Mar 25, 2010

Double-Caramel Turtle Cake

If you think you're going to read a charming little story about cake, you are now free to exit this blog. This post is about nothing more than a delicious mess.
Ever since my mom over in sunny Florida flooded my phone with rave reviews of this sinfully sweet recipe, I just knew I had to try it. Turtles are one of my favorite candies. Open the door to a Fannie May and you'll see a blurry me making a beeline for those little beauties crammed with pecans, caramel, and chocolate.

And I figured this would be a recipe I was sure to conquer, since cake seems to be the one dessert I never mess up. Now I know why they tell you to never say that.

But I stubbornly blame all my problems all on Father Time. See, there never seems to be enough of him in the day, which had me baking into the wee hours of the morning. Which in turn raised stress levels. Lowered patience. And opened the door for mistakes.

Everything started normal. I mixed up the batter, sprayed and floured my pans and pushed the cakes into the oven.

I checked back about seven minutes early "just in case," and good thing because to my surprise, they were beyond done. I'm talkin' 100% clean toothpick. And even though the cakes looked perfect, I couldn't help but worry that they were in there too long. (Ahem...Father Time.) And that maybe they'd be dry.

Well, my worst fear came crashing out when I popped out nothing more than chocolate cake puzzle pieces. I wish I had photos to share, but in that moment, that defeated, depressing moment, the last thing I thought to do was document my misfortune. So instead, I cropped out my shame, threw a mild tantrum and started dinner while my shattered dreams for perfect cake cooled on the counter.


I eventually cooled down, too. Besides, all that frosting and caramel ought to cover up the cracks and blemishes, right? Especially a frosting made of butter, brown sugar, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. A few spoon licks and I was already feeling better.

But then I attempted to transport my fragile cake to my cake pedestal, which resulted in more breakage. And more tantrums. I literally stuck out my bottom lip and threw my dishtowel on the ground like a two-year-old. 

So you can imagine that I wasn't exactly in the mood to delicately decorate. Instead, I took my frustration out on the cake, messily slathering on the frosting, speedily squirting on the caramel and dumping on nuts without an ounce of care. Double the nuts, have you, because in my madness I forgot that I had toasted extra nuts that were intended not for cake, but for ice cream. 

There were nuts everywhere. They filled the rim of the cake pedestal. Covered the table. And were scattered about the freshly and lovingly hubby-swept floor. 

My supposed-to-be-beautiful cake that my mom had bragged up for weeks looked more like the masterpiece of a tornado, thanks to me. And so the regret set in. I sat down on my toasted pecan-covered chair and sulked in culinary defeat that I haven't felt in awhile. 

But before tears could set in, I grabbed a spoon, dipped it into the frosting, squirted on a little caramel and sprinkled on a few nuts from the table. And then something entered the equation for the first time that night. A smile. One covered in caramel, have you.

So with nuts stuck to my socks, caramel all over my hands, and pieces of cake in my hair, I made another spoonful of hope and rushed to the bathroom where my husband was hiding out from the insanity in the kitchen. I gave him a taste. Then we both rushed into the kitchen.

Of course, once I knew how good this cake was, I wished that I'd actually taken the time to decorate it with care, instead of cursing its existence. Ah, well.

I cleaned up the nuts, took a few cleverly cropped photos, cut a couple slices, and we ate cake. Darn good cake. The sweet, buttery frosting was super good, and paired with the nuts, caramel and chocolate, it really did taste like a turtle. (For proof, please see the last photo. We're animals.)

Yes, the cake was a touch dry. But I should note that my mom took her cakes out much earlier all three times she made them and they were moist and delicious. (Which she lovingly told me after my disaster.) So, next time, I will take those babies out much much sooner. (OR, update: 30 minutes at 325° should do the trick! Thanks, Scraps!)

And yes, there will be a next time. Because everything deserves a second chance, right? Especially something that's dripping with caramel.

