beurre noisette | cake | cakes | caramel | Daring Baker's Challenge | desserts | gluten-free | recipe | vanilla

Daring Baker’s Challenge: Caramel Cake with caramelized butter frosting.

November 29, 2008

This month’s DB challenge has a special place in my heart. I adore caramel.ย  And it is indeed pronounced car-a-mel. Not ‘carmel.’ People please, note the ‘a’ in there. Its just plain based on the rules of the English language. Car-a-mel. If you say ‘carmel’ just go away. No I’m kidding- don’t go away. I’m sorry. Just say it the right way. Anyway… I love caramel. I don’t eat candy as a rule but if its caramel -all bets are off. My favorite is Cadbury’s Caramello bar… yum. Or Ghirardelli’s milk chocolate caramel bar. But that caramel rule also includes the delicious Caramacs (you haven’t lived until you’ve had someone in Hawaii send you these) and Newman’s Own organic caramel cups, and on the lower end of the monetary spectrum Milk Duds, Sugar Daddy, Junior Caramels and any variation thereof. No, I do NOT like Werthers, thankyouverymuch, it tastes like fake caramel. I prefer caramel to chocolate by a landslide, but chocolate covered caramel is heaven. I actually pick out the caramels from boxes of Valentine’s Day candy and leave the rest. And those who went to high school with me will clearly remember me spending my lunch money on miniature boxes of a caramel candy called Pom-Poms (which are now discontinued– so sad!) and stuffing those entire boxes in my mouth at once. Yeah, the dentist loves me, and yeah,ย  despite all that, I somehow managed to weigh 125 pounds at 5 feet 9 inches tall throughout high school. So, this Daring Baker’s challenge made me very very happy.

The host this month is Shuna Fish Lydon and the co-hosts are Alex ( and Jenny ( The Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting is courtesy of Shuna (, as published on Bay Area Bites ( And since none of us know jack about alternative baking, weโ€™ve once again turned to Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go ( to assist us. Now lets get down to business!

This cake is a perfect fall cake. Its easy enough to make for Thanksgiving (well, next year) even if you’re making a full dinner, yet its elegant and delicious enough to convince people you spent either a lot of time on it or a lot of money. I bet it’d be AMAZING as cupcakes and I totally plan on remaking it as such. I would’ve done it this time but I never ever make cakes, so I thought I’d stick to the cake idea. But this would be SO good as cupcakes!

I used a bundt-type pan, but alternately you could use a tall (or deep) round pan, or two layer cake pans and make it a layer cake. After frosting it I used some leftover caramel syrup to drizzle on the top of the cake. ๐Ÿ˜€ I have tons of syrup left, too, so I may make those cupcakes soon. The caramelized butter frosting was so unique and amazing, there are no words. When I went to PA this summer, me and Jay ate brown butter pretzels from a pretzel factory, and we fell in love with it… and this frosting is made with the same brown-butter technique. A-mah-zing. Seriously. If you don’t want to make this cake, at least try the frosting.

Here’s the order I recommend making it in: syrup, frosting, cake. You can do the syrup and frosting the night before, then make the cake the next day and frost it if you wish. I made it all in one night and it didn’t take long at all, I think it was almost 2.5 hours start to finish. And thats even accounting for the time it took to wash the mixer bowl between making the cake and frosting. For full recipe and another photo click the link below to continue reading!


  • 10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • splash vanilla extract
  • 2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk, at room temperature

So the Gluten-Free changes to the cake would be:

2 cups of gluten free flour blend (w/xanthan gum) or 2 cups of gf flour blend + 1 1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1/2 – 1 tsp baking powder

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Butter one tall (2 โ€“ 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
  4. Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
  5. Sift flour and baking powder.
  6. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}
  7. Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.
  8. Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup water (for “stopping” the caramelization process)
  1. In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.
  2. When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.
  3. Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound confectionerโ€™s sugar, sifted
  • 4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
  • Kosher or sea salt to taste
  1. Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.
  2. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

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  1. woohooo thank you for this! i’ve been dying for a new recipe to satisfy my sweet tooth! mmmm i will be trying this on my next day off! ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. I’m a tiny late with mine this month, cooking it for guests for lunch today (as we speak). Just having a surf while the syrup cools. Yours looks fantastic, the icing so lush and the syrup on top so enticing. I fear I’ve buggered it up already by cooking the syrup too long. Oh well, I’ll have toffee cake instead.

  3. the cake looks fab – I am also a big caramel fan

    Just curious – why not just add the extra cup of water to the caramel mixture at the beginning and avoid the potential dangers of pouring in later while boiling hot?

    PS – I’m not a rookie – I have caramelized sugar before quite successfully.

  4. Mmm…. I too love caramel. But I say carmel. Don’t even try to pretend the English language has ‘rules’. SUBTLE??? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Thank you, Claire ๐Ÿ™‚

    Ah… I have to politely disagree, Kelly.. there are in fact rules in the English language, some of them may be contradictory… but there are indeed rules. ๐Ÿ™‚ Not pronouncing vowels is different than not pronouncing consonants such as the b in subtle or the g in benign. There are rarely silent vowels in English, unless you count the e in likeness, which I guess could be pronounced ‘likeyness’… and now that I think about it the only silent vowel I can think of at all is e… so therefore caramel should in every instance be said ‘cah-rah-mel’ and not ‘carmel.’ You see, there ARE rules. Its just at times they aren’t always sensible. But I do believe that in this case, it is sensible. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But however you pronounce it caramel is delicious.

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