Today is the last day of April, which means the year is one-third over. It also means that I should have made serious headway through my 10 cakes to bake in 2010 list. Anyone who’s been paying attention might be wondering, where’s the cake?
I made number two on the list, the caramel cake, a while back. This recipe, adapted from Virginia Willis and Scott Peacock, ran in a New York Times article about Alabama cake ladies, back in December.
A warning from Nancie McDermott (author of Southern Cakes) ran in the accompanying article: “That frosting is a demon. There’s a reason people quit making that boiled frosting and went to confectioners’ sugar. But that’s what makes these cakes so special. It’s really a dying art.”
Did I heed the warning? Of course not. And I my cake was a cake only a mother could love. And even then maybe only if it were her only cake (and she hadn’t seen any of her sister’s cakes, or the cakes down the block). Ugly doesn’t begin to describe my caramel cake.
The article clearly stated the trick: work fast so the frosting doesn’t set up before the cake is frosted.
I didn’t work fast enough; the frosting set up. After a couple of futile moments trying to spread it on the cake, I started patting bits of frosting on to the sides and top of the yellow cake. It was like working with playdough.
But it smelled and tasted so much better than playdough. Turns out if you mix caramelized sugar with cream, butter, and vanilla it doesn’t really matter what the concoction looks like. It tastes delicious.
And if you have to give in and pat it onto the cake, you’ll have a lot to lick off your hands after—more than would have stuck to the spatula.
I was going to wait to put this up until I made it again, and had prettier pictures to offer. But then I was reading back over that Times article, and I clicked on the accompanying video of Kim Severson visiting those Alabama cake ladies. Towards the end, she tried making one in her kitchen—the results were less than perfect.
But not as far less as mine were. I’m going to try the cake again one of these days (because it really was delicious, with a tall glass of milk). But in the meantime, I’ll let you appreciate the epic nature of my failure.
I give you…a cake only a mother could love (though, oddly enough, anyone seemed able to eat it):
Next week I’ll be back with another cake from the 10 in 2010 list, this one tasted wonderful and looked fine.