Yes, this is one of THE Dorie Greenspan cakes. And, believe it or not, this is not my first time making this. The first time I made it, about six or seven months ago for a friend’s birthday, I kind of ruined it. And then I tried taking pictures of it, with no training or idea of what I was doing, and it was a complete travesty. I was so frustrated. I had spent about half the day working on this thing, and then I overcooked the caramel….leading to a burnt sugar kind of taste. Now, that might be good in some circumstances (think s’mores with burnt marshmallows…I’m a fan), but, unfortunately, with this cake….scorched caramel is not good.
So….on to Round #2. Unabashed and determined to get it right this time, I entered the kitchen with one key word….”Focus”. No TV in the background, no Pandora radio playing from my laptop, no snacking on the cake batter, no texting while baking. It was Game On. I watched the caramel like a hawk, testing the color every 20 seconds or so. Because, as you will see, once the caramel starts turning color….it goes quickly. Dorie says to let it get to a deep amber color…but I let mine get to the color of a light beer before I added the cream and butter. This did the trick. I don’t know, maybe it’s my stove that seems to heat it unevenly, but I erred on the side of underflavored caramel in order to salvage the entire thing. Caramel….it’s simply a beautiful thing when done correctly.
Ultimately, this cake is not too challenging to throw together, if you can get a handle on the caramel. In fact, the brownie cake part of it is more simple than a lot of the other recipes I have posted. It’s just the caramel. But you can do it. You can and you will.
Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake
For the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped **(I just used Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips….oh Ghiradelli…..sigh….)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the topping:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 and 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup salted peanuts
1. For the cake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter an 8-inch round springform pan, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper.
3. Put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
4. Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.
5. Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water.
6. Add the butter and chocolate to the bowl and heat, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients are just melted.
7. Remove the bowl from the heat.
8. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugars together until well blended.
9. Whisk in the corn syrup, followed by the vanilla.
10. Whisk in the melted butter and chocolate.
11. Still working with a whisk, gently stir in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
12. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread until even.
13. Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out almost clean.
14. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the cake for 15 minutes, then run a blunt knife between the cake and the pan and remove the sides of the pan. Cool the cake to room temperature.
15. When the cake is completely cool, invert it, remove the base of the pan and peel off the paper. Wash and dry the springform pan, and return the cake to it right-side up. Refasten the sides.
16. For the topping: Put the sugar, water and corn syrup in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir just to combine the ingredients, and put the pan over medium-high heat on the stove.
17. Heat, without stirring, until the caramel turns deep amber (mine was the color of light beer….test it on a white plate if you are unsure), about 5 to 10 minutes (depending on your stove and pan). As the sugar is caramelizing, wipe down any splatters on the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.
18. Lower the heat a bit, and standing back from the saucepan, add the cream and butter. (BE CAREFUL…IT IS HOT AND WILL BUBBLE AGGRESSIVELY.)
19. When the caramel calms down a bit, stir to dissolve any lumps.
20. Add the peanuts and stir. Transfer the hot mixture to a 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup or a heat-proof bowl.
21. Spoon the peanuts over the top of the cake, and then pour enough caramel to cover the peanuts and top of cake completely. You may have leftover caramel.
22. Allow the topping to set at room temperature about 20 minutes or so.
23. When ready to serve, run a blunt knife around the edge of the springform pan and remove the sides.
Source: Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan.