From Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott (2007). As a child, I loved caramel cake which my mother only served on birthdays. Caramel cake came from Carl’s Pastries, the tempting bakery on Central Avenue, or from the Curb Market, or perhaps from a lady who baked and iced the square cakes in her home.
The next time I enjoyed caramel cake was on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, where another lady named “Miss Dot” baked caramel cakes for Formy’s Barbecue. For once in my life, the barbecue played second fiddle to the dessert.
I know that this caramel cake is not a real caramel cake–see any of several recipes such as Kathleen Purvis’ that involve caramelizing white sugar rather than using brown sugar. It is instead a cake with a brown sugar fudge glaze. Be that as it may, this cake tastes just like the heavenly caramel cake of my childhood.
The recipe uses 9-inch round cake pans. To really duplicate the Staunton caramel cake, square cake pans would be needed.
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1 cup milk
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Combine the butter and milk in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the butter melts. Stir well and let cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and stir with a fork to mix well. In a large bowl, combine the eggs and sugar and beat well at high speed in a mixer, scraping down the bowl often, until light yellow, smooth, and thick.
Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture, mixing only until the flour disappears. Add the cooled milk-butter mixture and the vanilla. Stir well and divide the batter between the prepared pans.
Bake at 325°F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cakes are a pale golden brown, spring back when touched lightly in the center, and begin to pull away from the sides of the pans.
Cool in the pans for 10 minutes on wire racks or folded kitchen towels. Then turn out the cakes onto wire racks or plates to cool completely, top side up.
One 1-pound box (about 2 2/3 cups) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
7 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Have the cake layers handy and ready for frosting so that you can spread the warm frosting quickly once it is ready.
In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, evaporated milk, and vanilla. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir well and adjust the heat so that the frosting boils and bubbles gently. Cook for 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
Beat the warm icing with a wooden spoon until it thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Place a cake layer, top side down, on a cake stand or serving platter. Quickly spread some icing over the top, and cover it with the second cake layer, top side up. Ice the top quickly and spread the remaining icing over the sides.
If the icing becomes too hard to spread, warm gently over low heat, add a spoonful or two of evaporated milk, and scrape and stir well until the icing softens enough to spread again. Dip a table knife in very hot water to help soften and smooth out the icing once it is spread.