It was about time I did an all-out showstopper.
I originally intended to make a salted caramel layer cake, but the temptation to add coffee was apparently too much. Therefore this is my ode to the most basic of beverages, the caramel latte.
A note on the buttercream…
Forget your bog standard buttercream – that kind is for chumps. This cake is filled and covered with swiss meringue buttercream and god damn, it’s delicious. Probably due to the two blocks of butter that go into it… 😳
You won’t need any fancy equipment for it, just an electric hand (or stand) mixer. Please don’t attempt to make the icing with a hand whisk, as your arm will almost certainly fall off.
The only trick is to add the butter a small piece at a time and make sure it is room temperature, not runny, just really soft.
Your icing will then go through three stages:
1. Soup like, and a bit runny
2. Curdled, looking really lumpy and like you might have ruined it.
3. Beautiful smooth buttercream.
Don’t get to stage 2 and think that you’ve ruined it, you HAVE to keep mixing it (for around 20-30 minutes in total). It will look awful before it looks great.
For the cake:
- 255g dark soft brown sugar
- 280g softened unsalted butter
- 5 large free-range eggs
- 280g self-raising flour
- 1 heaped tsp baking powder
- 2½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1½ tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
For the icing:
- 6 large egg whites
- 330g caster sugar
- 450g softened unsalted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the caramel topping:
- 115g unsalted butter
- 200g dark soft brown sugar
- 200ml double cream
- ½ tsp table salt
- toffee popcorn to decorate
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (170ºC fan), then grease and line three 7-inch round tins.
- Make the sponges by beating the butter and sugar together for a few minutes until it becomes light and creamy. Then gradually add the eggs to the mix, beating them well.
- Add half the flour and baking powder and fold in. Then repeat with the other half. Add the vanilla extract and coffee, and gently mix again.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the three tins (you can weigh each tin to make sure they are the same), then bake on the same shelf for around 18-20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Once baked, turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack and set aside.
- To make the swiss meringue buttercream, fill a medium-sized saucepan with a couple of inches of water and bring to a simmer. Put the egg whites and sugar into a large mixing bowl (or your stand mixer’s bowl) and whisk together. Feel a bit of the mixture between your fingers – it should feel grainy.
- Place the mixing bowl on top of the water to create a bain marie, but make sure the bowl isn’t touching the water. Gently whisk the egg whites and sugar with a normal hand whisk for around three minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. You can check this by feeling the mixture between your fingers, it should be smooth and not grainy.
- Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer, or on the worktop if you’re using an electric hand mixer, then using a whisk attachment, whisk on high for around 7 minutes until the meringue is stiff and holding its peaks, and the bowl is at room temperature.
- Change the whisk to a beater attachment. Now on a medium speed, add the soft butter a cube, or a knob, at a time (no bigger than the size of a 10p). Your mixture will look a bit loose and soupy at first, then it will look curdled, but keep beating it and it will come together into a smooth buttery marshmallow buttercream. Expect it to take about 20 minutes or so.
- Trim the tops of your cakes so they are level, then top two cakes with an even layer of the buttercream using a cranked palette knife. Stack them on top of each other on your serving plate, topping with the third cake, and make sure they are level. Then cover the entire cake with a thin layer of the buttercream, scraping off the excess with a straight edge (i.e. a cake scraper or the side of the palette knife). Refrigerate the cake while you make your caramel drizzle.
- Make the caramel by melting the butter in a small saucepan on a medium heat. Add the sugar and 80ml of the double cream and stir constantly on a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and feels less grainy. Now add the salt and stir again. Allow the sauce to bubble for 3 mins exactly (don’t touch it). While it is bubbling, fill a large bowl with cold water.
- After 3 minutes, take the pan off the heat and plunge it into the bowl of cold water. This will stop the sauce from burning – be careful not to get any water in the sauce though. Leave it to cool for approx. 15 mins.
- Now get the cake out the fridge and cover it in the rest of the buttercream, making sure to get nice crisp, straight edges with your cake scraper. Pop it back into the fridge for 5-10 minutes.
- Your caramel should now have cooled a bit. But it will be too hard to spread. Mix in a little bit of the remaining cream at a time until it reaches the consistency of pva glue. Get the cake out the fridge, then gently place small teaspoons of the caramel on the edge of the cake, so they carefully drip down the sides and set. Once you’ve done them, spread the rest of the caramel on the top of the cake so it just reaches the edges.
- Top with a pile of toffee popcorn, drizzle the remaining caramel on top, then leave the cake to come to room temperature before serving.