I wanted to make a birthday cake for my friend Susan and her daughter's birthdays. I chose the chocolate cake recipe that I used for Dad's birthday because everyone love it and said it was the moistest cake they had ever eaten. It is an easy cake too, I don't even use my mixer for this one. I topped the cake with a homemade Salted Caramel sauce, which perfectly melded with the cake. I topped it all off with a vanilla bean meringue, which I was afraid would be too sweet. When it was all put together it was a perfect balance of flavors. Everyone loved it and between the seven of us we finished it off.
Here are the recipes for the Chocolate Cake (I halved the recipe and baked one 9" layer) and Salted Caramel Sauce . I overcooked the caramel and it came out tasting slightly burnt. It isn't noticeable with the cake but I would not go by the temp on the recipe. Mine never got that hot and still tasted burnt. I think you are fine to just cook your sugar till it just starts to turn amber and then add your cream.
Vanilla Bean Meringue
Half of a recipe from Sugar Baby (an awesome book)
5 Egg Whites
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Vanilla bean, seeds scraped from pod
1/2 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
In the bowl of an electric mixer add egg whites, sugar, salt, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla extract. Place the bowl over a bain-marie (a simmering saucepan of water). Clip on a candy thermometer and whisk constantly until the sugar has completely dissolved (I stick two fingers in and rub to see if I feel any granules) and the temperature has reached 160 degrees F. Immediately transfer the bowl to the mixer and whisk on high until the mixture holds soft peaks and the bowl no longer feels hot to the touch.
At the end of this step you have meringue. You could go on to make Swiss Buttercream but I stopped here and topped my cake with meringue then toasted it with my torch. Even though this was a half recipe I had a lot leftover and didn't do anything with it fast enough and it separated. What a waste of Vanilla Bean! I should have made Meringue cookies with what was left, or made an even smaller batch.
A coworker asked for some brownies for her birthday, because I had made them for her baby shower. So I made the famous Baked Brownies and topped them with caramel sauce about 2/3 of the way through baking. Another winning combo! My coworkers gobbled them up.