A few weekends ago, Michele and I had a girls’ night in and we baked a brown butter cake, topped with vanilla bean icing and salted caramel. Not only had we never made brown butter cake, but we (or at least I), had never made a 4-layer cake either. Nor had I ever made homemade caramel. So this cake was an endeavor with lots of firsts.
The recipe began with the brown butter. This actually took much longer than we expected because it also needed to cool, then re-soften. Meanwhile, we started prepping the yellow Thai curry for dinner. Michele felt ambitious and we actually made the curry paste itself. As you might imagine, we had a lot going on and lots of smells floating around the kitchen.
Once the batter was done, we started the icing. I have never used a real vanilla bean to flavor frosting. Did you know a single vanilla bean costs $13 at the grocery store?! Nuts. But, I’m obliged to say that it’s more fragrant than regular vanilla and added beautiful speckles to the icing.
By the time we finished baking the cakes, letting them cool, stacking them up, and icing the layers, it was already 10pm. Needless to say, we were tired and maybe experiencing a bit of a food coma from our delicious dinner and a glass of rosé. Little did we know that our biggest obstacle was yet to come: the caramel.
When we first made the caramel while the cakes were baking, we nailed the perfect consistency. But after it cooled down, we had a hard time getting it back to where we wanted it. This ended up being our Achilles heel. When we poured the caramel on top, it did not ooze down the sides of the cake as the recipe described. It gooped everywhere, created an enormous mess, and pulled down a perfect layer of frosting while it dripped lopsidedly off the cake. We were mortified and thought we could recover if we stuck the cake back in the fridge to cool a bit. THEN, during our attempt to salvage the caramel on top of the cake, we knocked the entire thing over…
It was a hot mess. We did our best to fix it back up and, of course, ate it anyway. And it was so good. I love brown butter cake, I can’t believe I hadn’t had it before. And the icing was so good. That being said though, I’m not sure I’ll ever try to pour caramel on top of a cake again… You bake and you learn, right?