You could say, I guess, that it was love at first sight. I don’t tend to feel instantly head over heels for anything, much less kitchenware, but this cake plate, which I spotted at a great little antique mall in LaGrange Saturday, might be an exception.
It’s made of milk glass, that opaque substance resembling the color of creamy milk, which is so pretty to look at, and matches a set of plates I’ve been forming, if slowly. It’s also in mint condition, heavy, with decorative etches beneath the plate and on the top of the stem. And earlier that morning, I had just been saying how much I’d love to find a pedestal cake plate made of milk glass, minus heavy fluting or bows, but the right size for a nine-inch round—in other words, this exact item, and there it was, staring at me from its perch at the bottom of a shelf.
After returning to the booth three times in the space of an hour—first alone, then with my brother, then with my mom—I managed to unknowingly criticize the price just loudly enough for the owner, who was there rearranging his items, to hear me. He was very gracious, and we left with this, purchased for me as a gift by my mother the negotiator.
When I got home, as you can imagine, I had to bake a cake.
So I went through the starred posts in my Google Reader and remembered a recipe for caramel cake posted over at Lottie + Doof, in which Tim calls this his all-time favorite, the one he doesn’t like to share.
Now, I don’t know what your thoughts are on the subject of love at first sight, at least upon the reading of this post, but you’d be wise to hold your final opinions, at least until trying this cake. As for me: first there was the cake plate; then there was the cake, and in both situations, I am smitten.
Essentially, this is a simple, slightly dense yellow cake, which emerges from the oven soft and lightly golden. But what makes it so delicious is the homemade caramel glaze, a mixture of brown sugar and corn syrup and whipping cream, sweet and syrupy, perfect for soaking into the base.
Rather than buttermilk, I used sour cream, which is a reliable stand-in for cakes like these, and rather than an eight-inch square pan like the recipe originally called for, I chose a nine-inch round (remember my cake stand!). My only trouble was with the glaze, which seemed more like an icing for me and didn’t solidify as much as I’d expected.
But what’s most important is its taste, which was wonderful, like sticky, caramel monkey bread in a proper cake form, the perfect dessert for Easter lunch. It’s like a reminder that love at first sight can still happen, at least when it comes to perfect milk glass pedestal stands and the sticky-sweet caramel cakes that go on top of them.
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
1 cup sour cream
For caramel glaze:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Equipment: a candy thermometer
Preheat the oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 9-inch round cake pan and line with a round of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (At this point, you may also want to sift the cake flour, which I almost forgot to do.)
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy; then beat in vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, add in the sour cream until just combined. Add the flour mixture in three batches, stirring each until just combined.
Spread the batter evenly in the cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until lightly golden, when a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.
In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, brown sugar, corn syrup and a pinch of salt. Boil until the mixture reaches 210 to 212 degrees F on the candy thermometer*, about 12 to 14 minutes. Add in vanilla.
Put rack with cake in a shallow baking pan and pour hot glaze over top of cake, allowing it to run down sides. Cool until glaze is set, about 30 minutes.
*On candy thermometers: Mine broke halfway through the process, which is a shame since I just bought it! That could account for some trouble I had with getting the glaze to the right consistency. I ended up letting it cool a little in the pan before pouring it on top of the cake, and even then, it seemed to run off the top and into the rim of the cake plate, which led me to spoon the sides of glaze back onto the top for a few minutes, while it began to set.
Also note from original recipe: Cake (before glazing) can be made 1 day ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.