Caramel Cardamom Cake with Caramel Cardamom Brown Butter Frosting and Strawberry Gelee

This cake was the November Daring Bakers’ challenge (hosted by Dolores, Alex, and Jenny). The recipe for the caramel cake and brown butter frosting was generously provided by Shuna Fish Lydon. I added ground cardamom to the cake batter, and flavored the butter with cardamom as well, by heating the butter with crushed cardamom pods. Caramel and cardamom are wonderful together! The cake promised to be sweet, very sweet. Thus, I decided to balance it with basically unsweetened strawberry gelée that I placed between the two cake layers as a filling (the cake was sliced horizontally in half). I also increased the amount of salt in both – cake and frosting. Fleur de sel would be nice in the frosting, but it could clog a piping tip, so I went with kosher salt instead. I piped the rosettes on the top of the cake and placed the little caramel cut-out flowers in the center of each rosette (the soft honey-cardamom caramels made earlier were rolled thinly between plastic wrap and used for these cut-outs). Such décor has to be chilled in the refrigerator to firm up, and placed on the cake right before serving.

How did the whole thing turn out? The flavor was marvelous! The caramel, brown butter, cardamom, and fresh strawberry flavor together made it sing, really. The cake itself was also delicious and moist. As for the frosting texture, I simply don’t favor icing sugar based frostings. I think the same flavored cream cheese frosting (to preserve the American style) would be better here. But, it’s all the matter of taste. If you, unlike me, like the icing sugar frostings, you are going to love this one.

The recipe is adapted from Shuna Fish Lydon’s.

Caramel Cardamom Cake Slice with Caramel Cardamom Brown Butter Frosting and Strawberry Gelée

Makes one 9-inch cake, about 12 serving

For the cake:

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup caramel syrup (see the recipe below)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk, at room temperature

For the strawberry gelée:

  • 1 ½ cups strawberry puree (from fresh or previously frozen berries)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp fine granulated sugar
  • 3 leaves of gelatin

For the caramel cardamom brown butter frosting:

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • about ½ cup whipping cream (you might need a little bit more)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup caramel syrup (see the recipe below)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt or to taste

Make the cake:

Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350F. Butter one tall (2 – 2.5- inch deep) 9-inch round cake pan (springform pan works well). Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

In a bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth, on medium speed. Gradually add the sugar and salt, cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour the room temperature caramel syrup into the bowl. Scrape down the bowl and increase the speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again, and beat the mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour, cardamom, and baking powder together.

Turn the mixer to the lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add the 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 dry ingredients.
Take off the mixer and finish mixing by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure the batter is uniform. Transfer the batter into the prepared cake pan.

Place the cake pan on a cookie sheet or large baking pan. Bake until the cake is golden brown, the sides pull away from the pan and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, for about 50-60 minutes. Cool the cake on a rack for 15 minutes before unmolding. Unmold the cake, cool completely on the rack before icing it.

The cake, well wrapped, will keep for three days at room temperature.

For the caramel syrup (it makes twice more than you will need for this cake, so, you can halve the recipe):

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup water (for “stopping” the caramelization process)

Make the caramel syrup:

Stir together the sugar, and ½ cup water in a high-sided medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, then raise the heat to moderately high and boil without stirring, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the syrup turns deep amber in color.

When color is achieved, take the pan of the heat and very carefully pour in the one cup of water (pour through a sieve to protect yourself from extremely hot splatter). It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Return to the medium heat and boil until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers (obviously, wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it), for about 4 minutes.

Note: For the safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

Caramel Syrup

Make the strawberry gelée:

Line an 8-inch round cake pan with plastic wrap. Lightly oil-spray the wrap. Set aside.

In a small saucepan combine the strawberry puree, lemon juice, and sugar. Place the pan over medium-low heat and, stirring often, heat until the sugar dissolves. Meanwhile, place the gelatin leaves in a bowl with cold water and let them sit there for about 4 minutes. Then drain the leaves and put them into the saucepan with hot strawberry puree. Whisk to fully dissolve the gelatin. Pour into the plastic-lined baking pan and refrigerate. When completely cool, cover the pan with plastic wrap.

The gelée can be made up to two days in advance and kept in the refrigerator.

Make the caramel cardamom brown butter frosting:

Cook the butter with crushed cardamom pods until the butter is brown. Pour through a sieve, lined with cheesecloth, into a heatproof bowl. Set aside to cool.

Pour the cooled brown butter into a mixer bowl. Place the bowl onto the base of the stand mixer. Add the confectioner’s sugar a little at a time while mixing on medium speed. When the mixture looks too chunky to take any more, gradually add the caramel syrup. Continue adding the icing sugar alternating with the whipping cream until the all icing sugar has been incorporated and the frosting looks smooth and light. Mix in the salt.

Caramelized butter frosting will keep in the fridge for up to a month.

To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with the paddle attachment until smooth and light again.

Assemble the cake:

Strawberry Gelée

Cut the cake horizontally in half. Unmold the gelée and place it carefully on the cut side of one cake layer. Place another cake layer (cut side down) on the top of the gelée. Spread the frosting over the top and sides of the cake, pushing the frosting between the layers to fill the gap around the gelée. Pipe the rosettes on the top if you wish. Serve.

The cake can be assembled several hours in advance. But if it’s stored longer, the strawberry juice from the gelée will color the cake layers. The cake will still taste good, but the presentation will slightly suffer.