Daring Bakers, Shuna and Her Caramel Cake

It is time once again for the monthly Daring Bakers challenge, which I am very excited about because it comes from none other than pastry chef extraordinaire, Shuna Fish Lydon. Shuna has an amazing curriculum as a pastry chef and is the voice behind the blog Eggbeater, one of my daily reads. Her blog is filled with intelligent social and culinary commentary, photography and modern poetry. I had the pleasure to meet Shuna earlier this year and got a glimpse of where her artistry comes from.

When I learned we would be making her caramel cake for this month’s challenge, I was jumping up and down with joy because this cake had so much buzz around it. This is what I would call a true American cake. Sweet, moist and buttery.

I really wanted to be true to the recipe as it was presented to us and the only small addition was a bit of orange zest to the cake batter. I wanted to play around with the decorations in the cake and I ended up making two versions of it. The first one is surrounded by baked meringue sticks and decorated with candied orange slices and pulled caramel paper. The second one is decorated with piped buttercream dots, candied orange, chocolate shavings and poured caramel.

All recipes by Shuna Fish Lydon

Caramel Syrup

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

In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over 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.}

Caramel Cake

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy. Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and 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 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.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

Caramelized Butter Frosting

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized 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

A big thank you to Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, Alex of Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo and Jenny of Foray into Food for hosting this month’s challenge. Please visit other Daring Bakers to see other interpretations of this cake.

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103 Responses to “Daring Bakers, Shuna and Her Caramel Cake”

  1. nadia says:

    STUNNING!!!! absoltely beautiful!! Art, magic…inspirational!!! you are incredible talented- i can not say it enough!

  2. Oh Aran… your challenges never fail to impress. Love the meringues! Beautifully done, as always. :)

  3. Dolores says:

    Wow. Just… wow. You’ve put a truly elegant twist on this “true American cake”. I’m honored to have you baking with me this month.

  4. Jen Yu says:

    Oh, you are such a maestra! This is beautiful as are ALL of your creations. You inspire me so, Aran.

  5. leaca says:

    wow! that is gorgeous. a work of art!

  6. B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L
    What else can I say, I almost fell from my chair when I saw your two incredible cakes !!

  7. Vera says:

    These cake are gorgeous, Aran! Both of them!

  8. madelaine says:

    Wow, Aran! Lovely!

    May I ask, how do you make ‘pulled caramel paper’? It sounds fabulous and looks even better!

  9. Christy says:

    Those are stunning Aran!! I love the pulled caramel paper!! It’s so thin it’s almost not there! I need to get my ‘hot hands’ fast so I can do more pulled sugar stuff…Do you make it the same way we make pulled sugar?

    And those layers are so perfect they make me so jealous!! How did you spread them so evenly without smearing them onto the sides of the cake?

  10. marion says:

    gorgeous, as usual
    I love the different ways you decorated your cakes, especially the one with the meringue sticks :)
    wonderful job !

  11. GORGEOUS…how very very pretty Aran. I was prepared for a stunning post….needless to say, but I’m ‘stunned’! Both of them are gorgeous & creative. I love the addition of orange zest. I was contemplating adding saffron to mine…remained in thoughts alone!

  12. Stunning! Your cakes look amazingly pretty! I love the way your decorated them! Incredibly beautiful!



  13. nikkita says:

    Whee! that’s gorgeous Aran. It must taste very good with the citrus.

  14. Foley says:

    It’s beautiful, the decorations are amazing!

  15. FeeMail says:

    oh my god! i don’t have words for this….

  16. Marija says:

    Beautiful!!! As always :)

    How did you make those meringue sticks so perfect?!

  17. arundati says:

    this is such a fabulous set of creativity!! they look sensational!!

  18. Just beautiful! So wonderfully creative!

  19. I love that you made them in ring molds instead of leaving them like a traditional american layer cake. Beautiful sugarwork too.

  20. Beeeyouuuutiful! Those baked meringue sticks are soo neat! I’m with you on the orange zest! It’s great with caramel!

  21. Lorraine E says:

    Wow, you are a real artist with your cakes! I would love to have the same level of artistry (or a fraction of it :) )

  22. giz says:

    Visually – stunning!!!! Did you love the cake?

  23. amy says:

    darling – i am still stuffed from thanksgiving, but this makes my mouth water. you are amazing!

  24. Gis says:

    Incredible! and gorgeous!!
    your food definitely can be eaten with the eyes!! :D
    you should try out one of your recipes in our contest :D prizes are awesome including books, art from some awesome artists, etc.
    Hugs :)

  25. Sugar Chef says:

    Wow Aran!! Just Stunning!! I am so impressed. Love your presentation.

  26. Wow – did we make the same recipe? Your version is supremely elegant while mine, is supremely homey.

  27. You always make the prettiest things!

  28. Aparna says:

    Your cakes are just gorgeous and your creativity is unbelievable. They’ve taken my breath away.

