Friday, February 1, 2013

Sweet and Salty Cake

I have a love for layer cakes. Not particularly for eating them, but rather for making them. They are always such a project, which is why they can only be reserved for the most special of occasions. Every year for Paul's birthday, I ask him to pick out the cake of his dreams and then set out to make it for him. In the past, I have made both Matthew and Paul separate cakes for their birthdays even though they are a mere 24 hours apart. This year, however, I wanted to simplify things a little bit (plus we never eat all the cake...not even close!) and figured that they could share a cake. Poor Matthew would just have to like whatever flavor Paul chose to indulge in this year.

Now, Paul has a history of picking the most outrageous and complicated cake concoctions he can find. It is never something as simple and traditional as "lemon cake," "carrot cake" or even "German Chocolate Cake."

As an example, take last year's request:  "Can you try to recreate that one cake we had in Helena with the Earl Grey mousse and I think it had Earl Grey in the cake too?" So there is a ton of research involved (because heaven forbid that the cake should FAIL by either not tasting good or imploding) before the actual baking/decorating of the cake can be done. But again, it's a fun process that I actually enjoy. For that Earl Grey Cake in particular, I actually ended up talking to the owners of the bakery about the cake in order to extract a few hints about how it was done. Their tips proved very useful and the cake ended up being a success!

This year, Paul spared me the research and instead chose a cake from the book Baked: New Frontiers in Baking that I received as a gift for Christmas: The Sweet and Salty Cake. The cake itself is a triple-layered monstrosity that utilizes a rich Devil's Food cake layered with a salted caramel filling, sprinkled lightly with fleur de sel, and then lathered with a silky whipped chocolate ganache. The finished product is a beautiful, sophisticated cake that is very rich but not in a cloyingly sweet way.

I made the recipe in stages, which always simplifies the composition of layer cakes.  Three days before assembly, I baked, cooled, and froze the cake layers. I made the salted caramel filling the night before decorating and composed the whipped ganache immediately before decorating. Had I chosen to make this cake in one shot, the task would have been a bit overwhelming as a bit of babysitting was required for each component. However, splitting up the tasks this way made the the whole process quite simple and the end result was awesome.

The cake appealed to both the children and adults alike! We did end up packaging up a large portion of the cake for friends otherwise I know Paul and I would have devoured the whole thing. If you would like to make this cake, I will gladly email you the recipe or you can try performing an internet search. It has been published on many, many websites and I am just feeling a bit too lazy to type it up at the moment (it's a bit lengthy and may result in carpal tunnel).

This was definitely a special occasion cake, but I cannot wait for the next opportunity to make and share this cake with others!

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