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Sugar High Friday – Caramel Cakes

Yellow cake with dulce de leche filling and brown sugar frosting

When I first heard that the topic for the next Sugar High Friday was caramel I wasn’t sure what to do. Surprisingly, I haven’t worked with this form of sugar much before and don’t have experience with any great caramel recipes. I wasn’t even sure where I could get those individually wrapped little candies in Manhattan. With such unknown territory I figured I had nothing to lose and decided to take it as an opportunity to create my own caramel invention. I was in the mood for something small and fun, and settled on making mini layered “caramel” (actually dulce de leche) cakes for the event. I used my favorite high-sugar recipes and store bought items including a downy yellow cake from the Cake Bible, brown sugar icing from the Buttercup Bakeshop Cookbook, and dulce de leche filling from Gandara.

This caramel creation may not be the most beautiful dessert ever made, but I have to say it tastes quite good. The brown sugar frosting is particularly sweet and takes on a firm texture after cooling, nicely complimenting the moist yellow cake and creamy dulce de leche filling. Yes, I cheated by buying pre-made Gandara Dulce De Leche from my local specialty market, but it’s the perfect consistency for a filling and saves all the time and mess of making it myself. The yellow cake and brown sugar frosting recipes are also very simple, which makes this caramel treat something you can put together relatively fast.

I pride myself on having a high dessert tolerance, but even I felt a sugar high after eating half of this small cake. I’m sure the sweet effects of this caramel dessert will last well past Friday.

Caramel Cake Directions:

1) Bake the All-Occassion Downy Yellow Cake (recipe below) in individually sized ramekins.

2) Make the Brown Sugar Frosting (recipe below). The frosting gets thicker and more difficult to work with as it cools, so you’re better off waiting until the cake is done baking before starting the frosting.

3) Once the cakes have completely cooled after baking, remove the cake gently from the ramekins by running a knife around the edges and turning the cup over to drop the cake out. The cakes should now be sitting “upside down” on the counter.

4) Cut the cakes in half horizontally, and set the top half of each cake to the side. Drop in a spoon full of dulce de leche filling on the bottom half of each cake. Place the top half of the cupcake onto the filling and lightly press to seal.

Add the filling in as done with a layer cake

5) Use a medium sized recessed spatula to smooth the frosting over the sides and top of each cake. Serve as individual cakes or slice to make bite-sized treats.

Caramel “Cup” Cakes:

If you prefer less frosting on your cakes, you can thin the frosting and serve the creation in the original cups used for baking. For the “cup” cake version:

1) Wash and dry the ramekins used for baking.

2) Mix extra cream into the frosting, one tablespoon at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency.

3) Using a small spoon, generously drizzle the frosting over the tops of the cakes.

4) After frosting, let the cakes cool in the refrigeratoruntil the frosting becomes firm.

5) Place the cool, frosted cakes back into the ramekins. You may need to gently press the sides of the cake in to fit it into the cup. The frosted tops of the cake should now be peaking out of the ramekins.

Caramel Cup Cakes


All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake
The Cake Bible, pg. 39

6 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups sifted cake flower
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)

Preheat the oven to 350° F

Grease 12 6 oz. ramekins and set aside. Note: This recipe can be divided in half and will fill six 6 oz ramekins.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the yolks, 1/4 cup milk and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup milk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.

Fill prepared ramekins 2/3 full and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake 18-20 minutes for 6 oz. ramekins (will vary based on ramekin size) or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

Brown Sugar Frosting
The Buttercup Bakeshop Cookbook, pg. 26

2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream (possibly more for thinner frosting)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place the brown sugar, cream and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and let cool for about 20 to 30 minutes. Add the confectioners sugar and beat with an electric mixer until the frosting is perfectly smooth. If too thick, beat in a bit more heavy cream.

