Monday, April 28, 2008

An Internet Bake-Along

About a month ago as I was tooling around the internet, I came across the name Dorie Greenspan about a million times.

Okay, it wasn't a million times, but her name kept popping up on baking blogs which made me very curious about her--I went from not knowing there was a Dorie Greenspan to reading her name on several different blogs all on the same day. It was a little too serendipitous, you know?

A few days later her name popped up on Melinda's blog--bam. Apparently this Dorie Greenspan chick was quite a baker, with a huge following. I looked at her book on Amazon, and within the week I was at Powell's hoping to buy the book. Which I did not succeed at. At either Powell's. Even though their computers claimed they had a copy or two, there were no copies anywhere.

So I put it on hold at the library and waited.

In the meantime, Melinda and I got into a discussion about Dorie Greenspan, and Melinda offered to do a little bake-together with one of her recipes once I got the book.

So when the giant heavy book came, I wrote Melinda and told her the bake together (bake off? bake on?) was good to go.

the goal:
the goal

April 25, 2008
Name of Cake: Brownie Peanut Caramel Cake
Occasion: Bake off! And Dana's here! And Greg had a birthday!
Constituents: Brownie cake with caramel-salted peanut frosting, served with a side of french vanilla ice cream and champagne

drippy gooey caramel

The first thing I did to bake this cake was cancel my day at work. I'm pooped.

Then, I made my grocery list and headed off to the store. There, a nice worker lady was chopping up fresh PEACHES. You heard me, PEACHES. They were organically grown, imported from Baja California, fresh, summery, ripe peaches. She was putting them out for free samples, and that little sample of a juicy warm summer day was so nice. I think I thanked her at least three times.

But I digress. After coming home with my groceries, I sat down to convert Dorie's recipe into gram measurements, because I am just that way. RLB has ruined me for dipping and sweeping.


The recipe for this cake is really simple; in fact I never pulled out the KitchenAid. Just a balloon whisk and a couple of bowls.


In the true spirit of a brownie, this cake has only one cup of AP flour and a whole lot of chocolate and butter to make a fudgy, kind of dense cake. She says not to worry if the cake dips in the middle; which mine did, quite a bit. I think I actually overcooked the poor cake, which could account for why the cake seemed a little dry. But oh well.

melting butter and chocolate

Once the cake comes out of the oven and you get it cooling on a rack, the recipe says to wait until the cake has completely cooled before making the topping. Luckily this is about when Annmarie showed up, and then Joelf's brother Dana from Montana, and then Carlotta and her husband Greg. Joelf and his friend Wilman arrived a little bit later. But all these people arriving kept me nice and distracted from the unfinished cake so that I really could let it cool completely before moving on. Good timing, people!

After much catching up, sarcasm, teasing and laughter, I finally got back to the kitchen to make the topping. I measured out what I needed and began the process of making caramel. Ho hum. It can take awhile of standing and staring at a bubbling mass before caramel gets made. I was terrified of taking my eyes off of the pan, because last time that happened I burnt the caramel something serious and made a bitter pie.

a watched pot never caramelizes
so caramelize already!

I continued to stare at the stove while Annmarie kept me company. She was looking forward to having some of the extra caramel over some ice cream, as the cake I was making was gluten-full, not gluten free. Or as Babel Fish translates it, the cake was glow-full not glow-free.

I obsessively kept a little white dish on the stove near the pan, and as the caramel finally began to take on some color, I kept dipping my spatula in the mix and dripping caramel in the dish to check the color. When it looked pretty good in the dish (which looked pretty dark in the pan) I added in the cream and butter and--hooray!--caramel! I stirred in my roasted, salted valencia peanuts (that was all I could find) and smoothed it over the top of the cake. And I told everyone we'd have cake in 20 minutes, after the caramel has set.

waiting for the caramel to set

Annmarie enjoyed her caramel topped ice cream while everyone else waited. It was pretty good caramel. I was pleased.

When the cake was ready for us, Carlotta started singing Happy Birthday to Greg, as he turned a big 3-6 on Wednesday. We all joined in, and all of a sudden the cake became a birthday cake! Excellent!

Carlotta was kind enough to dish out the goods for everybody. I was getting really tired and had started wandering around aimlessly.

look!  cake!

The room fell unusually quiet, as people noshed on cake and ice cream. Considering the volume of the room a few minutes before, the silence was eerie. But not to worry, it didn't last long.

A few of us went back for more cake. The caramel topping was delightfully sticky and gooey, and a little bit burnt. I could taste a little bitterness at the end of each bite...that wasn't covered in ice cream. The peanuts provided a nice textural crunch, but I couldn't discern a nice salty contrast like I was hoping. My first piece of cake seemed a little dry, but I think that was probably the section of cake closest to the back left hand corner of the oven--the hot spot. My second piece of cake didn't seem to suffer from the dryness as much.

A good cake. Sweet, but not overpoweringly so. Gooey, fudgy, crunchy, yummy. And easy as all get up--well everything but the caramel part, but you can't have everything!


Melinda was dedicated enough to type out the recipe for all of you interested--thanks Melinda!!

And check out Pinknest's version of the cake! Somehow she made a link between the cake and learning how to drive...very clever :)


  1. Your cake turned out lovely. I was a bit of a scardy cat and took the caramel off way too early, so mine granulated and wasn't a dark colour. You are very brave.
    Thanks for baking with me. What shall we do next time. At our leisure, you know! cheers!

  2. my cake is coming!! i love caramel so i'm excited to see what caramel and brownie will taste like. looks scrumptious.

  3. Melinda, i was wondering why your caramel looked solid and not gooey. that caramel stuff is tricky.

    i finally bought the book so we can bake together at our leisure! i want to make the devils food white out for my birthday (in one month) so we could do that one together.

    pinknest, i am looking forward to your blog post! its fun to think there are three of us around the world baking and enjoying the same cake around the same time.

  4. Anonymous29/4/08 11:07

    Wooooooooah does that look good? Seriously, I'm salivating.

  5. Anything with caramel and peanuts! Yes please... I'll have seconds!

  6. We could do that! I will put it on my calendar to make.

  7. anon, it IS good. And really easy to do--you should try it.

    caracakes, I had seconds, and a snack, and dinner!

    Melinda, that would be fun! My birthday is at the end of May, so we've got time to plan. Hooray!

  8. ECL,
    Well, you claim that the cake was a little dry and the caramel a little burned, but, from here, it looks just about perfect.

  9. Thanks BBC! I am excited you are going to join in for the next bake off!

  10. Anonymous18/5/08 06:15

    You may be interested in joining this baking group already working its way through the same book:


  11. yep, geejay, i am aware of the tuesdays with dorie group and i think that is a fantastic idea. however, not for me!

  12. Hey you! How are you? So I was not a fan of the caramel - so I just used my tried and true favorite caramel recipe. Have you made it and not had it taste a bit burnt?

  13. Hi Kitty! You know, the bitter note was easy to ignore, especially after the first day. I made caramel sauce with the extra caramel and there was no hint of bitter; in fact that was some of the best caramel sauce if I do say so myself!