One of the birthday perks in my household is that you design the dinner menu on your special day. In honor of my mother, October 3rd is usually filled with spaghetti and hints of red meat sauce staining the corners of my dad’s mouth. Steak always appears on the table on January 28th to satisfy the elite (read: expensive) taste of my teenage brother. By the time June 13th rolls around, I always undergo grave internal struggle over whether to choose homemade chicken potpie or fresh fish tacos as my special birthday dish.
This year on my brother’s birthday, I told him that I would bake him a cake of his choice. Almost immediately I could see the neurons firing in his brain as he quickly considered this tasty challenge and pondered what would be an incredibly difficult recipe along with a delicious birthday treat. A couple of days later, he knocked on my door and pointed to the image on the cover of the newest Cooking Light: Desserts Edition. He declared that he had made his decision and that he would be expecting a Double Caramel Turtle Cake complete with candles in approximately 24 hours. At first I thought he was kidding, but unfortunately for me, he was not. This newsflash translated to me dropping my to-do lists and abandoning my beckoning yoga mat and heading to Harris Teeter to purchase dipping caramel and finely chopped pecans, the only two ingredients that our (surprisingly organized) kitchen lacked.
I dedicated the next day to delicately crafting my brother’s birthday present. I meticulously followed Cooking Light’s directions in hopes that the cake wouldn’t turn out to be a total flop. After all, I’m not a huge fan of chocolate cake, so I really wanted to knock this thing out of the water. My family deemed the cake a success, as evidenced by the fact that most of us went back for seconds on this dangerously rich and decadent combination of chocolate, caramel, and (dare I say) vanilla ice cream. Why not splurge? It was in honor of my brother, right…?
Anyway, the cake lasted about two days in my house before we licked the platter and then shoved it in the already-jam packed dishwasher. Despite my original anxieties about baking a complex-looking cake from the cover of my mom’s favorite magazine, creating this beautiful cake both bolstered my confidence in the kitchen and converted me into a chocolate-cake crazy freak. And just to throw this on the record: this was honestly the best cake I have ever tasted, and I would 100% recommend giving it a shot. Though do be warned: You may have a harder time eating other lesser quality chocolate cakes after you get hooked on this one…Good luck with that. Happy baking!
Double Caramel Turtle Cake
Source: Cooking Light
Ingredients: Cake: cooking spray, 1 tbl all-purpose flour, 1 ½ cups boiling water, ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa, 1 ½ cups granulated sugar, 6 tbl butter softened, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 large eggs, 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda, ¾ tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp salt; Frosting: 2 tbl butter, ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar, 2-3 tbl fat-free milk, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 cups sifted powdered sugar; Topping: 2/3 cup fat-free caramel apple dip (such as T. Marzetti’s), ¼ cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
- Preheat oven to 350º.
- To prepare cake, coat bottoms of 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray (do not coat sides of pans); line bottoms with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray; dust with 1 tablespoon flour.
- Combine boiling water and cocoa, stirring well with a whisk. Cool completely.
- Place granulated sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, and vanilla in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon 1 2/3 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 1 2/3 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture and cocoa mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
- Pour batter into prepared pans; sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
- To prepare frosting, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and 2 tablespoons milk; cook 1 minute or until sugar melts. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Combine butter mixture and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a large bowl. Gradually add powdered sugar; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, beating until spreading consistency.
- Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread top with half of frosting. Place caramel dip in a small zip-top plastic bag. Snip a small hole in 1 corner of bag; drizzle half of caramel dip over frosting. Top with other cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top of cake; drizzle with remaining caramel dip. Sprinkle with pecans.
Nutritional Information (amount per serving): 309 calories, 8.4g fat, 4.3g saturated fat, 3.7g protein, 56.7 carbohydrates, 1.9g fiber, 42mg cholesterol, 1.5mg iron, 249mg sodium, 41mg calcium