Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Caramel Cake

IMPORTANT UPDATE:  After reading the following post, please go to a follow-up post here (re: revised caramel icing).  Also, for an alternative butter icing, go here.

Filipino-style caramel cake is far different from most caramel cakes. The cake base is chiffon, either in vanilla or mocha, and it is filled and frosted with a caramel icing that is not overly sweet. The icing can be described as more like a cross between caramel and custard and tastes very much like leche flan or creme caramel.

In the Philippines, the most popular caramel cakes are made by Estrel's. They have kept their cakes very traditional over the years and the caramel cake recipe they are using today is the same since they started in the 1940s.

Surprisingly, it is very hard to find a recipe for this kind of caramel icing paired with the chiffon cake. For a long time, I've searched and searched over the internet and found nothing. Most of the caramel icing recipes on the net are ones that are loaded with so much sugar and the kind that crust after a short while. The recipe I am about to share here came from my 85-year old aunt. I must say, however, it is a tweaked version of what she used many, many years ago in the family bakeshop. I've replaced some of the water content in her original recipe with milk to make it creamier and lessened the amount cornstarch. I also added vanilla extract (although my aunt suggests maple extract as better). I don't really know if this tastes like Estrel's because truthfully, I've never tasted their caramel cake. But what I am certain about is that this ticks all the boxes - the creaminess, the not-too-sweet taste, the pourable consistency. For all I know, it might even be better.

Anyway, on to the recipe. The cake consists of three components - the chiffon cake, the caramel icing, and the buttercream. If you want your cake base to be mocha, the recipe for the mocha chiffon cake can be found in this post. The Swiss meringue buttercream recipe (to be used to for the borders and flowers) is also found on the same post. Of course, you can use your own favourite buttercream recipe if you want to.


VANILLA CHIFFON CAKE (recipe suitable for an 8” round, 3” high pan)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons white sugar

¼ cup corn/canola oil
4 egg yolks, from large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

4 eggwhites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

6 tablespoons white sugar

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
2. In a large bowl, combine {A} well. Add in {B}. Beat with electric mixer or by hand until smooth and well blended.
3. In a separate bowl, beat {C} on high speed until frothy. Gradually add in the sugar {D} and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Gradually and gently fold in egg whites into egg yolk mixture. Pour batter into an ungreased 8” round, 3” high pan.
4. Bake for about 50 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan into wire rack immediately and cool completely.
5. To release cake from pan, carefully run a thin knife around sides of pan and invert cake onto a large serving plate. **Tip: For easier handling, wrap your cake very well in cling film, then refrigerate overnight before frosting.

CARAMEL ICING (enough to frost and fill 8” round cake)

3 eggyolks (set aside eggwhites for the Swiss Meringue buttercream)
1 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons full cream milk, divided
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use 1/8 teaspoon maple oil flavour)

Combine egg yolks, 1/4 cup of the sugar, ½ cup of the full cream milk and 3 tablespoons cornstarch in a small bowl/jug. Mix well, then set aside.

In a heavy saucepan, over low to medium heat, caramelize (melt) the remaining 3/4 cup sugar. When sugar is completely melted and a golden brown colour, add boiling water. Bring back to a boil, making sure all the caramel is incorporated into the water. Carefully add in 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons full cream milk. Heat mixture just until it starts to boil. Pour a little of the caramel/milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture to temper the eggs. Mix until smooth. Pour this back into the remaining caramel/milk mixture in the saucepan. Mix until icing reaches a thick and spreadable consistency. Off the fire, add in butter and vanilla extract. Strain mixture, if necessary.

Let the icing cool down then spread it all over the cake surface.

SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM - One recipe is more than enough. Use the eggwhites that you set aside from the caramel icing.

To decorate: Cut your cake horizontally in half. Invert top layer onto your cake board. Spread a thin layer of caramel icing over your cake half, then top with other cake layer, cut side down. Spread the rest of the caramel icing over the cake. Pipe out buttercream borders and decorate with buttercream roses/flowers as desired.

Happy baking!

PS.  Wanted to also share with you two other recent cakes I made.

Another ube cake, this time with ube-flavoured Swiss meringue buttercream.
A Transformers-themed cake I made for an 8th birthday.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Sometimes I just get sick of baking and baking and baking.  Like last week, when I had to make six ube macapuno cakes over three days.  It may not sound much but for a one-woman team like me, it does get pretty tiring.

For this week, however, I had only one cake lined up. Last Tuesday, my sister in-law asked me to make this mocha chiffon birthday cake for her boss.  It was a small cake and it was a breeze to make.

I know it's crazy...but now that I'm not baking anything, I have been getting the constant urge to bake something. So instead of taking a needed break,  I took the opportunity to try this thing that I've been wanting to try for a long time....make my usual ube cake into a roll.

I would call this attempt a half-success because, although the taste was as delicious as always, it was a long way from perfection.  First of all, my cake cracked a bit when I unrolled it (after it cooled down).  I was thinking of giving up at that point but I had already made my frosting and I didn't want to waste it. (I'm glad I did proceed cause the frosting held the cake together despite the cracks.) Secondly, I think I filled up the cake with too much frosting, hence, I could not roll the cake tightly. It was just like one big roll.  Maybe it would have been better if I started rolling from the short rather than the long end?

See what I mean?
Anyway, perfection or not, and for the benefit of those interested, I will describe in brief how I made this cake roll:

1. I made up HALF the ube cake recipe found here.  Used 4 eggs.
2.  I used a jelly roll pan measuring 10" by 14", greased it and lined the bottom with baking paper.
3.  Baked the cake for about 25 minutes.  As soon as I took it out of the oven, I dusted the cake surface with icing/powdered sugar then inverted it into a sheet of baking paper. Peeled off the baking paper that was now on top of the cake. Then I rolled it and allowed it to cool down completely.
4.  I unrolled the cooled cake and  cut off about an inch wide strip from both short ends. I then crumbled the strips to use as cake topping later.
5. Filled the cake with frosting, rolled the cake once again, then covered the surface with frosting and cake crumbs.  Used the rest of the frosting to pipe rosettes on the cake roll top.  Finished off the cake with macapuno balls.

Whether I did the right things or not, I really cannot say for sure.  Please do not trust me on this one.  If you do decide to make a cake roll yourself, please let me know how it went.  I'd be happy to compare notes and learn from you!