Oh my word. This cake. Homey and rustic and perhaps a bit messy, but absolutely delicious.
I wasn’t always a cake person. Cookies, of course. Brownies? Absolutely. Fruity crumbles and crisps? Yes please. But cakes just didn’t thrill me. In fact, for decades, I rarely bothered to make cakes from scratch, as I led myself to believe an excellent frosting could make up for a perfectly adequate cake mix.
And then I started to blog. And pay closer attention to quality baking. And finally realized boxed cake mixes, even covered in the best of frostings, are sad stand-ins for the real deal. And homemade cakes can totally rock. Especially layer cakes with awesome frosting.
Let me digress for a piece of family history: Once upon a time, before my husband was born, his family owned and ran a bakery in Akron, Ohio. Happy customers lined up for their doughnuts and frosted cakes and Hungarian streudels. But my father-in-law reported that the advent of the boxed cake mix in the 1950s put them out of business… as people were able to easily – and cheaply – make their own birthday cakes at home.
So with this story as part of the family lore, you’d think an anti-cake-mix bias would have started a bit earlier in life. Alas…
Let me assure you, dear readers, a good layer cake is not difficult to perfect. Recently, my cake inspiration have been the cakes featured in Joy the Baker’s Homemade Decadence cookbook. I’ve adopted a couple of her tricks. Seems buttermilk (an ingredient I rarely used in cakes to date), makes a huge difference in creating a moist, perfectly delicious cake.
The recipe for Joy’s Three-Layer Chocolate Cake is my go-to recipe, but over the weekend, I fiddled with a recipe for her Brown Sugar Cupcakes. A blustery weekend led to a craving for spice cake, and discovered I a couple of tablespoons of good quality (ahem, Trader Joe’s) pumpkin pie spice mixed into the lovely brown sugar batter evoked just the right level of spice.
Then we turned to the frosting. Ever since I created that Mint Chocolate Chip Whipped Cream Frosting this summer, I’ve been crushing on the whipped cream approach – this time with a generous portion of salted caramel sauce mixed in. Wow.
This cake was so amazing I made it twice this week… Over the weekend, as a birthday cake for a dear friend, I lined the sides with crushed heath bar bits. Yesterday, when I made it for an extended family dinner, I tossed a few walnuts on the top as a garnish. Either works.
As we brace for the “snowpocolypse” this weekend (they’re calling for two feet of snow here in DC, and we may be stuck in the house for days), I may just have to make it again…
I’m going to share this awesome cake with the crew on Fiesta Friday this week!
- The cake:
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 large eggs
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- The frosting:
- 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 1 cup good quality salted caramel sauce (I used Trader Joe's Fleur de Sel Sauce)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease and flour 3 9-inch round pans
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add half of the flour mixture, and beat well. Add the buttermilk in a slow stream and beat well. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula. Divide the batter among the three prepared cake pans.
- Bake until golden brown on top and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 20 minutes before inverting onto wire racks to cool.
- Be sure to cool completely before frosting.
- Combine the cream cheese and sugar in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth.
- While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak. This happens very quickly - be sure to watch it carefully. Add the caramel sauce and mix until combined.
I’ve decided to share this post with the lovely crew at Lavender and Lovage and Hedgecombers for Teatime Treats!