Category Archives: Caramel Icing

Making Caramel Icing

I had a great time making this icing today. On the one hand there was the caramel, which I get all worked up about. Something about turning simple, one-dimensional ingredients like water, sugar and milk into a deep, dark, aromatic brew…it excites me. On the other there was the browning which the geek in me loved, created as it is by both caramelization and Maillard reactions. Put it all together and my little brain was lighting up like a Christmas tree.

Caramel icing takes a little bit of time. Not so much in the cooking but in the cooling and stirring. It took me a very worthwhile hour. I started by combining the sugar and water:

I swirled that over high heat until it was dark amber, then I added the butter.

I whisked it in — carefully — then added the corn syrup.

A little more whisking brought it all together.

Next I turned to the milk mixture. I combined the sugar, milk and baking soda in large stockpot (trust me you need one for this) and set it over medium heat.

I whisked that.

Then I added the caramel.

More whisking, then I left it it to boil up.

And boil up it did…it increased in volume about 300%. This is why you need a big pot!

After about 15 minutes it was close to temperature. I just stuck a digital thermometer right into the foam. Got a good reading.

When it reached 238 degrees Fahrenheit I took the pot off the heat. It settled down almost immediately, and I added the vanilla.

I whisked again and set it aside to cool.

After about 10 minutes I gave it a little whisk. It was quite thin.

Every 10 minutes for about 40 minutes or so I returned to the pot to whisk it some more. It kept getting thicker…

…and thicker, until it achieved a paste-like consistency that still flowed. Ready to pour on.

Oh yes, you can wait until it’s frosting-like if you want. Some people do, I prefer to pour it on like a medium-thick ganache. But, to each their own, no? The nice thing is that if it gets too thick you can always add a little heat to thin it back out a bit.

Filed under:  Caramel Icing, Pastry | 21 Comments

Caramel Cake Icing

This recipe is from Nathalie Dupree’s Southern Memories. The reason I like it is that it combines actual caramel with the highly unusual boiled-milk-and-soda technique that you find in the really old versions of the cake. The ever-so-slight grit of the cooled icing surprises many non-southerners, but it’s part of the aesthetic. This makes enough for a 3-layer cake. Cut it down if you aspire to a less grandiose confection. You’ll need:

2 lbs. 10 ounces (6 cups) sugar
2.5 ounces (1/3 cup) water
3 ounces (1/4 cup) light corn syrup
18 ounces (2 1/4 cups) milk
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1.5 ounces (3 tablespoons) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream for thinning (if needed)

Combine 1 cup of the sugar and the water in a small saucepan and swirl over high heat until it’s a dark amber color. Whisk in the butter (be careful, it will splatter), then stir in the corn syrup. Next combine the milk, baking soda and the remaining sugar in a large pot or Dutch oven. Set it over a medium-low flame and whisk it gently until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the caramel and raise the heat to medium-high, bringing it to the boil. Cook it over medium heat until it reaches 238 degrees Fahrenheit, as measured in the center of a pot. Remove the icing from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Cool it for 10 minutes, then stir it by hand until it reaches room temperature and starts losing its shine and it spreadable but not runny…15 to 20 minutes.

Filed under:  Caramel Icing, Pastry | 23 Comments