This Vanilla Caramel Cake wows with easy caramel buttercream frosting and crumbled chocolate caramel popcorn on a classic white cake.
Okay, so despite the fact that I thought I’d never have any need for one, I did it. I splurged. I bought the holy grail of kitchen decor. My kitchen cred just went up.
I got a KitchenAid Stand Mixer.
One of my best friends works at the Bay, which for non-Canuck folk is a large department store similar to Macy’s (I think? Someone correct me if I’m wrong). She works in the Wedding Registry section, aka the place where pushy young women go to demand the latest in kitchen technology. The stories I’ve heard, man. It’s like a war zone.
This friend let me in on a little secret about KitchenAid mixers. While all the brides-to-be run straight for the pricey, multicoloured Artisan models, the best bang for your buck is the type I snagged a couple weekends ago on an amazing sale: the Ultra Power. It comes with a 4.5 qt bowl but can easily be replaced with a larger 5 qt (the one that comes with the Artisan), and you don’t have to pay the extra $250+ for the model with more ‘prestige.’ Take it from someone who uses it almost every day for cake, frosting, cookies, mashed potatoes and more: unless you’re a home caterer or bake 8 dozen cookies every day, you don’t need the fancy ones.
Plus, mine came in my favourite colour of all time, ice/mint blue. I’m obsessed.
Having a stand mixer comes in handy for this vanilla caramel cake, which requires quite a bit of mixing that would take about twice as long without a helpful KitchenAid or other stand mixer. You’ll need to mix thoroughly for 1-2 minutes after each egg addition (and there are lots: four egg whites and one whole egg), a very important step to build structure in the cake. Second, making frosting is a hassle without a mixer (I’ve done it for many years, blegh). If you have one, you’ll need it for this recipe.
On the plus side, watching a stand mixer is incredibly fun (to me, at least), and you get to smugly think about how much time and effort you’re saving rather than slaving away beating by hand. Yay?
When you’re done though, wow. This vanilla caramel cake is the most tender, soft, delicious white cake you’ll ever eat, I promise. It’s almost like angel food cake. Topping it with caramel buttercream icing and crumbled chocolate caramel popcorn pieces? Perfection.
Check out CK on Instagram! If you try out one of my recipes, tag @CrumbKitchen so I can see your delicious creations. 🙂
Total Cost = $9.82 (Budget breakdown below recipe)
- 2 and ¾ cups cake flour*
- 1 and ⅔ cups granulated or superfine sugar
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- ¾ tsp. salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened*
- 4 large egg whites, plus 1 whole large egg
- 1 cup whole milk*
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. almond extract
- 1 and ½ cups unsalted butter, softened
- 4 and ½ cups confectioners' sugar
- Pinch of salt
- ½ - ¾ cup caramel sauce*
- 2 cups chocolate caramel popcorn*
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 8 inch round cake pans by first spraying the bottoms with cooking spray, covering bottom with a round-cut piece of parchment paper, then spraying the entire pan. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer, combine all dry ingredients on low for 1-2 minutes or until fully mixed. Add in softened butter and allow to mix until crumbly like damp sand, about 2 minutes.
- While mixer is running, add in the four egg whites, one at a time, allowing 1-2 minutes of mixing time in between each egg white to fully incorporate. I found after the second egg white I had to increase the speed up one or two notches as the batter became thick. Once all the egg whites have been added, add the final whole egg and let mix for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until batter is thick and smooth.
- In a small bowl, whisk the milk with both extracts. Pour into the batter, ⅓ at a time, leaving 1-2 minutes to mix in-between.
- Evenly pour batter into two prepared cake pans. Using the back of a spoon, gently swirl the batter to make the tops level. (It doesn't need to be perfect.) Tap cake pans on the counter to release air bubbles, then bake both in the preheated oven on one rack for 27-35 minutes (mine was 33 minutes). The cakes will be light brown on top and will not be jiggly in the centre when touched.
- Let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then very carefully place one flat hand on the top of the cake and one on the bottom of the pan and flip over, removing the parchment circle. The cake is very tender and prone to crumbling, so be careful when flipping. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- While cake layers are cooling, cream together butter, sugar and salt until smooth and combined. Pour in the caramel sauce and then beat until light and fluffy. Set aside.
- Add chocolate caramel popcorn to a food processor for 1-2 pulses, or until popcorn is broken down into chunks about ¼ to ½ the normal size. Set aside.
- Spread frosting on top of one cake layer, then add the second layer on top. Frost the top and sides of the entire cake. Sprinkle the chocolate caramel popcorn chunks on the top, to garnish.
*You'll need really soft butter for this, so leave your butter out at room temperature, covered, for at least 2 days.
*Use 3% or 3.25% milk for the best results.
*Try to find thick, rich caramel sauce at the grocery store, or make your own. I used caramel ice cream topping in a pinch, but the icing can be too sweet if you aren't a fan of sugar.
*I used a box of dark chocolate caramel popcorn that I got as a gift, but anything small and chocolatey would work, such as chocolate almonds, chocolate clusters, etc.
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour and Chocolate Moosey.
2 and 3/4 cups cake flour = $0.60
1 and 2/3 cups granulated or superfine sugar = $0.29
1 tbsp. baking powder = $0.12
3/4 tsp. salt = $0.01
3/4 cup unsalted butter = $0.72
4 large egg white, plus 1 whole large egg = $0.75
1 cup whole milk = $0.30
2 tsp. vanilla extract = $0.28
1 tsp. almond extract = $0.20
1 and 1/2 cups unsalted butter = $1.44
4 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar = $1.35
Pinch of salt = $0.01
1/2 – 3/4 cup caramel sauce = $0.75
2 cups chocolate caramel popcorn = $3.00