Caramel Koala Cracker Cake

I grew up in rural Illinois, jumping on the trampoline in my backyard to see above the cornfields, a good mile down to our neighbor’s house.  What’s beyond the horizon was always more appealing than where I was.  This hunger for leaping to the next thing has led me around the world to live in Tokyo, Chicago, Paris, Kyoto, and finally, New York.

I finally feel like I’m at the heart of where I’ve been striving to be for so long.  I’ve survived the University of Chicago and pastry school (somehow), hustled my way through food service jobs, and have found my place, at last, marrying digital media with my love for restaurants and branding.  I’m settling down in my new Prospect Heights neighborhood, finally in an apartment that I could picture staying in for more than a year.

It’s a good feeling, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t help but think what’s next?  Is this really where I’m supposed to be?

I made this sweet caramel layer cake a few weeks ago to celebrate a special birthday.  It’s a birthday cake that I would have loved as a kid.  It’s a birthday cake that makes me feel like a kid in the best way.  It’s a birthday cake that I’m going to make for my kid someday.  Focusing on this cake, I am content.

This two layer caramel cake is covered in a thick caramel, spread in lieu of frosting.  Each substantial layer is actually a full 6 inch cake!

By frosting the outside of the cake with a thin layer of caramel, you can adhere a Pocky fence border.  Carefully attach, and tie securely with a bow once complete.  After creating the cute fence, you can pile the top of the cake high with your favorite snacks.  I chose to use Koala Crackers, sweet potato wagashi, and Japanese Kitkats.

Scroll down for the recipe!

Caramel Koala Cracker Cake

For the Cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup salted caramel sauce

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans and set aside
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg yolks individually until smooth.  Add in the vanilla and caramel sauce and mix until combined.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
  4. Gradually add in half of the dry ingredients.  Slowly stream in the milk and mix until combined.  Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until the last streaks of flour disappear.  Mix on medium for no more than about 30 seconds.
  5. Evenly distribute the batter between the two pans.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Let cool for at least 10 minutes before removing the cakes from the pan.  Once the cakes have cooled, cut off the rounded tops of the cake, so that the cakes lay flatly on top of each other.

For the Icing

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 2 cans evaporated milk (12 ounces each)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Add butter, evaporated milk, and sugar to saucepan over medium heat until everything has melted together and is well incorporated.
  2. Leave over low heat stirring periodically for about 30 minutes (watch the entire time to make sure it does not burn until thickened.  The caramel should turn a golden brown color.)
  3. Make sure the caramel clings to the spoon – this is the perfect thickness.  Watch the pot closely, adjusting heat temperature to avoid burning.
  4. Remove from heat and add in vanilla extract.
  5. Cool for about 15 minutes to allow the caramel to thicken further before icing the cake.

Assembly:

After frosting the outside of the cake, adhere Pocky sticks to the edge while the caramel is still wet and pliable.  Tie with a bow.  Pile the cake high with your favorite sweet snacks!  My selection was procured in Manhattan’s Chinatown.  Koala Crackers never fail to put a smile on my face!

 

Sakura Branch Cookies: Happy Spring!

In honor of the first day of spring this past week, I made these cookies that mimic the spring branches that are swarming the sidewalks and shops in New York’s flower district right now.  I was delighted to stumble upon that part of town earlier this month… to my winter-weary eyes, it was proof that New York really has it all.

My first weekend of spring is shaping up to be pretty darn sweet.  I’m excited to attend the Dessert Goals festival.  Yes, the same festival that I went crazy for last autumn.  As the professionals say, dessert is always a good idea.  In addition to attending one of their food styling workshops on Saturday, I’ll be volunteering there on Sunday… anything to make the sugar-fueled dream last a little longer!  One day just isn’t enough, as I learned the hard way last year, racing to eat my way through sugary booth after oh-so-sugary booth.

There’s a fresh crop of vendors at the festival this spring, and I’m especially excited to sample the churros s’mores from Boqueria and the mini eclairs from Rare Bird Sweets.  Dessert Goals is without a doubt the best place to hunt down interesting new dessert mash-ups.

Just earlier this week, I was chatting with a friend about trying the Whole 30 diet… where you cut out dairy, sugar (gasp!), grains, and alcohol for 30 days.  What better time than the beginning of spring to infuse a little extra energy into my life?  I resolved to try it, but then, being honest with myself, decided that 30 days was not realistic and started considering a Hadley-customized “Whole 7” diet.

Nope, I still haven’t started that yet.  With Dessert Goals looming and with the Cherry Bombe Jubilee event on the horizon, it is truly my duty to abstain from healthy living, for the time being!

There will be plenty of time to go all-in later.  Balance truly is key, so for now, I’ll keep trying to inject my creations with fresh fruits and alternative ingredients.  I’ll save the Whole 7 low-down for another blog post.

Hope your spring is off to a gorgeous start, stay sweet!