Caramel cake can reduce a fully grown adult to tears—and we don’t mean happy tears, either. It’s the icing. Caramel icing is made from little more than cooked sugar and milk, but when it comes time to spread it over the cake layers, it has to be just the right temperature—warm enough to be pourable, but cool enough that, when you work it around the cake with an icing spatula it sets in place. If the icing cools too fast, stiffening as you’re spreading, you’ll tear the beautiful cake layers, which are nigh impossible to repair. And if the icing dosn’t cool fast enough, it will overflow the cake stand and onto the counter.
Fear not, because we have all you require here—namely, the right recipe with the right instructions so that you know that you’re doing the right thing.
Even accomplished bakers will lay sheets of waxed paper around the cake stand to catch any too-warm icing that may overflow, so that it can be returned to the bowl to cool further (we prefer to ice the cake on a rack set over a sheet pan lined with wax paper). We reccomends having a small amount of hot water and an electric hand-mixer nearby as you ice the cake so that, if the icing seems to be cooling too readily and seizing up, you can quickly soften it by adding a teaspoonful of hot water to the bowl and blending it to loosen it up. And for those times when icing seizes on the cake before you’ve had a chance to spread it, keep a hair dryer nearby, too, for spot-heating cooled icing
If you’re up to the challenge, this is truly a fun one, and succeeding is its own special achievement. As for the cake that results, that perfect salty caramel icing, with its burnt-sugar crispiness dissolving almost instantly on your tongue…it’ll bring the happy tears.