« sausage, fennel seed and tomato penne | Main | simple broccoli and cauliflower soup »

daring bakers: caramel cake with caramelised butter frosting

another month, another daring bakers challenge. after last month’s wonderful hand-tossed pizza dough i was ready for something sweet and when dolores, alex and jenny announced that we would be making shuna fish lydon’s caramel cake with caramelised butter frosting i was delighted. i’d been craving a sweet over-the-top cake and this sounded just perfect.


so, how did i get on?


well, despite various warnings in the recipe about it being a tricky recipe to pull together, everything worked perfectly.


on the advice of some fellow daring bakers i only made half the caramel syrup and frosting which was more than enough to provide a beautiful caramel flavour and frosting for inside and around the cake (the recipe below has my quantities).

the cake had a very dense texture but was wonderfully light and kept really well – we ate this over 4 days and the final slices were still moist and delicious. the caramel flavour of the cake was quite subtle but more pronounced around the edges where the direct contact with the heat of the oven had intensified the flavour. as for the frosting, well, it was very delicious! the addition of tiny flakes of salt really bought out the caramel flavour and helped balance the sweetness.

the final verdict:

would i have tried this recipe if it hadn't been part of the daring bakers challenge? no, i wouldn’t have thought that caramel would be an interesting enough flavour. i’d also have been put off by shuna’s words of warning about this cake being all about the alchemy of baking and that real care is needed to achieve success.

would i try this recipe again in the future? yes. i loved the flavour of the icing and the cake was easy to make. it’s a wonderfully flexible combination and i love the idea of making cupcake versions.

shuna fish lydon's caramel cake with caramelised butter frosting


140g unsalted butter at room temperature

280g granulated sugar (i used 200g)

½ teaspoon salt

80ml caramel syrup (see recipe below)

2 eggs at room temperature

splash of vanilla extract

285g plain flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

240ml milk at room temperature


preheat oven to 175c and butter 9 inch cake pan which is c2 ½ inches deep.


using a food processor, cream the butter until smooth. add the sugar and salt and mix until light and fluffy. slowly pour the room temperature caramel syrup into the bowl, mixing well and scraping down the sides regularly. add the vanilla and then the eggs a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. beat mixture until light and uniform.


sift the flour and baking powder. on the lowest speed, add one third of the dry ingredients. when incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the remaining dry ingredients (this is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. it is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter).


when the batter is uniform (don’t overmix) fill your prepared cake pan and place in the oven. after 30 minutes, rotate the pan then cook for another 15-20 minutes until the sides of the cake pull away from the pan and a skewer inserted in middle comes out clean (my cake took c1 hour to cook so keep checking yours).


let the cake cool completely before icing it, the cake will keep for three days in an airtight container.


caramel syrup

225g sugar

60ml water

120ml water (for "stopping" the caramelisation process)


in a small saucepan with tall sides, mix water and sugar until the mixture feels like wet sand. brush down any stray sugar crystals with a wet pastry brush. place over the highest heat and cook until it is a dark amber colour – do not stir!


when the colour is achieved, place a piece of foil over the top of your pan which you have cut a 1 inch hole out of in the middle. through the hole carefully pour in the water – the caramel will jump and sputter about but the foil will protect you! this is dangerous work so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.


whisk over a medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. (obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it).


caramelised butter frosting

90g unsalted butter

200g icing sugar, sifted

2-3 tablespoons double cream*

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

1-2 tablespoons caramel syrup*

sea salt to taste**


heat the butter in a pan and cook until it turns brown (watch it carefully otherwise it will burn). pour through a fine meshed sieve or piece of muslin into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.


pour the cooled brown butter into mixer bowl. add the icing sugar a little at a time, adding a bit of cream or caramel syrup when it gets too thick. repeat until mixture looks smooth and all icing sugar has been incorporated. add salt to taste.


this caramelised butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month. to smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light


* i used less cream and more caramel syrup - just keep tasting until you get something you like the taste of.

** i used sea salt flakes which works really well if you like the sugar:salt contrast. use fine salt if you don’t want this effect.

Reader Comments (14)

Lovely job! Glad you enjoyed the cake. Funny how we would never think to make something. THen once we do, we really enjoy it!
November 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGretchen Noelle
I loved them! You cake looks beautiful.
November 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDee
i was put off by shuna's warning - then after finishing the challenge thought what the fuss was about! the cake looks great!
November 30, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermeeta
Your cake looks beautiful. The slice of cake shows both how dense and moist this cake is
November 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRuth
Thank you for stopping by my blog. Your cake looks wonderfully moist and delicious. I too was a bit concerned about the warning regarding the chemistry of the cake, but after reading the recipe I realized it was very poundcake-like.

I've glanced over your blog and will be back for I do enjoy preparing healthy, seasonally fresh foods for my family.
November 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCamille
I didn't even realise there was a warning! lol. Bravo on your tweaked cake. I'm completely over this cake, after stuffing myself with it after completing the challenge ^_^
December 1, 2008 | Unregistered Commenternikkita
Your cake looks beautiful ~wonderful job :)

Rosie x
December 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRosie
I'm so glad you enjoyed our tribute to sugar this month. Thanks for baking with us!
December 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDolores
thanks for teh kind words everyone.

camille - i hope you find lots of things which tickle your tastebuds - let me know how you get on.
December 5, 2008 | Registered Commenterabby
i made this at the weekend for my colleague's birthday and he loved it - thanks for the reccipe
December 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjean
we did the icing for this and it was AWFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!! avoid at all costs. the cake may be nice but the icing was complicated and tasted bitter. waste of money and time!
March 3, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrosie
i'm sorry you had such a bad experience rosie - did you accidentally burn the caramel syrup in the icing? i can't think what else would make it taste bitter.
March 3, 2011 | Registered Commenterabby
Is there a particular type, of sugar or salt? Like for the carmel you said water n sugar only, which im surprised by I have been baking for a couple years and this will be my first attempt to making a carmel sauce, im I using dark or light brown sugar, or white sugar? What about the salt? I live in Hawaii, so im wondering if I have to get a certain type of ingredients. Please let me know thank you!
October 18, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjen
hi jen - white sugar and for the salt it is up to you - fine grains if you want it dispersed evenly or flakes if you want little salty nuggets that you might find as you eat it.
October 21, 2013 | Registered Commenterabby

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.