When that happens deliciousness results. Our friend Dave is visiting us (all of us – Highams and Cliftons) this weekend, so I’ve been mulling around some dessert options. Yesterday I decided I wanted some kind of hazelnut caramel to make butter cream with. Or to top ice cream with. I couldn’t decide. I also knew I wanted to make a yellow cake, only with butterscotch pudding mix included. This is what I landed on:
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the base for this cake is a box cake mix, but honestly I couldn’t find anywhere a scratch recipe that included dry pudding mix. Maybe next time. This one’s a lot of work, but I can tell you – just from eating the leftovers from leveling the cake plus leftover frosting – it is totally worth it.
For the cake
1 box classic yellow cake mix, no pudding in mix (I used Duncan Hines)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup Frangelico (hazelnut-flavored liqueur)
1 3.4-oz box instant butterscotch pudding
4 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 2 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Cut out parchment paper to fit bottoms of each cake pan. Set on bottom and spray those as well. Coat sides and bottom of each pan with flour.
Put all ingredients in mixer. Mix on low for 2 minutes. (You can also do this vigorously by hand or with a hand mixer, just like any other cake mix.) Pour into prepared pans and immediately place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until it tests done. Cool in pans on wire racks for 25 minutes. Invert onto wire racks to cool completely.
For the frosting
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
5 – 6 cups *sifted* powdered sugar
1-2 teaspoons fine-grained sea salt
1/2 – 1 cup hazelnut salted caramel sauce
1 or more tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Using paddle attachment, beat butter until fluffy – about 2 minutes. Add ~4.5 cups powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon sea salt. (I sift 6 cups ahead of time into a large bowl, and then pour most of this into the mixer at once.) Stir on low until sugar is incorporated. Beat on medium-high until smooth. Add caramel sauce and beat until fluffy. Continue to add sea salt and caramel to taste. Beat in whipping cream 1 tablespoon at a time until you achieve spreading consistency.
Hazelnut Salted Caramel
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup Frangelico
1 teaspoon vanilla nut extract
Pour water into a heavy bottomed, light-colored, tall-sided pan(yes, you want to aim for all three of these…a 2-quart sauce pan should do nicely). Sprinkle sugar onto water, careful to avoid the sides. Stir until combined, trying to keep sides clean. In another container, (a 2-cup measuring cup works well) mix cream, vanilla, and liqueur. Set aside. Heat sugar-water mix over medium-high heat until it turns a consistent dark copper and starts to smoke. (See notes below!) Remove from heat and carefully pour cream mix into caramel. It will fizz and hiss. Whisk until it all comes together. It will. Toss this salt in while stirring. There might be some stubborn caramel stuck to your whisk at the end. No worries. Pour your sauce into a 2-cup heat-proof container and let sit until cool enough to refrigerate. It’ll keep for at least 1 week.
Be vigilant in the beginning and end stages of caramel-making. Once you’ve got everything stirred together, it’s best not to touch it, but you can as long as it isn’t boiling. If it’s boiling, forget it. To prevent chunky sauce, (you want to do this) keep a pastry brush and cold water next to the sugar. Brush down the sides of the pan fairly frequently with water – anytime you see any sugar crystals forming. Once the sugar is boiling vigorously for a couple minutes, you can lay off this part.
Definitely keep that cold water on hand. It will do double duty in case of hot sugar accidents.
Once the caramel starts to develop color, watch it continuously. If you notice uneven heating/color-changing, swirl the pan to distribute heat, but do not stir. And do wait till it starts to smoke.
Putting it all together
Level both cake layers (I use a bread knife, but I have also used fishing line!). Spread a moderate layer of frosting on one layer, forming a dam around the edges. Pour a couple tablespoons of caramel sauce on, and spread with the back of a spoon. On the cut side of the other layer, spread a very thin layer of frosting – this will keep the cake from absorbing all the caramel you just poured on.
Set the layers on top of one another. Fill in the sides, then frost the whole cake lightly with butter cream. Set in fridge until frosting stiffens slightly. Finish frosting with remaining butter cream and pipe your heart out.
Enjoy! We’ll be having ours with homemade vanilla ice cream with my buttercrunch toffee mixed in!