Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake

I nearly didn’t make myself a birthday cake this year, the reason being I haven’t been eating sugar. Or anything else really yummy tasting either. But I have a friend in town and when I asked her if we should make a cake for my birthday the answer was a resounding yes. So the ambivalence I felt toward turning another year older and making effort to bake a cake melted away. For the most part anyway.

So the day she arrived, which was the day before my birthday, we put our heads together and came up with the perfect cake recipe to make (compliments of Martha Stewart). Perfect because I already had most the ingredients and it involved chocolate.

I found the cake rather disappointing on my birthday which did not make for the best birthday, to be honest.

When you are making the caramel the directions say to heat the ingredients until they are a dark amber color. This yielded a slightly burnt taste which I noticed when assembling the cake.

Also, I refrigerated the cake after assembling and the chocolate frosting got very hard. So hard it cracked when I cut into the cake. Hmph. Something or some things always goes awry on my birthday and this year it was the cake.

The next day I left it out of the fridge all day and cut into it at night for pictures. I tried to take a picture involving a fork but the cake crumbled and I didn’t get a good angle. I ate the cake crumbles and found, to my amazement, there was no burnt caramel taste! So I kept eating. I also found that with the chocolate frosting now room temp it was the perfect consistency for eating: a nice soft ganache. Just another baking disaster averted.

cake ingredients.

  • 3 c. all purpose flour
  • 3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ c. dutch process cocoa
  • 1 T. baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ c. plus 2 T. vegetable (or other) oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 ½ c. buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 ½ c. warm water

caramel ingredients.

  • 4 c. granulated sugar
  • ¼ c. light corn syrup
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. butter, cold, cut into pieces by the tablespoon

frosting ingredients.

  • ¼ c. plus 2 T. dutch process cocoa
  • ¼ c. plus 2 T. warm water
  • ½ c. powdered sugar
  • 1 c. butter, room temperature
  • 1 pound semi sweet chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled
  • pinch of salt

cake directions.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans, and dust with cocoa powder, tapping out excess.
  3. Sift flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt into a large bowl.
  4. On medium speed beat eggs, water, oil, and vanilla. Alternate adding dry mixture and buttermilk, starting and ending with dry mixture. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  5. Divide batter among pans. Bake until cakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pans. Pop in the refrigerator or freezer until you’re ready to assemble the cake.

caramel directions.

  1. Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over high heat.
  2. Cook, without stirring, until mixture is amber in color. Remove from heat, and carefully pour in cream (mixture will spatter and rise up); stir until smooth.
  3. Return to heat, and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees, about 2 minutes.
  4. Pour caramel into a medium bowl, stir in salt, and let cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Stir in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Let cool completely.

frosting directions.

  1. Whisk together cocoa and water in a bowl until cocoa dissolves.
  2. Beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and a generous pinch of coarse salt in a clean bowl with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy.
  3. Gradually beat in melted chocolate and then cocoa mixture until combined. Let stand for 30 minutes before using.

cake assembly

  1. Trim tops of cakes using a serrated knife to create a level surface. Cut each in half horizontally to form 2 layers.
  2. Transfer 1 layer to a serving platter, and spread 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup caramel over top. Top with another cake layer, and repeat with remaining caramel and cake layers, leaving top uncovered. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. (You will have plenty of leftover caramel.)
  3. Frost top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with sea salt. Serve immediately. When storing the cake, refrigerate but make sure to leave plenty of time for the frosting to come to room temperature.

While this cake ended up being pretty darn good, I do think there is some room for improvement.

The two things I would do differently next time would be to cook the caramel until amber in color (not dark amber) in hopes of removing the burnt taste and I would also double the frosting ingredients and add a layer of chocolate before laying down the caramel. Over time the caramel completely absorbs into the cake so this is not a cake that you can make days ahead of time or serve for days.

Recipe rating: 

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