|Not perfect, but not bad|
I've been looking at caramel cake recipes for years and never taking too many of them seriously. I had in mind one I tasted years ago made by a lovely lady from Willacoochee, Georgia. She passed away recently at 97 without making her secrets known. Her cake was tender and moist and the icing was creamy, caramel sweetness perfection that clung to the cake in smooth elegance without any torn cake or visible crumbs . I finally settled on trying the recipe in the Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen cookbook (page 223) . I focused so hard on the recipe and specific temperatures to cook and cool the caramel to, I didn't take too seriously how challenging icing the cake might be and there lies the technical issues and the art. So here are some tips to make that cake survive.
Icing the cake on a cooling rack over a waxed paper covered baking sheet allows the slightly warm icing to flow over the cake layers and drool down onto the waxed paper. It can be scraped up and reused as necessary with a little warm water whipped in. After seating the second layer on top I began to realize the top layer was sliding off. You can't just ease it back into place without the icing pulling away from the cake. I started to panic but tilted the layers and the cake slid back to alignment. This cake required on the spot thinking and that most don't. Never had to do that before. More drooling icing over the top made it clear, you don't smooth this icing with a spatula or anything more than a finger dipped in warm water. Any bumps generally relax to a smooth finish. It's very tricky business, so this is fair warning. Make those layer even and don't do anything to pull the icing away from the cake. Fix mistakes or smooth with a finger dipped in warm water. Scrape up and reuse icing with a teaspoon of hot water beaten in.
When the icing has set, moving the cake from the rack to a pedestal is even trickier. Use two spatulas on each side in line with the top wiring on the racks grid. Shove them under the cake with conviction. Once you there, it's no turning back. Now lift, and move it quickly. Don't try to pull them back out from under the cake until it's in place.
A cooked caramel cake is an art just as much as a fancy wedding cake or butter cream icing - this one just tastes the best to me.