…or at least, an attempt.
Behold, the result of another attempt at “turtle cake”, this one born on Wednesday night:
It still isn’t really pretty, but I’m calling it “good enough.”
I’m also calling it “really fucking delicious”.
I’m also also also calling it “holy hell homemade caramel!”
If you can look past the yellow, 10:00pm light and the messy kitchen, I think you’ll agree that this is an average-looking (average! woohoo!) cake which – you’ll just have to trust me on this – tastes absolutely exquisite.
I did pretty much everything differently this time, and with great success.
Last time, I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe, the Johnson family recipe. It was too soft; it couldn’t stand up, structurally, to the toppings.
This time, I used the Devil’s Food cake recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook. Usually when I make that cake I substitute 2 1/2c cake flour for the 2 1/4c all-purpose flour called for, but this time I actually wanted the cake to have a bit more density to it so I stuck with the all-purpose flour. I wasn’t worried about the cake losing moisture because I knew the caramel would more than provide.
Last time, I made a caramel syrup by melting down store-bought caramels with butter and sweetened condensed milk. It looked good while the syrup was warm, but hardened as it cooled.
This time, I made my own caramel and added 1c whipping cream to form a syrup. It was – is – divine. I want to have this syrup’s babies.
Last time, I stirred the chopped pecans into the caramel.
This time, I just sprinkled them on top (and between the layers). A purely aesthetic difference, but I like it. The pecans are from my grandma, and I picked ’em all myself.
Last time, I made a horrible, horrible frosting by Paula Deen, which she’d promised would be “fudgy.” It wasn’t, unless by “fudgy” you mean “sort of gelatinous with an unappealing skin on top”.
This time, I made my tried-and-true chocolate ganache. As you can see in the photos, I didn’t put the ganache on the cake before serving. I brought it to work in a Pyrex container and told people to add it themselves (I was still worried about the ganache making the caramel slide off. It also showed me who in our office is a real chocoholic 😉
But even though I’m incredibly happy with my success this time, there are still a few things I’m going to change for next time:
- I really want to make this with three 8″ rounds instead of 2 9″ rounds. It’ll be more impressive looking.
- My cakes didn’t come cleanly out of the pans. This was my own fault; it was late and I was tired and didn’t want to wait for them to cool properly. I know this. I knew what would happen. I did it anyway. But I did learn from my mistakes last time, and didn’t attempt to put any toppings on the cakes until they were fully cool.
- I added the caramel to the cake at the exact right temperature this time – it was completely tepid, without the slightest bit of warmth or coolness. Yet as you can see, it drizzled down the sides of the cake most appealingly. I think I may have put a bit too much on though.
- I think I’m going to toast the pecans, for that added little bit of crunch.
- I’m going to try drizzling the ganache on top, after it has cooled adequately. The only way to find out if it’ll work or not is to give it a shot, right?
Baking is very much a science – you can’t play fast and loose with ingredients or proportions or timing – but it’s also an art. The Big Mac looked great on paper, but obviously didn’t come together well. This second cake was a learning experience, and I think it sent me much further down the road toward my goal. But there’s still work to do before I have a turtle cake I’m completely happy with.
Luckily, my father-in-law’s birthday is Sunday, so I’ve got the opportunity to give it another go.
Would anyone be interested in a recipe and/or PW-esque photo tutorial of my Sunday baking adventure?