Dulce De Leche Filling
1 small package of Gandara Dulce De Leche
Available at the Amish Market in New York City
240 East 45th Street (at 2nd Avenue) – 212-370-1761
731 ninth Avenue (at 49th Street) – 212-245-2360


Alice says on March 18th, 2005 at 7:04 pm:

Oooh…those are so cute and sound absolutely tasty! The yellow cake, dulce de leche and brown sugar combo sounds like an awesome combo. I generally skip yellow cake and opt for the chocolate variety…this actually makes me crave yellow cake!

Wu-man Group says on March 18th, 2005 at 9:39 pm:

Psssssssst Kelli!! I still have an unanswered question – can you recommend any romantic bars/lounges for after dinner drinks and dessert?

Kelli says on March 18th, 2005 at 10:37 pm:

Hi Wu-man — I’ve been thinking!! :) It depends on if you’re looking for a true bar atmosphere, or more of a romantic dessert atmosphere that also happens to serve alcohol. Which would you prefer? Payard on the upper east side has a nice, romantic atmosphere (tables in the patisserie are perfect for 2) with great desserts and a small bar. There’s also Chickalicious on the LES which identifies itself as a “Dessert bar” and would work. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday from 3pm to 11:30pm (arrive by 10:45 for guaranteed seating) and has a 3 course dessert menu with wine. Cafe Lalo on the upper west side has romantic white lights out front with a good dessert selection and drinks, but is often crowded at night (it’s open until 2 am weekdays / 4am on Fri/Sat).

Any votes from the audience??

Wu-man Group says on March 18th, 2005 at 11:22 pm:

Cafe Lalo sounds nice – thanks! Any advice in gettin through the door on a Saturday evening?

Nic says on March 19th, 2005 at 12:43 pm:

Hi Kelli! I love that you made mini layer cakes. I’m sure they’re as tasty as they look!

tanvi says on March 19th, 2005 at 8:01 pm:

brown sugar frosting AND caramel? this is like a dream dessert! i love your blog. ive been reading for a while- i loved the chocolate chip cookie post, it has been very helpful :-)

chronicler says on March 19th, 2005 at 10:51 pm:

Mmmmm! These look so good! Definitely going in the recipe file!

Dreska says on March 20th, 2005 at 8:09 am:

They look like little french fancies.
So sweet! I’ll have just one more… and just one more..and

Angela says on March 20th, 2005 at 11:26 am:

So very pretty! I love dulce du leche as a cake filling, and anything with brown sugar frosting is always glorious. Thanks for the recipe, Kelli!

Emily says on March 20th, 2005 at 4:04 pm:

these look gorgeous! another recipe in which i could use my leftover dulce de leche. my mouth is drooling already.. i love your blog as well! :)

Candy says on March 20th, 2005 at 11:07 pm:

This just gave me a cavity. Yummm.

Sweetnicks says on March 21st, 2005 at 11:20 am:

These look awesome! Thanks for the recipe — going on my list … maybe as individual desserts for Easter. I love your blog and have been following it for awhile now — I put a link for you on my blog’s page. :)

Carolyn says on March 21st, 2005 at 3:03 pm:

your frosting looks like what I remember as a kid. and these cakes are lovely, not too large a serving to really enjoy!

Zarah Maria says on March 22nd, 2005 at 7:52 am:

Oh it’s the prettiest little thing! Nothing like a little sugar high!

Jennifer says on March 22nd, 2005 at 10:49 am:

These mini cakes look fabulous! And tasty, too! Thanks so much for sharing all of these recipes with us!

TEXAS HOLDEM 3D XP CHAMPIONSHIP says on August 29th, 2005 at 1:21 pm:

This site is truly a great resource thanks for all your hard work

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Lovescool is the documentation of a journey to discover what sweet things are out there, why people love them so much, and perhaps what it takes to start something new.

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An interest, that turned into a blog, that turned into a career. Kelli Bernard is now the owner and baker of Amai Tea & Bake House.

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