It is my dear husband’s birthday. Mark has requested a chocolate cake with some kind of a buttercream/German chocolate/coconut frosting. I have no idea what that sort of a frosting might be.
I have a great buttercream frosting recipe, but I’ve never made a German chocolate cake frosting before. It’s a caramel with coconut and pecans. Mark doesn’t really want pecans in his frosting so I’m going to substitute toasted almonds. I’m wondering what kind of frosting this is going to be.
The solution? A caramel buttercream with coconuts and toasted almonds folded in. And I’ll use salted butter instead of unsalted so it will be a *salted* caramel buttercream. Salted caramel is all the rage right now. Lots of bakeries in the area are selling cakes and cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream drizzled with salted caramel. I’m hoping that incorporating the caramel in the buttercream will actually work. I just want a hint of caramel so it will, hopefully, blend with the coconut and almonds to make a totally awesome frosting.
I’m using my Grandmother’s chocolate cake recipe. It’s a classic chocolate cake that has been served in our family for 90% of all the birthday celebrations we’ve ever had. She used to make a Carousel Cake with about 6 layers and fondant/royal icing horses trotting around the outside and a classic sugar frosting piped on as the roof of the carousel. My oldest son, E, is only 5 and already believes that all birthday cakes are chocolate. I don’t know what he would do if I served a yellow or white cake or a carrot cake. I’m not sure he knows that other flavors of cakes even exist.
I knocked out the sponge part of the cake last night. I could make Grandma’s recipe in my sleep. But that frosting. That is going to be a challenge. And I’ve bought plenty of butter and sugar and eggs in case I need to scrap my dreams of a salted caramel buttercream with coconut and almonds and just go with a classic coconut buttercream.
The first step is to make the caramel. I put 1/2 cup sugar and 4 T water into a heavy-bottomed pan, gave them a quick stir and then let them cook to make a caramel. In a caramel the sugar dissolves into the water and it forms a syrup when it starts to boil. Cook it without stirring until it turns a dark amber in color.
Once it had reached a good amber color, I took the almost caramel off the stove and *very, very, very slowly* started to add 1/2 cup heavy cream and 2 tsp of vanilla. Because the syrup and the cream are at such different temperatures they can create quite a show when mixed together. Even though I was adding a tablespoon at a time in the beginning the mixture was still bubbling and spattering, so be careful. It turned beautiful and glossy caramel. Set this aside for about 20 minutes or until it feel cool when you stick your impeccably clean finger in.
After this cooled I took 3 sticks of *salted* butter that were slightly softened and whipped them in my mixer until it turned into a lighter yellow and looked fluffy. If you use *unsalted* butter you’ll need to add about 1/2 to 1 tsp of salt. The amount of salt in the butter was more than enough for this recipe. Then I added 4 cups of powdered sugar and incorporated it with the butter on low speed. Any faster and my kitchen would have looked like it was snowing. When the sugar was totally incorporated I turned the mixer up and had it whip everything for about 30 seconds just to add some air and start getting the frosting fluffy. Then I turned off the mixer and added the caramel. I started the mixer on low and then cranked it up to high for 2 minutes when the caramel had been mostly incorporated.
Sample the frosting. You should be able to taste just a bit of salt, but it shouldn’t taste like salt shaker. Instead the salt should be really boosting the flavor of the caramel. If it isn’t because you used unsalted butter add a bit and keep sampling until you’re satisfied.
Then I added about 1 cup of flaked coconut and 3/4 to 1 cup of sliced almonds that I had toasted and cooled. It gave the frosting a really nice texture and the coconut and almonds with the caramel flavor was outstanding; especially the sweetness of the coconut with the salty of the caramel. Really insanely good. I had tasters who agreed. I’m sure they were unbiased even though they were family. Really.
I stuck the frosting the fridge for about 20 to 30 minutes to have the frosting harden a bit before I used it so it would have some body and not squish all over the place when I layered the cake . And I had enough frosting to generously finish a 3 layer cake and if I had been a little stingy on the filling layers I could have done a 4 layer cake with no problem. Here is the finished product.
This was my husband’s birthday cake. He’s not a big fan of caramel, but was willing to let me experiment. He was blown away by how good the frosting was. And the chocolate sponge was prefect with a frosting that turned out to be a great approximation of a German chocolate buttercream frosting. You could substitute the appropriate toasted pecans if you want a true German chocolate buttercream, Mark just doesn’t like pecans unless they are in a pecan pie.
All in all this was a really easy frosting. The homemade caramel made it seem very gourmet, but that took all of 7 minutes to make and then it was cool enough not to melt my frosting into soup in 25 minutes. Make it and your friends will be just as impressed as our birthday boy and our guests were.