  29. Lesley says:

    Amazing. You are so talented.

  30. Lori says:

    Aran, this is amazingly beautiful! Such craft! However did you roll the frosting to look like ladyfingers? You rock girl!

  31. Beth says:

    Gorgeous photos! You should be a food stylist!

  32. morgana says:

    Como siempre, una maravillosa obra de arte. Bellísimo.

  33. vibi says:

    Of course, you don’t need another quazillioneth comment for you to know I’m amazed… but even more than that, I’m floored!
    Boy! let me guest… you must be a professional!??? That is simply crazy…

  34. jillian says:

    Beautiful cakes!! I love the idea of adding the citrus.

  35. Tartelette says:

    Love the combinations of flavors and textures! All I need is some flecks of snow as I look out the window!

  36. PheMom says:

    I don’t even know what to say! Stunning, fabulous, perfect and gorgeous just don’t do your talent justice anymore. I’m going to have to get some knew adjectives from the dictionary because I’m blown away. Seriously – I hope there is a picture book or calendar or something in the making! Happy Holidays!

  37. Zerogluten says:

    Estoy absolutamente convencida de que lo tuyo es algo sobrenatural, un don. Me gusta todo, la imaginación con la que preparas los platos, tu forma de cocinar, tus presentaciones espectaculares, tus fotos… Un trabajo absolutamente perfecto. Qué envidia!!
    Sigue deleitandonos con tus maravillas, por favor.

  38. Angela says:

    Wow, Aran! You’ve really outdone yourself this time!

    They’re both outstandingly beautiful, but the one with the candied orange and the caramel paper is my favourite. Simply gorgeous!

  39. cookemila says:

    Yo estoy convencida de que eres un hada culinaria…me ha entusiasmado la presentacion..y como conozco la receta no tengo mas que añadir..a pesar de que mi gusto europeo no casa nada nada con la crema de mantequilla (al menos con el dulzor de esta) estoy segurisima de que la tuya me la comeria en cualquier situacion..estoy por pedirte una foto y enmarcarla…dios mio me rindo a tus pies..bueno a tus manos…

  40. linda says:

    So pretty! Love the way the meringue logs look.

  41. Cynthia says:

    wow your creations are simply works of arts. a beautiful piece once again.

  42. Beryl says:

    I am speechless. So absolutely beautiful. I love seeing your interpretations of these challenges. It is inspiring

  43. Suzana says:

    Awesome, as usual! I want to be like you when I grow up. :)

  44. creampuff says:

    You are an absolute force! Amazing!

  45. Jude says:

    Another stunning post.. I was wondering what you had in store for DB :)

  46. I love the meringue sticks flanking this cake! Looks very delicious and stunning.

  47. You are an inspiration once again! Lovely.

  48. Camille says:

    Aran, as usual, a stunning work of art. Just lovely!

  49. kellypea says:

    Meringue sticks? What a cool idea. All of your creations, and the addition of the orange zest in the cake are delicious! Absolutely beautiful work.

  50. Tanya says:

    Are you serious with this, or is this some sort of trick? I’m just in awe! I can’t believe anything could look so perfect. You’ve put the rest of us to shame. :)

  51. You seem to always take something so simple and turn it into something just extravagent. I am amazed! Great job Aran.

  52. CookiePie says:

    WOW – your cakes are so perfect and amazing looking! Inspirational!

  53. Nina Timm says:

    The original recipe was too much for me to grasp….and then you came with your creation….truly amazing, wow!!!

  54. Raquel says:

    I am just speechless! You are truly a very gifted person. Your creations are just stunning!!!!

  55. Lauren says:

    Ooo, your cakes look amazing! I love the different variations for decorations, they are so beautiful =D!

  56. I agree completely, 100% with what everyone else has said…

    Those are stunning.


  57. MeetaK says:

    aran this is not cake but artwork! looks so lovely – almost too pretty to eat.

    thanks for your comments and support aran, means a lot!

  58. Very unique and gorgeous interpretation of the cake. I love the Concorde for all its texture and imagine this to have the same properties, only better with the element of cake added. Shuna must be thrilled. I, too, love eggbeater.

    Can’t wait to try this cake at some point. What could be better than caramel caramel caramel?

  59. Hi! You are amazing as always! I really like the idea of the meringue sticks for a wedding cake with ribbon. I am baking one for my cousin in May. What were the approximate cooking times for the meringues????

  60. wow what a nice cake. Both versions are amazing. I really like the meringue stricks they re a really original idea :)

  61. cindy* says:

    gorgeous aran! and two presentations…i never fail to be impressed.

  62. la sirene says:

    Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…..! That’s all i’m able to say!

  63. Wow! More stunning than any still life by one of the great masters.

  64. Bex says:

    this is absolutely beautiful. Well done!

