Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cake

I love baking for people when I know what they like. For my dad and grandmother, it’s easy – just include chocolate and coffee. For my mom, I know she’ll go for just about anything but chocolate never hurts. For my five year old niece, whose birthday is still 3 months away, it’s a chocolate cake with pink frosting and dolphins on it. Got it.

My friend Melanie recently had a birthday and I knew she loves the salty-sweet combination. I immediately thought of salted caramel and chocolate, so I did some googling and found this amazing recipe. I made half the recipe posted on Martha Stewart’s Website, and it made two 6″ layers, plus 2 ramekins (so Mike and I could each have our own mini cake!). I’m posting the halved recipe here because it’s what I did, and because I have a new obsession with 6″ cakes. They’re such a cute size, and not so overwhelming to eat.

(adapted from Baked in New York City, via Martha Stewart)

3/8 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp hot water
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp softened butter
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 1/2 eggs (for half an egg, I crack an egg into a small bowl, whisk it a little with a fork, then eyeball half)

Preheat the oven to 325. Place parchment circles in the bottoms of two 6″ cake pans, and 2 ramekins, and spray with nonstick spray.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, hot water, and sour cream. Set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together onto a sheet of wax paper.
Beat the butter and shortening together in the bowl of a stand mixer until very creamy. Add the sugars and continue beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and egg.
Add half the flour mixture, mix gently until incorporated, then scrape down the bowl. Add the cocoa mixture and mix well. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until there are no more traces of flour.
Pour into the prepared pans and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge, turn out onto a wire rack, and remove the parchment to cool completely.
Once cool, use a serrated knife to level the cake.

1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp corn syrup
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp fleur de sel
1/4 cup sour cream

Put the sugar, water and corn syrup into a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to combine, then cook until the mixture is a nice, deep golden brown.
While the sugar is cooking, bring the salt and cream to a simmer in another saucepan.
Once the caramel is the right color, remove the pan from heat. Wait one minute, then stir in the heavy cream. Let cool for a few minutes, then whisk in the sour cream. Set aside.

Caramel-Chocolate Frosting:
8 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp corn syrup
2 tbsp water
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup softened butter (2 sticks)

Put the chopped chocolate in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan and cook over medium high until the mixture is golden brown. While the sugar mixture is cooking, bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan.
Once the caramel reaches the right color, remove the pan from the heat, wait one minute, then whisk in the cream. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then pour over the chocolate.
Mix on low until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and the bowl feels cool, then gradually increase the speed and add the butter. Beat until the frosting is smooth and easily spreadable.

To assemble the cake, spread a thin layer of caramel over the bottom layer, then spread frosting over it. Place the second layer on top, spread with caramel, and ice the sides with frosting.

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