This is the ultimate cake for a true chocolate/salted caramel lover. Honestly I can think of only three people I am willing to bake one for because it is such a beast! One of those three had a birthday yesterday and this was the result. I used this recipe for my daughter’s high school graduation party and that’s when I learned that if you’re going to make one, you might as well make two or more, and it’s best to give yourself two days to pull together all the components and to allow for cooling time. The recipe came from Martha Stewart, but I have inserted some comments of my own in bold throughout.
Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake
For the Cake
- Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pans
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans (I use 1/3 whole wheat flour)
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- Coarse salt (sea salt)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons safflower oil (I use canola)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Caramel
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 2 cups heavy cream
- Coarse salt (sea salt)
- 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
For the Frosting
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- Coarse salt
- 1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped, melted, and cooled (1- 2/3 cups semi sweet chips)
- Garnish: flaked sea salt, such as Maldon (found at Sur la Table)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cake: Butter three 9-inch round cake pans, and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Sift flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt into the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined. Raise speed to medium, and add eggs, buttermilk, 1 1/2 cups warm water, oil, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.
Divide batter among pans. Bake until cakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool in pans set on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks, and let cool completely.
Make the caramel: Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cook, without stirring, until mixture is dark amber, about 14 minutes. Remove from heat, and carefully pour in cream (mixture will spatter); stir until smooth. Return to heat, and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees, about 2 minutes (this takes at least 15 minutes more for me). Pour caramel into a medium bowl, stir in 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and let cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Stir in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Let cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: Whisk together cocoa and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water in a bowl until cocoa dissolves. Beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and a generous pinch of coarse salt in a clean bowl with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in melted chocolate and then cocoa mixture until combined. Let stand for 30 minutes before using.
Trim tops of cakes using a serrated knife to create a level surface. Cut each in half horizontally to form 2 layers. I do not cut the layers in half, I serve this as a three layer cake.This uses a lot less caramel, so I am left with several jars of salted caramel sauce for another use. Transfer 1 layer to a serving platter, and spread 3/4 cup caramel over top. Top with another cake layer, and repeat with remaining caramel and cake layers, leaving top uncovered. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.
- Frost top and sides of cake in a swirling motion. Sprinkle with sea salt. This cake should be refrigerated for up to three days.