revelatory caramel cake
Recipe type: dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • CAKE: 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2¼ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour (try to find unbleached if you can or make your own)
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, softened
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ICING: 3 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and flour the pans, tapping out the excess.
  2. MAKE THE CAKE: In a bowl, mix ¼ cup of the milk with the egg whites and vanilla extract. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and the remaining ¾ cup of milk. Beat at low speed until blended, then beat at medium speed until smooth, 1 minute. Beat in the egg white mixture in 3 batches.
  3. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Stir one-third of the whipped cream into the batter, then fold in the rest. Divide the batter between the pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Unmold the cakes and peel off the parchment. Invert the cakes and let cool completely.
  4. MAKE THE ICING: In a saucepan, stir 2½ cups of the sugar with the corn syrup and milk. Cook over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Keep warm.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of sugar in a deep, heavy saucepan. Cook the sugar over moderate heat, swirling occasionally, until an amber caramel forms. Carefully pour the warm milk mixture over the caramel (it will sputter, so watch out). Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the caramel dissolves. Stop stirring and cook until the caramel registers 235 degrees F on a candy thermometer (watch like a hawk!).* Remove from the heat. Stir in the butter, vanilla and ¼ cup of the heavy cream. Strain the caramel into the bowl of a standing mixer. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  6. Beat the caramel at medium speed, gradually adding the remaining ¼ cup of cream, until creamy, about 15 minutes.
  7. With a long knife, evenly cut each cake layer into two layers. You will have four thin cake layers. Set 1 cake layer on a plate. Pour enough icing over the layer to cover the top. Top with a second cake layer and cover it with icing. Do the same with the third. Add the final cake layer and pour the rest of the icing over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides. Working quickly, use an offset spatula to spread the icing gently around the cake. Let the cake stand for at least 2 hours to set the icing before serving.
This cake is even better the day after it's made. If you have leftovers the next morning, eat for breakfast and compare to its twin: a caramel iced donut. * You may want to calibrate your thermometer as I should have before cooking.
Recipe by story of a kitchen at