Salted Caramel Nut Birthday Cake: Nutty Crunchy Caramel, Caramel-Milk Chocolate Frosting, Chocolate Walnut Chiffon Cake, Salted Caramel Nut Filling with Roasted Almonds, Walnut, Pecans, Cacao Nibs, and Maldon Sea Salt.
Another birthday, another custom-made cake for Chad. I like this little tradition. Last year, a little while before his birthday, he idly mentioned wanting an orange creamsicle cake, so I came up with one. This year, I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, and he said “Caramel” and wanted the rest to be a surprise. And really, how cute is that? He’s been awash in the sea of caramel that I’ve made in the past year, and given a choice to have anything he wants, what does he do but tilt his head up, take a look around, and confidently declare, “More, please.”
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that he has actually been pretty caramel-deprived recently. I’ve gotten better at making and appropriating my confections, so there aren’t as many rejects up for grabs as there used to be. He’d been asking for the Caramel Nut Bar especially recently with little success, so I decided to make it into a cake. It occurred to me afterwards that it’s really a tricked out version of The Snickers Cake that I used to like from Jerry’s Famous Deli until I started making my own desserts….
Oh, and did I mention that another tradition I might keep going is to make his birthday cakes as layered bundt cakes? I feel li’l rebellious doing it. But it’s super easy to frost — easy to get the frosting layer even w/o a high midde, as often happens and just fast in general. As I was frosting it, I remembered last year how I felt so liberated to make the frosting wavy, instead of smooth like how we did it in culinary school… and then I realized that this year I was already taking it a step further by frosting it without having put a crumb coat on first.Â Clearly, I’ve come undone.
Crunchy Nut Caramel: Spread roasted nuts on a silpat, caramelized a little sugar, poured it over, let cool, broke into shards, placed, and done.
Chocolate Walnut Chiffon Cake: Man, I love chiffon cakes — so light and moist. I used Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Chocolate Chiffon Cake recipe, which was especially fortuitous b/c she doesn’t like the way that the vegetable oil in chocolate chiffon cakes interferes w/ the chocolate flavor… so she substitutes part of it with Walnut Oil… which brilliantly fit into the nut cake that I had mind! And even better, I actually have some — from Rancho Lavina at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, with a slightly toasty pure walnut flavor, it’s one of my favorite kitchen possessions. I used AP Flour instead of cake because I like that little extra toothsomeness; plus it matches better to the caramel and frosting consistency.
Caramel Nut Filling: The caramel nut filling is the exact recipe that I use for my caramel nut bar. Since it’s slightly oozy…. and salty…. and buttery, it was just right.
I thought about making it slightly boozy by adding bourbon… but I forgot. I think it was for the better. But I still drank bourbon on the side, neat, to make up for it.
It occurs to me now that a runny caramel sauce would have been awesome on the bottom a logical culmination of the textures of the caramel. It wouldn’t be necessary, but it would be good. And all I would have had to do was reheat my leftover caramel nut filling and stir some cream in to thin it.
Caramel-Milk Chocolate Frosting: Halved this recipe, and it was easy and yum. And since I use ganaches in my candy bars, it was a logical part of the cake. And since my milk chocolate has notes of caramel to begin with, it was great to use.
And I have to say, this cake was pretty awesome — the moist cake, creamy ganache, silky caramel, salty tang, crunchy roasted nuts and caramel. It has that deceptive lightness that only a rich and complex dessert can pull off, tempting you to go for seconds… and thirds. Chad agreed — he was in awe when he saw the cake, while he ate it, and after he finished it… and during his second slice.. and third… (ok, over the course of 2 days).