It’s the new guy’s birthday at work. I needed a new recipe to try this weekend and he needed a birthday cake. I told him to shout out some delicious words and I’ll make something automagically. He said “milk chocolate” and “salted caramel”, so a four layer chocolate and salted caramel cake I did make. This was also my first attempt at a layer cake. That whole “cut layers horizontally AND evenly” thing is nerve-wrecking, but I managed to do it without a level lol. Go me.
*pats self on back*
This cake is great if you want to do a couple steps a day over a few days so you’re not tackling a layer cake all at once. Make the caramel on a Wednesday, bake the cakes on a Thursday, whip up the frosting on a Friday and throw it all together on a Saturday.
It is vitally important that you DO NOT use table salt for this recipe. Okay… table salt won’t make the cake burst into flames or anything, but you’re RUINING IT. Just letting you know. You don’t have to get fancy Maldon sea salt like I did (although it’s totally worth it), but please use sea salt. Preferably sea salt you can grind to the size you like. If you refuse to listen to me and for some reason you’re just absolutely anti-sea salt (which would be ridiculous, but there are ridiculous people out there), use the table salt in the cake batter and the caramel but do NOT sprinkle it on top of the cake as garnish. That’s just… ugh.
I can’t even talk about this anymore. It’s upsetting me.
Let them eat cake!
Time to make the caramel!
Now let’s put it all together.
Chocolate and Salted Caramel Layer Cake with Mascarpone Cocoa Frosting
for the cake
2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
for the caramel
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
Coarse, flaky sea salt (I use Maldon)
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
for the frosting
grab the recipe from the Guinness Cupcakes with Mascarpone Cocoa Frosting post
[info_box]Tiny Kitchen Hint: This cake can be made ahead of time. The caramel can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before using. Cake layers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days (they actually taste better when refrigerated and have a better texture for stacking). When finished, the frosted cake can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.[/info_box]
for the cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two nine inch round pans. Line bottom of each pan with parchment. Butter and flour parchment. (Nothing is worse than a stuck cake, y’all. Do this little step as insurance.)
In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer. Stir in the boiling water last. Don’t worry, the batter will be thin. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool in the pans on wire racks for 20 minutes, then invert cake and place on a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.
for the caramel
Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tbsp of water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cook, without stirring, until mixture is dark amber, about 14 minutes.
Remove from heat, and carefully pour in cream (mixture will spatter); stir until smooth. (Note: if you are sensitive to heat, you might want to wear an oven mitt. The steam is real, y’all).
Return to heat, and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees, about 2 minutes. Pour caramel into a medium bowl, stir in 1/2 – 1 teaspoon coarse salt, depending on how salty you like your caramel, and let cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Stir in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Let cool completely.
Trim tops of cakes using a serrated knife to create a level surface. Cut each in half horizontally to form 2 layers. Transfer 1 layer to a serving platter, and spread 3/4 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.
Frost top and sides of cake in a swirling motion. Top with flaky sea salt (DO NOT USE TABLE SALT. I’ll hunt you down and throw your cake on the floor if you do).
If you want to make this, don’t overwhelm yourself thinking you have to do it all at once. Each step can be made ahead of time and stored until you’re ready to assemble the final cake. Or you could make it a big ol’ Sunday project like I did.
A few notes about cake storage:
Pre-assembly storage: Store cake layers tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. Can also be stored at room temperature, barring any extreme heat and humidity issues in your kitchen. The microwave is also an excellent place to stash a cake! It’ll be okay at room temperature for about 3 days.
Post-assembly, pre-frosting: Wrap layered cake tightly with plastic wrap, covering all surfaces (vs just lightly draping plastic wrap over cake). Can also be stored at room temp, see above. It’ll be okay at room temp for ~3 days.
Post-assembly, frosted: Place frosted cake in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to allow the frosting to harden, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. Again, can be stored at room temp barring any heat/humidity issues. It’ll be okay at room temp for ~3 days.