  65. devora says:

    Beautiful, amazing, inspiring.

    I just discovered your gorgeous blog thru tastespotting and went straight to this cake. After cruising the archives I was a tad bummed to find you don’t use American standard measurements. Are most of your recipes metric?

  66. Une vraie débauche de sucre ce challenge, et encore plus avec les meringues. Comme d’habitude, j’ai envie de les attraper au delà de l’écran.

  67. Regina says:

    Beautiful! I love how you incorporated orange zest into the cake.

  68. Aran says:

    Thank you so much everyone for taking the time to leave comments. It makes my day!

    Devora- yes, I usually use metric because I am European and because in most professional pastry kitchens use metric measurements. It is easy to convert grams to ounces. Simply divide the gram amount by 28.375. I rarely ever use cups because I find that to be very inconsistent. I think a weigh scale is one of the best tools a baker can have. Thank you!

  69. Tammy says:

    perfectly stunning and beautiful. Your food looks almost too good to eat – like works of art!

  70. As if the base cake for this month’s challenge wasn’t tempting enough–both versions of this are incredible! You have an incredible knack for dressing up a dessert.

  71. Wow that’s truly extraordinary! I contemplated jumping back into DB this month, but I got picked for the Foodbuzz 24 event and decided doing both would just be crazy:-)

  72. cherie says:

    You should write a book(or maybe more)!

  73. Millie says:

    Just as a mother is with her children, how could I possibly love one design more than the other, they are equally perfect! Your creativity & patience is beyond measure Aran – bravo!
    Millie ^_^

  74. Just as I expected – art on a plate! Absolutely stunning!

  75. oh holy crap how did you make those cakes and their frostings so perfectly round? perfect without a smudge out of place, whhaaa? impossible! damn! you’re brilliant! this is very stunning aran–and a recipe from anyone named “fish” is automatically a winner. it’s like a bloody art gallery on top of the cake!!!!

  76. Mobula says:

    Es impresionante y menuda presentación… Me fascina como te quedan las capas de crma y bizcocho perfectamente alineadas, tendrás que explicarme como lo consigues… ylos merenguitos… que crujientes y esponjosos que se ven…

    estoy pendiente de mandarte una mail estos días para hacerte varias preguntas culinarias-pasteriles…

    besos para todos,


  77. So stunning. I must say I love the look of the second one. Don’t know why! I have never had caramel cake; yours is so pretty I would hate to cut into it. I must say, being a bit of a photo gal, I love how you paired the cake next to the lovely yellow flowers :) My sister and I are getting together to bake christmas cookies – can’t wait, it will be such fun.

  78. ainara says:

    Jo, qué bonito… Zorionak!! Creo que sería más justo si todos pudiéramos comer tus creaciones de vez en cuando ;) mua! ainara

  79. ana dane says:

    absolutely mouthwatering. i love caramel cake, and this looks even better than the version i grew up with (a traditional american butter cake with a thick, almost candylike caramel frosting).

    had a slice at thanksgiving, actually, but now i want another of yours!

  80. Tea says:

    This is so impressive that I don’t even have words to describe it!

  81. Abby says:

    Pulled caramel paper…awesome. I love the way they both look. Her caramel cake is infamous.

  82. Cakespy says:

    A pure stunner. Once again, every detail is impeccably executed!

  83. v@le says:

    E’ splendida! complimenti

  84. Alexa says:

    Another gorgeous masterpiece… I love your sense of style and composition.

  85. Claire says:

    I mean, you went ALL OUT!!! This is gorgeous. Almost too pretty to eat…almost!

  86. Y says:

    Simply beautiful! Like a ray of sunshine :)

  87. Wow, your cakes are absolutely amazing! Well done!

  88. TeaLady says:

    There is a scene in Waynes World where he and Garth are on their knees – We’re not worthy. That is where I am in front of that fantastic cake. WOW!!!!

  89. Looks yummy! But I love caramel cake with caramelized butter frosting.

  90. What a beautiful cake! This is what I have to try…..

  91. Audiosampa says:

    Hi Aran,

    My wife and I made your (Shuna’s) caramel cake recipe yesterday. We mistakenly put in all of the caramel syrup into the cake batter. To compensate I added .5-.75 cup of flour. I also added maple syrup to the frosting in place of your syrup, cut the amount of sugar in half, and added a little more heavy cream (since the cake itself was sweet enough). It was delicious, and was a big hit. Thank you.


  92. Zainab says:

    That is so beautiful…you are to me a pattisiere. it is magrnificent, i wish i was you!!!!

  93. The.white cake is so beautiful. Almost to beautiful to eat!
    Will repin it!

  94. […] I found this Caramel Cake recipe from cannelle vanille , but I wasn’t quite sure whether it would suit the occasion […]

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