Food 52sday Recipe Interpretation: Caramel Spice Pound Cake with Caramel Custard

caramel spice pound cake 031

I love the play of the crumb against the custard, and I highly recommend a crunchy garnish. The pecans are a welcome addition.

Caramel + spice = Fall.  It’s true. Ask anyone.  So when the Recipe Inspiration for this week was called Faulknerian Family Spice Cake with Caramel Icing, I went straight to fall. Operation Thanksgiving, even.

I had initially planned to stick fairly close to the original recipe. And if you did, or you want to, go for it. It sounds fabulous.  But since I’m me, I chose to Deviate just a bit. OK. I deviated a Lot.  For a couple of reasons.  First, Emily (original recipe sharer) said that the icing is A Bear, and I wasn’t feeling like Wrestling. Second, I wanted to use my Van Halen pound cake as a base recipe since it is really close to the proportions in Emily’s recipe.  And then I started thinking, “Why not put some caramel in the cake, not just on top of it?” And that’s when I got my What-Turned-Out-To-Be-Brilliant idea to caramelize a portion of the amount of sugar called for and mix it with the dairy to add in alternately with the dry ingredients.

caramel spice pound cake

The cake is very moist and has a beautiful, tight, even crumb. Lovely.

You don’t have to do this of course. You’ll have a wonderful spice cake if you don’t caramelize some of the sugar, but the addition lends a lovely color as well as another layer of complexity and just a hint of caramely bitterness that I found Quite Intriguing in a good way.

caramel spice pound cake

It’s kind of like a bread pudding made with cake, and instead of baking the custard, you just set it with gelatin. Sneaky, huh?

Once I had the cake, which I baked in two 9″ layers each weighing in at right around 30 oz of batter, I initially thought about making a trifle. What I ended up with is rather trifle-ish, but as I stabilized the custard with some gelatin, I ended up with a sliceable rather than scoopable dessert that would be right at home on Your Thanksgiving Table, especially garnished with some cinnamon whipped cream and some candied pecans. Which is what I did.  See?

caramel spice pound cake 023Anyway, this cake/trifle/Item tastes like fall, and that’s a welcome thing.  The second cake layer, by the way, is wonderful just as pound cake.  The caramel custard is definitely a Lily-Gild on my part, but I couldn’t resist.

And for those of you keeping score, Van Halen-wise: to my standard base recipe, I kept the 3 sticks of butter and added 2 ounces, by weight, of neutral oil.  I caramelized 4 ounces of the 20 ounces of sugar I usually use and added that to 10.5 oz of whole milk.  The custard is also my “standard” vanilla pudding. I caramelized the entire amount of sugar and mixed it with the whole milk before adding eggs, salt and flour (I was out of corn starch).  Instead of my standard 1 yolk per cup of dairy ratio, I used 4 whole eggs to 6 cups of milk to cut the richness just a bit. I mean, it was going over a pound cake, after all! I also left out the butter. Because I am the Very Picture of Restraint.

Caramel Spice Pound Cake with Caramel Custard
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 12-16
 
