I was baking quite a lot of lately, but keep going back to the cakes I made before. Peggy Porchen’s Raspberry Rose Dome Cake was made three times in the last month and John Whaite’s Toffee Upside-down Apple Cake. You stick to the cakes you love to bake and eat and the ones that you know how to make without any trouble. I do love to experiment but I always choose the cake that I think I would love, creamy and soft preferably with chocolate, hazelnut, coconut and dulche de leche. Dulche de leche is my new discovery and I cannot get enough if it. For those of you who never heard of it, it is a caramelised condensed milk that gives a beautiful sweet butterscotch taste.
Peggy Porchen has several recipes in her book ‘Boutique Baking‘ that includes dulche de leche so this time I choose Creamy Caramel Cake. There is nothing in there not to love.
For the sponge
200g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
Seeds of 1 vanilla pod
4 medium eggs
200g self-raising flour
For the sugar syrup
150g caster sugar
scraped vanilla pod
2 tbsp Brandy
For the buttercream filling
100g unsalted butter
100g icing sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
50g dulce de leche or a can of sweetened condensed milk boiled in water for 3 hours
For the decoration
About 2 tbsp cocoa powder
Basic baking kit
Three 15cm (6in) round sandwich tins – I used only one but had to bake the sponge three times
Cake leveller or large serrated knife
Bake the sponges one day ahead of serving.
Make the sugar syrup whilst baking the sponges. Prepare the filling and assemble and decorate the cake on the day of serving.
Dust the cake with the cocoa powder immediately before serving as, after a few hours, the cocoa powder may absorb moisture from the buttercream and appear wet.
Preheat the oven to 175C / Gas Mark 4.
Prepare the sandwich tins by greasing and lining them with greaseproof paper.
- To make the sponge – Place the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla seeds in a mixing bowl and cream together until pale and fluffy.
- Beat the eggs lightly in another bowl and slowly add to the butter mixture while whisking quickly. If the mixture starts to separate or curdle, stop adding the egg and beat in 2-3 tablespoons of flour. This will rebind the batter. Once all the egg has been added and combined with the butter mixture, sift in the flour and stir until the batter is just combined. This will ensure the sponges stay light and fluffy.
- Divide the batter evenly between the cake tins. If you find it difficult to measure by eye, use your kitchen scales to weigh out the amount of sponge mixture for each tin.
- Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, depending on your oven. If you are using deeper cake tins, the sponges will take longer to cook. The sponges are cooked when the sides are beginning to shrink away from the edges of the tins and the tops are golden brown and spring back to the touch. If in doubt, insert a clean knife or wooden skewer into the centre of each sponge; it should come out clean.
- To make the sugar syrup – While the sponges are baking, prepare the sugar syrup for soaking. Place the water, caster sugar and vanilla pod in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer until all the sugar crystals have dissolved. Set aside to cool and then add the brandy.
- Once the sponges are baked, let them rest for about 10 minutes outside of the oven. Using a pastry brush, soak the top of the sponges with syrup while they are still warm; this allows the syrup to be absorbed faster.
- Once just warm, run a knife all the way round the sides of the tins, remove the sponges from the tins and leave to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.
- Once cool, wrap the sponges in cling film and then rest them overnight at room temperature. This will ensure that all the moisture is sealed in and the sponges firm up to the perfect texture for trimming and layering. When trimmed too soon after baking, the sponges tend to crumble and may even break to pieces.
- To make the buttercream filling – Place the butter, icing sugar and salt into a mixing bowl and cream together until very pale and fluffy.
- Add the dulce de leche to the mixture and stir through until combined and smooth
- To assemble the cake – Trim and sandwich together the three sponge layers using one-third of the butter cream filling. With the remaining buttercream filling, cover or mask the top and sides of the cake.
- To decorate – Cover the chilled cake with another generous layer of buttercream and, using a side-scraper with ridges, created a sculpted barrel design. If you are unable to achieve a perfect sculpted side on your first attempt, simply scrape off any excess buttercream and repeat the process until you are happy with the result. Clean up the top with a palette knife.
- Chill until set. Dust the top of the cake liberally with cocoa powder before serving.
Serve the cake at room temperature. This cake is best enjoyed within 3 days of baking but it can last for up to 1 week.