March 6, 2010

Books & Bites: Paula Deen's Caramel Cake

This month, our book club paired the most delicious caramel cake I've ever tasted with The Help, a novel that middle-aged women's book clubs have brought way high on bestseller lists and for good reason. The gist: 1960s Jackson, Mississippi--a 24-year-old white girl (who, gasp, has no wedding ring and aspires to be a journalist)  works with black maids  she gets to know to write a book about their experience. Through its character development, the book explored in-depth both the Jim Crow-mentality of the South and just how wicked or how loving women's relationships can be. Being as one of the main characters makes prize caramel cakes in the book, we decided to make one ourselves and, keeping with the Deep South theme, selected a Paula Deen recipe.

And what an excellent recipe we chose! A caramel glaze-like filling tops each of three butterlicious cake layers that strike the perfect balance between dense and light, and a creamy caramel frosting covers the whole cake. Both the ingredients (butter, white sugar, butter, light brown sugar, butter, dark brown sugar, flour, powdered sugar) and the assembly were as simple as a homemade layer cake gets. Perhaps most exciting for impatient persons like myself, you spread the filling and icing on while the cake is still hot out of the oven. That's right, no waiting for the cakes to cool while you snack on the icing, anticipate what that first bite will taste like and if the layers will be lop-sided, take off nibbles off the cake that surely will get covered up, and generally waste in-between time steps. Paula claims it makes 8 servings, but people who can only tolerate normal cholesterol intake will get many more slices.

Paula Deen’s Caramel Cake


1 cup butter, room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

3 cups self-rising flour, sifted

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans.

Using an electric mixer cream butter until fluffy. Add granulated sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed.

Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 4 inches above counter dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.


1/2 cup butter

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

While cake is baking, in a saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, and milk. Cook and stir over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Remove cake layers from oven and allow cake to remain in pans as you prepare to stack and fill. Remove first layer and invert onto cake plate. Pierce cake layer with a toothpick over entire surface. Spread 1/3 of filling mixture on cake layer. Top with second layer, repeat process. Top with last layer and repeat process again.


1/2 cup butter

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup heavy cream, or more if needed

1 (16-ounce) box confectioners' sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and stir in brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil, and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat with a handheld electric mixer until it reaches a spreading consistency. At this time it may be necessary to add a tablespoon of heavy cream, or more, if frosting gets too thick. Be sure to add cream in small amounts because you can always "add to", but you can't take away. Frost cake and sprinkle top with chopped nuts, if desired.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Madoline,

    I just made this for Forrest's birthday tomorrow. It did not come out as I expected it to! The obvious answer is that I don't have cake pans--I had to use glass pie pans instead. I lowered the cooking temperature to 325 to compensate and hoped that that would do the trick, but I think it killed it. The batter didn't rise at all, so the cake part is extremely dense. Like, each layer (I made three) is maybe an inch high. I'm right about the glass pans being the problem, right (like, the cake isn't supposed to be this dense, is it?). I also ended up with twice as much icing (of each kind) as I needed--I ended up pouring most of it out. I tried a teensy piece of iced cake off the side (and covered the hole I made up with more icing) and I could feel my teeth shrink away in fright at the oncoming sugar. I should disclose that this is the first cake I've ever made totally from scratch, so factor that in, but I think I might try another caramel cake recipe that isn't as sweet (and with proper pans!) Paula Deen, you have defeated me.



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