Warm spices and caramel come together to make a perfect cold weather cake. Try it for Thanksgiving; I think it might become a new favorite.
What You Need
For the Cake
  • 4 oz granulated sugar
  • 10.5 oz whole milk
  • 13 oz cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 sticks butter at cool room temperature (12 ounces, unsalted)
  • 16 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 very gently rounded teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon mace
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 ounces (by weight) neutral vegetable oil
  • 5 large eggs, beaten
For the Custard
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons plain granulated gelatin
  • 20 oz sugar
  • 5½ cups (44 ounces) whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 4 tablespoons flour or corn starch
What To Do
For the Cake
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
  2. Spray 2 9″x2″ cake pans with pan spray. Line the bottoms with parchment circles then spray again. Set aside.
  3. Put the 4 ounces of sugar in a heavy sauce pan that is much larger than you think you need.
  4. Add a bit of water so all the sugar gets wet, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring.
  5. Cover the pot and let boil undisturbed for 2 minutes. This will wash any sugar crystals off the sides of the pot and minimize the risk of crystallization.
  6. Remove the lid from the pot and continue to cook, gently swirling the pan every once in awhile.
  7. Once the sugar begins to take on some color, you can stir with a clean non-heat-conductive spoon. Cook the sugar until it begins to smoke and is a very dark amber color.
  8. Immediately turn off the heat and pour in the whole milk. It will boil up scarily and the sugar may seize up in the cold milk. Worry not. Stir until the caramel stops spluttering. If some of the caramel is hard, stir over low-ish heat until it has dissolved.
  9. Cool this caramel to room temperature. You can bring the temperature down quickly by stirring it in an ice bath. Set aside.
  10. Whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
  11. Cream the 3 sticks of butter until smooth.
  12. Add the 16 ounces of sugar, salt, spices and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until very light and fluffy, scraping bowl as necessary.
  13. With the mixer running, drizzle in the oil until it is all incorporated.
  14. Over a period of about five minutes, drizzle in the beaten eggs a bit at a time, beating the whole while and scraping the bowl as necessary.
  15. Add ½ of the dry ingredients and mix on low for about 15 seconds.
  16. Pour in half the caramel mixture and mix on low for about 15 seconds.
  17. Alternately add another ½ of the dry ingredients, the rest of the caramel, and then the last of the dry, mixing on low about for about 15 seconds between each addition and scraping the bowl as necessary.
  18. Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake in the center of the oven until risen, firm and deeply golden brown, about 35-40 minutes in my oven. Start checking after 30 minutes.
  19. Tent the cakes with foil, being careful not to let it touch the tops of the cakes, if they seem to be browning too quickly.
  20. Let the cakes cool in the pans for fifteen minutes, then turn them out and flip them again (using cooling racks) to cool upright.
For the Custard
  1. In a bowl that holds at least ½ gallon, Stir together the 4 ounces of cold milk, the gelatin and the vanilla. Set aside.
  2. Whisk together the eggs, salt and flour or corn starch. Set aside.
  3. Put the sugar into a heavy-bottomed pot that is much larger than you think you need. Add a bit of water to wet all the sugar.
  4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring.
  5. Cover the pot and let boil undisturbed for 2 minutes. This will wash any sugar crystals off the sides of the pot and minimize the risk of crystallization.
  6. Remove the lid from the pot and continue to cook, gently swirling the pan every once in awhile.
  7. Once the sugar begins to take on some color, you can stir with a clean non-heat-conductive spoon. Cook the sugar until it begins to smoke and is a very dark amber color.
  8. Immediately turn off the heat and pour in the whole milk. It will boil up scarily and the sugar may seize up in the cold milk. Worry not. Stir until the caramel stops spluttering. If some of the caramel is hard, stir over low-ish heat until it has dissolved.
  9. Once the caramel has dissolved, temper about 1-1½ cups of hot caramel into the egg/starch mixture, whisking all the while.
  10. Pour the egg mixture back into the main mix.
  11. Heat over medium heat, whisking all the while, until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil.
  12. Whisking constantly, boil for an additional 30-45 seconds.
  13. Strain the caramel into the gelatin mixture and whisk well to combine. Strain again if necessary.
To Assemble Cake
  1. Cut one layer of the cake into chunks. Save the other layer for another use.
  2. Spray a 9″ spring form pan with pan spray, and randomly put the cake chunks into the pan.
  3. Pour the hot custard over the cake, shaking the pan to help the custard work its way between the cake chunks. (I ended up using only about 5 cups of the custard. You might decide to use it all. Or just put the leftovers in a cup for your Enjoyment Later).
  4. Let cool until warm, and then chill until firm.
  5. Slide a thin knife or icing spatula around the inside of the spring form to release the custard.
  6. Carefully remove the sides of the pan and smooth the side of the cake with a spatula, if necessary.
  7. Garnish as desired. I used some cinnamon whipped cream and candied pecans, but you can do whatever makes you happy.
Other Stuff to Know
If you just want to make the pound cake and not the custard, bake all the batter in a pan sprayed and well-floured 12 cup Bundt-type pan. At 350F, it will take about an hour, maybe a little more, to bake. Tent the cake with foil if it seems to be browning too quickly. Think about glazing it with a cream cheese glaze, or maybe w/some maple glaze. But honestly, it’s lovely just as it is. I also think this would be the perfect cake to bake with streusel on it. Make a basic streusel mix with some chopped pecans in it and spread it generously over the batter in 2 regular 9″x2″ cake pans. Bake until done and let cool completely in the pans. I think this would be amazing with a cup of coffee. Try it!

If you’ve never made caramel before, here are some pictures of What You Can Expect.

dark caramel

This is the sugar after I’ve added about a cup of milk. Note the Scarily Vigorous Boiling and Tremendous amount of steam and smoke. Be very careful when working with sugar. It’s about 350F and nothing to play around with. Use a pot that is Way bigger than you think you need and a wooden spoon with a very long handle.

making caramel

And this is after all the milk is in. No more crazy boiling, but the caramel has hardened up. This can be Disconcerting if you’re not expecting it, but Worry Not. Just stir over medium heat until it has dissolved.

making caramel

Note that the more of the caramel that dissolves, the more the milk starts taking on color.

making caramel

The above pictures are of the larger amount of caramel for the custard. Here’s a picture to give you an idea of the color of the “caramel milk” for the cake. Again, it’s 4 oz deeply caramelized sugar to 10.5 oz. whole milk.

And there you have it. The latest in my fun Food 52sday Series. We’re over halfway done now, but it’s never too late to start baking and cooking along. If you did play along this week, please post your results either here in the comments section and/or over on the fan page.

I gotta say, this is a darn lovely dessert. I hope you give it a try. If you’re not feeling the entire Deal, the pudding alone is comfort food at its best. And the pound cake alone is bursting with flavor. I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong either way.

So, would you serve this at Thanksgiving for dessert? Let me know. Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for explaining how to make caramel with photos. I’ve always been afraid of ruining a pan and your step-by-step instructions make it sound a lot less impossible for a novice chef :) –Ali

    • says

      Happy to help, @twitter-78995691:disqus ! It can be kind of daunting, but honestly, the only way you can ruin your pan is off you wander off for a long time until all the sugar turns to carbon. I’ve done that. Bad news! You’ll do just fine as long as you stay with it and have your dairy ready to go the second the caramel is as dark as you want it. Enjoy!

  2. Angela Barrett says

    I’ve never made Caramel before but it’s one of my favorite flavors. This cake sounds and looks so good. I think I may have to venture into the caramel making and give this a try

  3. says

    I used to fear caramel making… until I landed at the dessert station :) this cake looks fantastic, Jenni! Love the fall flavors.

    • says

      You could certainly cut the custard in half w/no problem, @disqus_CTCTU9WMr7:disqus . As to the cake, it would *probably* work out okay, but if you have enough freezer space, I’d recommend that you bake it in 2 9″ layers and then wrap one well in plastic wrap and foil to use later. Well-wrapped, it should be just fine for up to 2-3 months. :)

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