Birthday Cake for My Boy

Mission: David's 27th Birthday Cake

I asked young Mr G what he was looking for in a cake this year. He loved the one I came up with for his 26th (a really hearty whole wheat flour cake with lemon icing and blueberries) so I couldn't disappoint this year. He told me, "Something with caramel sounds good." Nothing more. And so the quest began.

I was looking for something delish but low maintenance, sinc
e I would be making it on a weeknight. After some digging through cookbooks and ye olde Internet, I settled on this recipe. Super basic vanilla cake, just like David likes it. To spice things up a bit-literally-I decided to add 1 tsp of cardamom and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, as well as the zest of one lemon.

The cake baked up beautifully in 35 minutes and slid out of the pan easy as...pie? Do you ever have that moment of total fear before you take a cake out of the pan, that maybe the shortening or whatever you used to line the pan somehow didn't work and half of your cake is going to stick? Yeah...me either.
While ze (fully intact) cake was cooling and smelling up the house with all sorts of deliciousness, I set to work on the topping. Although the aforementioned cake recipe did include its own recipe for caramel glaze (it is, after all, called caramel cake), I decided to go with a caramel recipe that I already know and love.Forgiv
e me if I've already mentioned this book, but Desserts by the Yard is an absolutely fabulous book of dessert recipes by the pastry chef at Spago. It's also just a really a good read if you like that sort of thing. One of the desserts she has is for homemade Twix bars, inspired by her time studying pastry making in London, and the caramel is to die for!! The trick is Lyle's Golden Syrup, instead plain old corn syrup. You can buy it online, or find it at Cost Plus World Market--it's an import from the UK (and I'm pretty sure there is a little of the White Witch's magic in the stuff).

I decided to halve the caramel recipe, since it was just being used as a glaze and I didn't want to make the cake soggy. I realize now that was silly thinking, since the caramel solidifies pretty quickly. Ah well. Anyway, halving it is very easy, except for the fact that my liquid measuring cups don't have a line for 3/8 of a cup, so I may have added too much Golden Syrup. Not that that could ever be a bad thing. I always feel like a brilliant mad scientist when I add the heavy cream to the hot sugar/syrup mixture--it suddenly starts boiling and changing color, and then magically (ok, chemically) turns into caramel when I add the condensed milk. Bwa ha ha!

OK, so. As soon as the caramel was complete (it only takes about 15 minutes if you do it right, as I do sometimes), I poured it on over that cake. I placed a cookie sheet under the cooling rack to catch any rogue caramel, of which there was much. The caramel was not as thick as I would have liked, and I think that showed in the final product. Of course it was supposed to be a glaze, so I guess in that regard it worked out.

In the end, it was a pretty humble looking cake--you might have mistaken it for a corn bread. Looks aside, the taste is great!! The cake is just moist enough with a nice crumb, and I do feel the extra spice touches I added made the difference in flavor. However, because of that the caramel tended to fade into the background, which is unfortunate. Next time I either need to back off on the spices, or work with a more assertive flavor profile for the icing. All in all, though, I'll call it a success. I have one happy and full 27 year old guy, and a lot of cake that needs eating! 


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