Halloween is only a few days away and, I’m not ready for it. It’s not like M and I dress up for Halloween parties or mingle in the NYC Village Halloween Parade, but we are usually in a playful spirit. With M being busy with work, recent travels, my recovery from an intense month of rehearsals, and hosting Pie Party LIVE, there is nothing we want more than to have some chill time.
Just because we are not participating in the festivities doesn’t mean I don’t have the taste for candy leading up to All Hallows Eve. The flavors of commercial confection, though not a staple in our household, still calls to me once in a while. Caramel, almond, coconut, peanut, fruit, chocolate—the permutations are endless. There’s something for everyone.
I’ve been meaning to make a cake to celebrate Danceology’s win at Gym Crew Challenge. So I came up with a cake that embodies my three favorite flavors in a candy bar. Caramel is the main flavor profile. Coconut then gives it a surprising undertone and particular kind of nostalgic candy comfort. You can’t make a candy bar-like cake without a nutty crunch, so I employed pecans, which pair beautifully with the caramel.
Maybe next year we’ll have more time to prepare and really submerge in the spirit of Halloween. For this year though, while the cheers of the Halloween Parade echo through the neighborhood, M and I will enjoy this grownup version of trick or treat.
Candy Bar Cake w Brown Butter Caramel Icing
yield: one 6-inch cake
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon table salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup Caramel Syrup (recipe to follow)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
Brown Butter Caramel Icing (recipe to follow)
2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
1 cup unsweetened coconut, toasted
Caramel discs (optional)
1. Set oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350℉. Butter two 6-by-2-inch round cake pans and set aside.
2.Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl, set aside.
3. In a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment cream butter and sugars on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
4. On medium-low speed, slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition Add vanilla until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. With mixer running on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with coconut milk (in 2 additions), beginning and ending with dry ingredients, and beating in each addition until barely combined. Remove bowl from stand mixer.
6. Fold in pecans by hand with rubber spatula, scraping bottom and sides of bowl.
7. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans; spread batter to edges of pans with rubber spatula and smooth surfaces.
8. Place cake pan on 1/2 sheet pan. Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes, rotate sheet pan half way through. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto wire rack. Cool cakes completely, about 1 hour.
– you will not use up the entire recipe
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water, plus 1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1. Combine sugar and 1/4 cup water in a stainless steel saucepan, stir until mixture feels like wet sand. Set pan over medium heat and cook until amber color, about 20 minutes. Brush down side of pan with wet pastry brush if necessary to prevent crystallization.
2. Remove pan from heat, slowly pour in one cup of water, caramel will sputter. Stir until the sputtering subsides, add salt and stir to combine. Pour in heat proof bowl and let cool completely.
Brown Butter Caramel Icing
12 tablespoons ( 6 ounces) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
6 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons dark rum
4 tablespoons caramel syrup
1. Add butter to a saucepan over medium heat and cook until brown, about 8-10 minutes (Keep a close eye, butter goes from brown to black quickly). Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Add sea salt and stir to combine. Set aside to cool.
2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add confectioner’s sugar to the cool butter, a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.
1. Trim each cake horizontally to level off the surface. Place one cake layer on serving platter or cardboard round. Spread 3/4 cup icing over cake layer evenly and top with 2nd layer (upside down). Spread remaining icing evenly over top and sides of cake.
2. Sprinkle toasted pecans evenly on the side of cake, pressing lightly to adhere. Sprinkle unsweetened coconut on top. Decorated with caramel discs.