Friday, January 16, 2009

Sweet and Salty

I mentioned in my last post that the book Baked: New Frontiers in Baking had a few things I was eager to try. Today I found myself with enough time to try the Sweet and Salty Cake, a three layer production which took most of the afternoon to complete, in addition to this morning's trip to The Meadow for fancy-schmancy fleur de sel. Given that the saltiness is a big part of the flavor I figured my standby salt (Diamond Kosher) was maybe not the best choice. I can make my way through any number of exotic supermarkets with confidence but this place with its Wall of Salt was just a wee bit intimidating, especially with a couple of slightly rambunctious kids in tow. The salesperson was quite helpful and talked me into buying a tiny, precious jar of very expensive salt which smells faintly of old basement. That and some wildly expensive chocolate set me back more cash than I'd care to admit, but the salt proved to be perfect in this case. I had my doubts but it turned out well, holding its crystalline shape atop the cake and providing tiny salt explosions within the creamy ganache.
What intrigued me about this cake was the use of salted caramel between the layers and as a component of the ganache frosting. While I love chocolate as much as anyone, caramel is my real weakness. Luckily with this cake there's plenty of both. Much as I love it, I haven't made caramel in ages because prior attempts were both stressful and unsatisfying. I think my so called candy thermometer may have had something to do with it. The Baked boys said to cook the caramel until the thermometer read 350 degrees but my first batch was a blackened, smoky mess at about 310 degrees. Once I got that cleaned up, I decided to skip the thermometer altogether, watch carefully, and remove the caramel from the heat the second the first bit of smoke appeared and this was a good call. The resulting caramel was absolutely perfect and I had a hard time keeping my fingers out of it. I can't wait to dive in to it after Shabbat dinner.
Later: Wow. That's a crazy-good, super-rich, over-the top cake. It's the kind of cake you'd make for a something huge: a graduation or a wedding. Even though I spent all afternoon making the thing I didn't quite feel I'd earned the right to eat it. I only used about 2/3 of the caramel ganache frosting and even so it was wildly decadent. And really, really good. When you need a showstopper cake, I'd highly recommend this one.

You'll find the recipe here. I'd love to hear what you think. I notice I haven't had a comment since November. Sometimes it feels like I'm talking to myself here. I know you're out there, people. Why don't you pop in to the comments and say "hi"? I'd love to know who's reading.


Elizabeth said...

Oh my. If it's justification for buying something else from The Meadow I'll try this cake! Plus it looks wonderful! I enjoy taking people into The Meadow because it seems like such a quirky thing--selling salt? Like not many people would even get it. But the salts are just divine. I have vanilla and truffle salts in my kitchen that I need to remember to use more often!

Colleen said...

Gorgeous! It is almost guilty satisfaction when things work out to be *that* good. Love it.

Lisa said...

I read regularly. I just haven't been able to open the recipes for several months. I'm hoping that will be remedied now that I have a new computer! This cake looks so delicious.

Monica said...

The cake does look very yummy.

ElizO said...

Darn, I was thinking about making this for Valentine's day but I can't open the document. Do you have a version hanging around in the previous version of Word (.doc rather than .docx)? Or is there any chance i could talk you into saving it as a .doc and posting again?