November 29, 2008

Sweet dreams.

Inspired by Pat over Mille Fiori Favoriti, I have become a Daring Baker. Or Sleepless Baker, since it’s after 2 a.m. on the day the challenge is due. With everything going on, I wasn’t “up for the challenge,” if you will, but far be it for me to back down from a dare.

The Daring Bakers are a group of baking enthusiasts around the world challenged each month with one fairly involved recipe. Everyone bakes the same thing, and while you must follow the rules, this month there were variations in cake sizes, suggested additional ingredients, and an optional recipe (I’m lucky I eeked out the compulsory one!). Then, everyone posts the results of the challenge on the same day.

Dolores is our host this month, along with co-hosts Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo) and Jenny of Foray into Food. They chose Shuna Fish Lydon’s signature caramel cake recipe as the challenge for November.

And challenge is the operative word. For my first-ever Daring Bakers recipe, I was to start by making a caramel sauce using only sugar and water (not cream and butter, as I have in the past without incident). Here’s what my first batch looked like:

Nice, huh? And since I didn’t have enough sugar to do this again, it was off to 7-eleven at 11 (p.m.).

The second batch went much better, but it solidified by time the frosting portion of the program rolled around and separated when I attempted to reheat it. You know the saying, “Fool me once…”? Well, this fool was not about to start a third batch of caramel at midnight so the frosting would have to do with the one tablespoon I was able to rescue.

After the caramel debacle the recipe was (pun alert) a piece of cake. Many Daring Bakers commented in the user forum that the cake was dense, but I found mine (in the form of cupcakes) to be pretty light. The dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method of mixing is pretty key to achieving this consistency so do follow it if you give this recipe a try. I also felt the cake and frosting would be way too sweet for me with the recipe as given, so I cut the sugar in the cake in half (to ¾ cup) and the frosting to 2-1/2 cups of powdered sugar (I would have used less but I needed that much just to get the proper consistency). And there was no way I was tossing the cake to the curb if it was too sweet, so I guess I broke the rules by cutting the sugar. Such a rebel, I am. (Note: Still very sweet!)

The recipe can be found on Shuna’s web site. Photos from my Midnight Madness baking session follow…I decided to do old school cupcakes, like that fancy downtown NYC bakeshop has popularized. The cupcakes baked in a standard size muffin pan for 23 minutes. For a much fancier take on the challenge, check out this beauty at Tartelette.

Me (my hand, really), preparing to do battle with the sputtering caramel:

Second time's a charm. Perfect caramel:

The Messy Baker:

Why do I start projects so late? WHY?

Perfectly golden cupcakes:

And the imperfect frosting job (I had a pastry bag out...but decided to keep it real):

Sweet ending:

Thanks for joining me on my inauguration into the Daring Bakers! Don’t forget to
comment on my last post to help me raise money for a great cause.


The Quintessential Magpie said...

Laura! LOL! That's a great story, and I have a similar picture to your first one that my husband took when I was testing recipes for a cookbook someone was doing. ;-)

Thanks for making my day. I'll have to check the other bloggers out when I get back from Christmas shopping.

Hope you got some sleep!


Tartelette said...

Oh Laura! My heart sank when I saw the first batch of caramel...but look how it paid off to do it again!! The cupcakes are perfect!

Sue said...


I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who has mishaps in the kitchen. They looked extremely light and fluffy.

Linda Lou said...

look delicious Laura! I am not much of a baker myself, but I love looking at some desserts, and want to grap one of those cupakes!

Maryanna said...

Congrats on this challenge. You did a great job. Yes, sometimes it takes a time or two to get things perfect. Your cupcakes look more fluffy than mine. I'm not really a fan of dense cakes... except for pound cakes. Mmmm.

Pat said...

Hi Laura!

This was not a simple recipe to make so I think you did a great job for your first Daring Baker exercise! I was puzzled by the caramel too -- my first attempt got hard as a rock and I had to throw it out, but I had success with the second batch by not boiling it so long. It's all a learning experience.

I'm glad your joined DB! Let's hope December's challenge will be something yummy we can serve at Christmas.:-)

Hugs, Pat

Jen r. said...

Love your dtory! I am impressed that you would even try a caramel sauce! That is way past me! :) They look yummy!

Tina said...

I will just enjoy all of you bakers out there. It's not something I'm good at or really enjoy till it comes to the eating. You did a great job! Thanks for sharing

Ruth said...

Im glad that after the first caramel disaster you tried again. And then totally had a success your cupcakes look fantastic

Anonymous said...

Oh no! I bet that pan wasn't the funnest to clean...but I commend you on trying again. Welcome to the DBs!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Wow, dedication means going out at 11pm to get sugar. Amazing! Great job on your cupcakes! Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

j.cro said...

My friend Stephanie over at Yum Yum Kid Cupcake dot blogspot dot com is a member of Daring Bakers.
Nice work. You know I love me some cupcakes!!

Ms. Tee said...

Oh, heavens, yum!
You must be a fellow night owl - I always start things way late!
The cupcakes look dee-licious! :)

P.S. Thanks so much for your sweet comment on Thanksgiving - I hope you had a wonderful one!

Anonymous said...

Um. Yum. And kuddo's to you...I was definitely snoozing at that time of night, er...morning! :-)

Joyce said...

Oh I love this post! I had the same thing happen to me with caramel. LOL... I'm glad I wasn't alone. Your cupcakes look mmmm....

Blondie's Journal said...

What a funny, funny story and great pics! I can't bake at all so I applaud your efforts. I think sugar and water is called a simple syrup (simple, yeah right!). Ina Garten on the Food Network made it once with the pot still intact. That's why she is on the Food Network I guess. Thanks for the comments on my blog. It made my day!

Rue said...

You are quite a woman to attempt something like that! Shhh... don't tell anyone, but I'm an awful baker LOL

I forgot to tell you on the last post that I'm glad your mom is okay :)


Cherry's Jubilee said...

Ohhh you poor thing..but I am glad the end result was sweet rofl! THank-you soooo much for your sweet just made my week!!!!!!!! cherry

marilyn @ simmer till done said...

Hi Laura - that is an impressive dive into daring baking. A cauldron of boiling sugar is not for the faint of heart - but the cupcakes look delicious. Congrats!