Caramel Layer Cake
Standing proud, here is a fine 3-layer cake with a rich sea-salt caramel filling and icing plus a dark chocolate caramel layer. It’s decorated with melted chocolate feathered through the still-soft caramel. The cake is made from a firm (all-in-one) sponge that slices neatly, without making a lot of crumbs. The flavours deepen as the cake matures, so plan to make this a day ahead.
|For the sponge:|
|A good pinch||of salt|
|250g||unsalted butter, very soft but not runny|
|4||large free-range eggs, at room temperature|
|4 tbsp||buttermilk, at room temperature|
|1 tsp||vanilla extract|
|For the filling:|
|225g||unsalted butter, softened|
|450g||dark brown muscovado sugar|
|300g||icing sugar, sifted|
|¼ tsp||sea salt flakes, or to taste|
|100g||dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken up|
You will need 3 x 20.5cm sandwich tins, baking paper, a disposable piping bag, and either a large free-standing electric mixer or a hand-held electric mixer.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Sift the flour, salt and sugar into the bowl of a large free-standing electric mixer (or into a mixing bowl if you are going to use a hand-held electric mixer). Add the butter to the bowl, in pieces. Whisk the eggs with the buttermilk and vanilla using a fork, then add to the bowl. Beat on low speed until everything is thoroughly combined and very smooth, thick and light.
Divide the mixture evenly among the 3 tins and spread level. Bake for about 25 minutes until the sponges are springy when gently pressed in the centre and starting to shrink away from the sides of the tins. Set the tins on a wire rack and run a round-bladed knife around the insides to loosen the sponges, then cool for 2 minutes before turning out. Leave to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the caramel filling. Put 175g of the weighed butter into a medium-sized pan with the muscovado sugar and cream. Heat gently until the butter has melted, then bring to the boil, stirring. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour into a heatproof mixing bowl and gradually beat in the icing sugar, using an electric mixer. When all the sugar has been incorporated, continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and barely warm. Gradually beat in the rest of the butter followed by the salt. Taste and add a little more salt, if needed.
Gently melt the chocolate. Spoon about half the chocolate into another bowl, and stir in slightly less than a quarter of the caramel mixture.
To assemble the cake, set one sponge layer on a serving plate and spread over one-third of the caramel mixture. Spread a second sponge layer with the chocolate-caramel mixture and set on the first layer. Place the third sponge layer on top. Leave the filled cake to set, otherwise you might risk a landslide. When set, cover the top and then the sides of the assembled cake with the remaining caramel mixture. If the remaining icing has got too firm, gently reheat it until workable.
Spoon the remaining melted chocolate into the disposable piping bag and snip off the end. Starting in the centre, pipe a spiral of chocolate on top of the cake. Don’t worry if it looks a bit wobbly. ‘Feather’ by drawing a cocktail stick through the chocolate and caramel icing. Leave to set. The cake can be kept, in an airtight container, for up to 4 days.
TIP: To ‘marble’ the icing, pipe random loops and circles of chocolate onto the caramel icing, then swirl the 2 together with a cocktail stick