Saturday, May 9, 2009

Burnt Sugar Cake... as close to Gramma's as I can get it.

I didn’t grow up living near my grandparents but whenever we visited them and had an occasion to do so, dad and I would beg grandma to make our favorite 3-layer Burnt Sugar Cake. It had a sweet but mellow caramel flavor to it and she would just pile on the frosting, which in my humble opinion was the very best part. As a child I didn’t have any interest in the baking process. I suppose at that time it hadn’t yet occurred to me that grandma wouldn’t always be there to bake it for me.
Somewhere around my mid-teens I decided that the wait for that cake between visits was just too long and during a summer visit I asked Grandma to teach me. I like to think that she was as excited as I was for this adventure and as I gathered my learning tools, notepad and pencil, I looked like a wide-eyed puppy dog expecting a special treat. I looked around the kitchen counter, and not finding what I was looking for, I asked “Gramma, where’s the recipe?” She laughed, throwing her head back slightly and with a wave of her hand she said, “Oh Honey! I don’t have a recipe!”
I watched her every move and attempted to jot down and translate for myself her little bits of this and scoops of that using as much kitchen experience as I had, which by then was a meager menu of grilled cheese sandwiches and canned tomato soup. For anyone who hasn’t tasted a Burnt Sugar Cake, the name can be misleading. In general, cooking anything to the burn-stage is usually a recipe for disaster but in the context of cake we are simply allowing plain white sugar to slowly heat up, melt and turn a deep golden brown color, also known as caramelization. Thanks to Betty Crocker online I have found the Burnt Sugar Cake recipe printed in the 1950’s Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook. It’s as close as I’ve found to Grandma’s recipe except it makes a double layer cake instead of a triple layer. Enjoy!

Burnt Sugar Cake
1 cup white sugar
½ cup boiling water
Cold water (amount will vary)
½ cup shortening
1-1/3 cups white sugar
3 eggs
2 -1/3 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Caramel Frosting
Caramel mixture remaining from cake recipe
Cream (about ¼ cup, but amount will vary)
6 Tablespoons butter
3 Cups powdered sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans or one 13x9 pan. Add the 1 cup of sugar to a small heavy bottom or non-stick saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is a light to medium golden-brown color. The mixture will continue to cook even after removed from the heat so you can remove the pan when the color is almost as dark as you would like it. I like to use the color of a regular wrapped caramel as a guide. Once removed from the heat, slowly and carefully pour in the ½ cup of boiling water, stirring constantly. Place back on low heat and stir until any lumps are dissolved. Pour ¼ cup caramel mixture into a liquid measuring cup and then add enough cold water to make 1 cup of liquid. (Pour the remaining caramel mixture into another liquid measuring cup and set aside for the frosting.) In mixer, cream together ½ cup shortening and 1-1/3 cups white sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Begin stirring flour mixture and caramel and water mixture into the creamed mixture, alternating the two until incorporated. Pour into prepared pans and bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes and then remove from pans and finish cooling on the rack. (If using the 13x9 pan just allow to cool completely in pan.) For frosting: Add enough cream to the remaining caramel mixture to equal ½ cup and add to clean saucepan along with the 6 Tablespoons butter. Cook and stir over low heat until smooth. Beat in the powdered sugar, 1/3 teaspoon salt and the vanilla. Spread on cake while frosting is still warm.

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TinksTreats by Lorilyn Tenney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License