Double-Caramel Turtle Cake
Cooking Light, May 2002
Yield: 16 servings


Cooking spray
1  tablespoon  all-purpose flour
1 1/2  cups  boiling water
3/4  cup  unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2  cups  granulated sugar
6  tablespoons  butter, softened
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
2  large eggs
1 2/3  cups  all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1  teaspoon  baking soda
3/4  teaspoon  baking powder
1/4  teaspoon  salt
2  tablespoons  butter
1/4  cup  packed dark brown sugar
2  to 3 tablespoons fat-free milk
2  teaspoons  vanilla extract
2  cups  sifted powdered sugar

2/3  cup  fat-free caramel apple dip (such as T. Marzetti's)
1/4  cup  finely chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 350°.

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° (NOTE: 325° may work better) 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: Calories: 309 (24% from fat). Fat: 8.4g (sat 4.3g,mono 2.9g,poly 0.8g), Protein: 3.7g, Carbohydrate: 56.7g, Fiber: 1.9g, Cholesterol: 42mg, Iron: 1.5mg, Sodium: 249mg, Calcium: 41mg.


Kat said...

Looks sooo delicious!!

sarahe said...

this looks amazing! will have to try...

rosa said...

i want one now! this looks so yummy.

Kristen @ Change of Pace said...

Oh my gosh... You kill me with all the goodies you post! Can you just come make me dessert everyday ;)

Scraps said...

The word is "rustic"--seriously, that's always been my get-out-of-neat free card when it comes to food. Rustic covers all manner of sins.

Glad it turned out okay! You might want to consider lowering your oven temp by 25 degrees next time and giving them the full 30 minutes rather than shorting them on the time :)

Cool Lassi(e) said...

That looks like a wickedly scrumptious cake dear. Love the step-by-step instructions. Its as if I was a fly on the wall watching you make it.

Me, Myself and Pie said...

Thank you scraps....great tip. I'll make a note above!

Just Breathe said...

Yum, that sounds delicious.

Mary said...

It's a shame the cake caused you so much grief, but your telling of the tale was marvelous. I found your blog by chance, but I'll be back often to see what else you have conjured up. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Ingrid said...

Okay, I want that cake just not with chocolate cake. Yeah, I know it's kinda weird that we don't like chocolate cake but there it is.

Kinda funny that your Mom didn't tell you a key point in the recipe. LOL

Anonymous said...

Oh yum!!

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest :)

Anonymous said...

*Falls over dead*
Seriously, this is astoundingly mean of you to post on a day that my house is compltely void of chocolate. ha.

Anne said...

Shoot, who cares how it looks - that sounds DIVINE!

Life with Kaishon said...

Wow. That looks so scrumptious. Just beyond amazing. I am glad your husband helped you sweep up the nuts!

GlowinGirl said...

First of all, you're making me hungry. :)

Second, thanks for visiting my recipe blog -- although I hate to call it that since it's really just a stash of favorites. My "real" blog of thoughts is just next door though. :) But I hope you find something useful. You'll notice it's all easy, realistic stuff. No lobster tails. And maybe a greasy pizza dish. (grin)

Finally, your blog is adorable! Love the name, love the look, and love the yummy pics. You've won me over.

...::Mrs. Southern Bride::... said...

OH my goodness. That just look, and sounds amazing. :)

teresa said...

well, you would never know by the looks of that beautiful cake that you had an ounce of trouble, how delicious! i've definitely had my fair share of kitchen disasters, lol, funny now, but definitely not then!

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I have BEEN there. I throw tantrums in the kitchen more than I care to admit! Haha. Sorry the cake gave you trouble, but it looks absolutely delicious anyway! Yum!

Julie said...

First of all, I don't think it could possibly look any better! I'm not in to perfection, and that looks delicious and inviting! Secondly, I can totally relate. My screw ups in the kitchen are legendary. But like Dory on Nemo, I "just keep swimming". (sorry, too much Disney)

Ma What's 4 dinner said...

Oh wow...I just saw this on your side bar and it's a must make!!!!

Lots of yummy love,
Alex aka Ma What's For Dinner

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