naked salted caramel layer cake
I still can’t bake and decorate the perfect cake to save my life, but I continue to bake and decorate them because, well, it’s cake. And every once in a while, the occasion calls for one.
Today is one of those occasions, because we are celebrating someone very special who is about to welcome someone also very special into this world. My dear friend Audra, of The Baker Chick, is weeks away from having her second baby, and we couldn’t be more excited for her! It’s why we are gathering together today for a surprise virtual baby shower, brunch-style. And I brought the naked salted caramel layer cake, in all its rustic glory.
Audra is the inspiration for this cake on so many levels. Recently she posted a naked cake and it was so gorgeous, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It also looked like it might be a little bit easier to frost than a regular cake (because I just CANNOT with regular cake decorating), so I thought I’d give it a try. Salted caramel is also one of Audra’s favorite flavors, and she makes so many droolworthy recipes with it on her blog. It’s not that I needed a push to get salted caramel layer cake into my life, obviously, but these were nice additional inspirations.
The base of this cake is a classic yellow cake, and somehow, magically, it’s both dense like a homemade cake and fluffy like a boxed mix. The flavor is exactly what you’d think and hope and imagine and dream yellow cake to be, but it doesn’t overpower the salted caramel buttercream frosting. Neither does the frosting overpower the cake. In fact, the two just play together so nicely, so perfectly with the sweet-salty combo, that you can’t help but eat more than one slice of this cake. At least that’s my excuse.
Of course, considering I brought this cake to a virtual brunch of epic proportions, you might want to save room to feast your eyes on all the other delicious recipes. But since we are eating cake for brunch, maybe you can save that second slice for dessert tonight? These are the things I ponder on the daily.
Congratulations, Audra! You are already a fantastic mama, whom I look up to regularly and admire for how well and gracefully you embrace motherhood. I cannot wait to meet your new little one.
Here’s the brunch menu for today’s celebration! SRSLY.
Eggs Benedict Poutine from Warm Vanilla Sugar
Breakfast Quinoa Burrito Bowls from The Spiffy Cookie
Blood Orange Pancakes from Keep It Sweet Desserts
Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf Cake from Steph’s Bite by Bite
Meyer Lemon Cheesecake from Eats Well With Others
Berry Cream Cheese Pastry Swirls from Bake or Break
For the cake:
- 4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
For the frosting:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 5 to 6 cups powdered sugar, divided
- 1/2 cup caramel sauce (homemade or storebought)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with baking spray (or grease with butter). Line bottoms of cake pans with parchment paper; spray paper with baking spray (or grease with butter).
- In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well combined. In separate large bowl or bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed 1 to 2 minutes until pale and fluffy. Beat in vanilla, then beat in 1 egg at a time, scraping sides of bowl after each addition. Stir, then beat in buttermilk (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in 3 batches, stirring each addition until just combined and occasionally scraping sides of bowl.
- Divide batter evenly among prepared cake pans. Rap pans lightly on counter a few times to remove air bubbles. Bake 40 to 45 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then carefully transfer to cooling rack to cool completely (remove parchment).*
- To make the frosting: In large bowl or bowl of stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat butter until smooth. Stir in milk. Add 3 cups powdered sugar; stir, then beat until just combined. Stir in caramel sauce and salt. Add another 2 cups powdered sugar; stir, then beat until just combined. Beat in enough of remaining cup of powdered sugar as needed until frosting is smooth and spreadable but not drippy.
- To assemble the cake: Using sharp serrated knife, carefully slice off domed tops of fully cooled cakes until flat. Use knife to cut cakes in half widthwise to create 4 thin cake layers. Place one bottom half of cake on serving plate or cake stand, cut side-up. Use offset spatula to frost top of cake layer with thin, even layer of frosting. Top frosted layer with top half of cake. Frost top of cake layer with thin, even layer of frosting. Top frosted layer with top half of second cake. Frost top of cake layer with thin, even layer of frosting. Top frosted layer with bottom half of second cake, cut side-down. Frost top and sides of cake with thin, even layer of frosting (make it really thin on the sides for that “naked look”).
- Cake can be stored, covered, at room temperature up to 3 days.
- *NOTE: At this point, I like to wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and chill them in the fridge for a couple of hours or up to overnight so they are easier to slice and frost. This is optional, but highly recommended for cake decorating black thumbs like moi.