My poor Dad’s been having a really terrible time of it recently. After a horrendous biopsy to investigate a shadow on his kidney proved inconclusive, he’s now recovering slowly, with the terrible prospect of facing the whole thing all over again. He’s lost loads of weight and is feeling really rotten, so when I initially suggested a birthday dinner, we weren’t sure it would go ahead, but in true form, The Naughty One rallied and decided he’d come and celebrate with us this weekend. I cooked his favourite fish pie, and went mad with dessert: a salted caramel layer cake with a layer of vanilla sponge, one of caramel sponge and one chocolate sponge layer, all slathered in a salted caramel mascarpone cream (well it’s not every day you’re 82).
I was actually a bit disappointed as I was hoping that the caramel layer would turn out slightly darker, giving it more of an ombré effect. I think if I did it again, I would actually make the three cakes separately and use a darker brown sugar for the caramel layer, but here I just made a huge amount of cake batter and just split it into three. See what you think, anyway:
Salted caramel layer cake
400g butter, softened
400g light brown soft sugar
5 tsp baking powder
400g self raising flour
For the different layers
1 tsp vanilla paste
100g dark chocolate, melted
2 tbsp caramel, see below
For the caramel
100g dark brown sugar
1 tin (397g) condensed milk
For the frosting
250 ml double cream
Caramel (above – reserve a couple of tablespoons for filling)
1 tsp sea salt flakes
So basically, the easiest way to make a basic pound cake, which this is, is to weigh the eggs in their shells, then use the same amount of each of the rest of the ingredients, adding roughly 2 tsp baking powder to every 150g plain flour (or just use self raising).
Cream the butter (I used my trusty KitchenAid), then add in the sugar and cream together until really light and fluffy, then add in the eggs and flour (don’t forget to mix in the baking powder) alternately (this will stop it curdling) until you’ve used up all the ingredients.
To make the caramel, just melt together the butter, sugar and condensed milk. Bring to the boil, stirring fiercely all the time (don’t let it burn – it helps to do this in a really small saucepan so there’s less surface area to catch) for one minute until it thickens into a caramel, then remove from the heat and cool. You can also buy caramel ready made, which is easier, but I picked up the wrong tin – duh!
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4
Now, weigh the mixture and split into three different bowls. For the vanilla layer, add 1 tsp vanilla paste. For the caramel layer you need a couple of tablespoons of your cooled caramel, and for the chocolate layer I added 100ml melted chocolate, but you could also add a tablespoon of cocoa and a splash of milk.
Bake in three identical lined and buttered medium cake tins for 25-30 minutes, until soft but springy, then allow to cool. If you’re being really picky, you can trip off the tops so they’re flat – as you can see, I didn’t bother!
To make the salted caramel mascarpone cream
Mix together the double cream, mascarpone and salt, then add all but a couple of tablespoons of caramel (reserve a bit more if you want to artfully dribble some over the top too). Whisk until smooth and fluffy.
Assemble the cake by spreading the chocolate sponge with a tablespoon of caramel, then a layer of mascarpone cream. Pop on the caramel sponge layer, and spread with caramel then mascarpone cream. Finally, add the vanilla sponge, then slather the rest of the mascarpone cream all over. Either drizzle with the leftover caramel, or shave over some dark chocolate.
So the birthday boy managed a few sips of his favourite birthday fizz and even some of his birthday cake. I call that progress. Happy birthday Dad, we love you xx