caramel cake, a la “The Help”

3 Nov

Last month my selection for the book club of which Jen and I are both a part was The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I  really enjoyed this novel, and it was a widespread book club hit- a rarity! The nod to southern cooking described in this book created quite a few food cravings as I was reading. I wanted to make something mentioned in the book to serve at our book club meeting, and was debating between chocolate pie and caramel cake. I went with the caramel cake, because as anyone who’s read The Help can attest, it turns out the chocolate pie described in the book doesn’t end up being too appealing after all.

So, caramel cake it was. After a quick Google search, I decided to go with the Smitten Kitchen recipe for caramel cake. This site has mouth-watering photos, which is what initially drew me to the recipe. ((NOTE: I *just* read that if you are blogging about food, you should always include a recipe and PHOTOS, because no one wants to cook something that they haven’t seen a picture of. Jen is great at this; I am terrible. I find it to be a huge hassle to snap photos as I’m cooking because I’m such a messy cook, and there are always a zillion chaotic things going on in my kitchen. Anyway- I have no pictures of the caramel cake. But click on over to Epicurious to see what mine looked like.)) (I’ve copied and pasted this recipe right from Epicurious, where Smitten Kitchen had linked to as well.)

For cake 

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For caramel glaze

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Equipment: a candy thermometer

Make cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8-inch square cake pan and line with a square of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture may look curdled). Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

Make glaze:
Bring cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Boil until glaze registers 210 to 212°F on thermometer, 12 to 14 minutes, then stir in vanilla.

Put rack with cake in a shallow baking pan and pour hot glaze over top of cake, allowing it to run down sides. Cool until glaze is set, about 30 minutes.


I followed this recipe to a T. Yes, I bought cake flour! Yes, I sifted it! Yes, I buttered the parchment paper! Yes, I used a candy thermometer! (I had to borrow this from Jen. And then call her as I was using it.) I thought the cake was delicious. Buttery yellow vanilla cake with a delicious, yet light, caramel topping. Heavenly!

And if I may, I’d like to leave you with two of my favorite food excerpts from The Help.

On Crisco:

Ain’t just for frying. You ever get a sticky something stuck in your hair, like gum? … That’s right, Crisco. Spread this on a baby’s bottom, you won’t even know what diaper rash is. … Shoot, I seen ladies rub it under they eyes and on they husband’s scaly feet. … Clean the goo from a price tag, take the squeak out a door hinge. Lights get cut off, stick a wick in it and burn it like a candle. … And after all that, it’ll still fry your chicken.

On eating food that is in-season:

One thing you got to know, things is best when they in season. You don’t cook pumpkins in the summer, you don’t cook peaches in the fall. You can’t find it selling on the side a the road, it ain’t in.


Last year on this date, we were talking about grocery stores.


3 Responses to “caramel cake, a la “The Help””

  1. jen November 3, 2010 at 7:14 am #

    This cake was awesome! I could eat a bowl of just the glaze.

    I better put crisco back on the grocery list…:)

  2. Jackson November 3, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    Loved the book also. The caramel cake was definitely the way to go, though the chocolate pie would have been funny. Of course you wouldn’t make the pie like in the book.:)


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    […] collards, German potato salad, merguez sausage, caramel cake, and venison stew. » Merguez Sausage and Recipe Roundup » Print Version // […]

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