Monday was B's 13th birthday. President Obama decided to help him celebrate by coming through town in the middle of the afternoon. Boone only has a couple of major arteries so the schools let out early to accommodate the road closures and traffic. B brought a couple of his friends home and they spent the afternoon shooting at zombies on the X-box and at each other with airsoft guns.
I had planned to come home mid-afternoon to make a birthday cake then fry chicken for dinner. President Obama's bus and entourage wound up parking about a block from my office for a walk around our downtown so I couldn't get out when I'd planned. And I didn't want to miss my chance to wave at the Prez anyway! If you look carefully at the picture, you can see him waving back at me.
B, rather uncharacteristically, had not requested any particular kind of cake for his birthday. Over the weekend, we had his best buddy from the lake up to visit. For Saturday night's dinner, he asked me to get Chili's Molton Chocolate Cakes for dessert. I proved that I could do just as well by making Molton Chocolate Cakes with Mint Fudge Sauce. For Monday, I needed something impressive yet relatively quick and easy. Most importantly, it needed to be fool-proof which for me means resistant-to-altitude issues. I've been craving cakes that celebrate autumn -- pumpkin and apple -- but B did not seen too interested. I decided to indulge my craving for caramel icing, but put it on a fudgy chocolate cake.
Both the Easy Chocolate Cake and the Quick Caramel Icing recipes are slight adaptations of ones from Ann Byrn's The Cake Mix Doctor cookbook. When I'm short on time and know the cake needs to come out right the first time, this is the cookbook I use. Because the cake recipes are based on mixes, they tend to work well at my slightly elevated altitude. The Easy Chocolate Cake recipe includes pudding mix, sour cream and chocolate chips to add density and flavor to the cake. Instead of two layers, the cake is made in a tube pan, which makes icing it a cinch. While many caramel frosting recipes require candy thermometers and 30 minutes or so of constant stirring, this Quick Caramel Icing is done in about 10 minutes with about half of that spent stirring.
Easy Chocolate Cake with Quick Caramel Icing
For the Easy Chocolate Cake:
- Vegetable oil spray
- Flour for dusting pan
- 1 18.25 ounce package of devil's food cake mix
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 3.9 ounce package chocolate instant pudding mix
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 large eggs (preferably at room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
For the Quick Caramel Icing:
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 1/2 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract
- Check to make sure that the rack is in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Spray a 10-inch tube pan with vegetable oil spray then dust it with flour. Make sure that all surfaces are coated then bang out the excess flour.
- Place 2 tablespoons of the cake mix and the chocolate chips in a small bowl. Toss to combine and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, pout the rest of the cake mix, the sour cream, oil, water, eggs, and vanilla. Blend using an electric mixer on low for about 1 minute.
- Stop and scrape down the sides using a rubber spatula, then beat on medium for another 2-3 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides again if needed.
- Use the spatula to fold in the chocolate chips and stir until well-combined.
- Pour the batter into the tube pan and smooth the top with your spatula.
- Bake the cake for 50-55 minutes until the cake springs back when lightly touched and it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
- Remove the cake from the oven to a wire rack and let it cool for about 15 minutes.
- Run a long-blade sharp knife around the edge of the cake. Invert onto the wire rack and remove the pan insert. Carefully flip it back on to a serving plate.
- While the cake cools, melt the butter with the dark and light brown sugars in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Once the butter melts, stir the mixture and bring it to a boil for about 2 minutes.
- Add the milk and bring the mixture back to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat.
- Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, beating with a wooden spoon to combine. It works best to add the powdered sugar about a half cup at a time.
- Continue to beat the icing with the wooden spoon until it is smooth and there are no lumps.
- Frost the top and sides of the cake while the icing is still warm. If it becomes too hard, gently reheat it until it softens.
Yield: One cake (approximately 16 servings)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes
The cake came out beautifully -- rich and moist with a light texture. And the icing was just what I wanted -- sweet without bring over the top. The Easy Chocolate Cake with Quick Caramel Icing was a big hit with B and his friends as well as the rest of the family. It is the kind of cake that is pretty much impossible to eat without a glass of cold milk or a cup of coffee (although my glass of Cabernet also worked pretty well!). It's definitely a cake I'll make again when I have a crowd of teens to please. And I'm looking forward to putting that caramel icing on an apple cake some time real soon!