Chocolate Caramel Cake
I’ve got a number of chocolate cakes in my repertoire, from a super-dense Chocolate Orbit Cake to soft, warm Chocolate Dulce de Leche Cakes, from My Paris Kitchen. And they all share one thing in common: a lot of chocolate. I’m not much for adding things that detract from the chocolate flavor, so I shy away from adding raspberries or other fruits and berries, or layering them with cream, or what have you. I just like straight-on chocolate cakes.
That said (and what would the internet be with people contradicting themselves?), I do like caramel with chocolate – and for the record – coffee as well. So when I came upon a rich chocolate cake studded with gooey pieces of tender caramel, I knew I had to get on it, pronto.
As I gathered ingredients, I was extra careful this time around. Right now there is a butter shortage in France. And in the rest of the world, vanilla has soared in price. Fortunately, I stocked up on butter, and buy vanilla by the quart, so I’m set for a while. But rather than feeling smug about it, for those of you that don’t regularly buy ten blocks of butter at a time, or keep five bottles of vanilla extract squirreled away in a locked safe, I pulled out my bottle of chocolate extract for this cake to offer up a complementary alternative. And I mean, complementary as in, they go well together. (Chocolate extract costs a fraction of what vanilla extract is going for these days, so it might feel like it’s free, even though technically, it’s not.)
I can’t help you in the butter department, if the shortage is affecting you, but chocolate extract is nice to have on hand, and certainly a more affordable alternative, and I like to use it along with vanilla extract when making chocolate desserts.
It doesn’t quite replace vanilla, which has its own, gloriously magnificent aroma; I’ve been known to dab a little under my nose when using it while baking because I like the smell so much. (And yes, I wash my hands with soap and water afterward…) But chocolate extract adds a few extra chocolate “notes” to chocolate cakes, tarts, ice cream, and other chocolate desserts.
I spotted this cake in a French cooking magazine, but tweaked a few things, including doubling the number of caramels and adding a bit of extract to it.
Europeans don’t add vanilla to things with the same abandon as Americans, and usually use arôme vanille (vanilla in a glucose base), or packets of vanilla sugar, rather than vanilla extract, which is alcohol-based. And of course, there is artificial vanilla, which should be avoided everywhere.
The result is a cake with lots of chocolate flavor, with pools of soft caramel poking through the top. I was considering serving it with a scoop of ice cream, or crème anglaise.
But as it sat on the counter, with a knife conveniently alongside it – well, like most good cakes, passersby (namely, me and Romain) lopped off pieces when we passed it…and before I knew it, it was gone. You might have better luck around it, but I wouldn’t bet on it.