I took more of a chance with the butter and I was rewarded with a beautiful smoky flavour. Unfortunately my sieve wasn't equally rewarded:

I find some American frosting recipes to be a little too sweet and cloying but this one proved to be the exception. The burnt edge of the butter, together with the hint of the caramel made it very moreish.
And now the caramels. These really are an optional extra as the cake and icing are perfect on their own but if you fancy a bit of fun with a sugar thermometer then give them a go.

I pummelled mine with a rolling pin and added the toffee chunks to the the batter where they melted into little pockets of toffee goodness. Delicious. I also added then for a little crunch on top of the icing: My favourite toffee-tastic use was to pour the caramel over slices of apples. The toffee doesn't set as well but the soft caramel with the crunch of the apple is perfect. Yum.

Very Autumnal. I was a little wary of letting the cakes touch the leaves (there are a lot of dogs in the park) but I like the cake in the leafy jungle look.

The recipe is courtesy of Shauna Fish Lydon’s blog and this month's challenge is hosted by Dolores, Alex and Jenny. Thanks guys - delicious!


Big Bang

It's no secret that I love Bonfire Night and given yesterday's big news, there seems to be even more sparkle and fire in the November air tonight.

We got our firework fix on Saturday night when a group of us went to the display at the beautiful Hampton Court Palace. I had intended to take some chunks of parkin to brace us against the cold but having returned from holiday the night before there was no time for the parkin to develop its necessary stickiness. Unable to go to any gathering empty handed (post-holiday chores and jet-lag are nothing against the fear of not feeding people) I decided to make toffee apples.

I'm not sure what the connection between bonfire night and toffee apples is, but I know that at most firework displays there will be a stall selling floury old apples with garish red 'toffee' covering them like a scab. Seriously, homemade apples are in a different league. Yes, there is always the risk of a hot toffee related injury (whether I'll ever feel the tip of my index finger again is debatable) but the contrast between a crisp cox apple and the thick, teeth chippingly good toffee shell is not to be missed.

Toffee Apples (makes 10)
10 small eating apples (choose your favourites)
450g soft brown sugar
50g butter (use real butter as substitutes may mean that the toffee doesn't set)
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 teaspoons malt vinegar
150ml water
lolly sticks/wooden skewers
  1. Wash and dry the apples and insert a skewer into each apple. Pop them in the fridge to stay cool.
  2. Put all of the other ingredients into a heavy-bottomed pan and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves. Then boil rapidly for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Continue to boil the mixture until 'hard ball' stage is reached. This is 130 degrees if you have a sugar thermometer. If you don't have one you can tell when the mixture is at hard ball stage, not when it starts to answer you back and refuse to give way in negotiations (ha ha) but when it hardens on contact with ice cold water.

  4. Once the hard ball stage is reached, remove the pan from the heat and dunk/swirl your apples until they are coated.

  5. Put the toffee wrapped apples on a sheet of greaseproof paper until the toffee hardens.

  6. Enjoy!
Ps Yes that is a well known tabloid paper wrapping my apple. I chose the cheapest one in the newsagent for wrapping, we are in the middle of a credit crunch afterall!