When it comes to birthday cakes, I’m a baker, not a buyer. Sometimes I wish I was a buyer, because it would make life MUCH more simple. But no. I like to set myself a challenge, because I’m one of those annoying perfectionist types that couldn’t possibly be happy with a cake from Sainsburys.
Every year when The Boy Next Door’s birthday is approaching, you’ll find me in deep concentration, scrolling through a gazillion cake photos on Pinterest. Damn you Pinterest, why are there so many options!?
The first birthday cake I ever made for TBND was this one right here: Ninja Turtle Cake, followed by this one the following year: Instagram Photo Cake. I knew I wasn’t going down the character cake route again, WAAAAAY too much effort, so in the end I settled on a Caramel Popcorn Cake. Cake, popcorn, and salted caramel, how could I possibly go wrong?
What I didn’t factor in was how long this cake would take to make and decorate. How long you ask? FOR-LIKE-EVER! Like a whole freakin’ Friday. That’s how long. (Five hours to be exact).
So if you think you’re going to take on this Caramel Popcorn Cake challenge, I have some words of advice. Although I’ve shared the complete recipe I used to make the cake below, I would suggest buying Salted Caramel Sauce rather than making it, and ditching the Meringue Buttercream for regular ol’ Buttercream Frosting (I actually think it tastes better, and it’s so much easier!). That will hopefully save you a bit of time. And if you don’t want to pay for two 6 inch cake tins, just divide the batter in two, and bake one cake at a time, this will however SLOW down the process. It’s a no win situation, but it’s worth it in the end!
You may have read in my earlier posts on How to Make Chocolate Golden Eggs and Wonka Bar & Golden Ticket Invitations that I had a Willy Wonka theme going on with this birthday. Obviously the cake has nothing to do with Charlie or the chocolate factory, we just happen to both like salted caramel and popcorn a lot, but this will at least explain why you see Golden Eggs and Performing Baboons in the above photo!
Performing baboons. Yes that is correct. Remember that spoilt child called Veruca Salt? Yeah? Well in her song I Want It Now she sings ‘Pink macaroons and a million balloons and performing baboons, give it to me noooooooow!’
That also explains all the balloons. That and the fact that balloons are a compulsory part of birthday celebrations.
Golden Eggs, yep you’re getting the idea now. ‘Gooses! Geeses! I want a goose to lay golden eggs for Easter! At least a hundred a day! And by the way…..’ I LOVE VERUCA!
After card and present opening it was time to turn our attention back to the cake.
There she is! Ain’t she pretty?
Candles blown out and wishes made, it was time to get down to business, and cut into that thing! Cake for breakfast. Also compulsory on birthday’s, just like balloons.
Good luck on your Caramel Popcorn Cake baking!
CARAMEL POPCORN CAKE WITH CARAMEL BUTTERCREAM
270g plain flour
60g cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
340g granulated sugar
157ml strong hot coffee
150ml double cream
225g granulated sugar
100g cold butter, in cubes
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
CARAMEL SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
4 egg whites
180g granulated sugar
250g butter, at room temperature, cut in cubes
1/3 cup caramel (recipe above)
1 bag of salted microwave popcorn, or make your own
2/3 cup caramel
1. Preheat the oven to 175°c. Grease two 6-inch (15 cm) baking tins with butter.
2. Melt the butter and leave it to cool.
3. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and sugar into a large bowl. Add the eggs, milk, coffee and butter and stir until the batter is smooth.
4. Divide the batter between the baking tins and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the tins before turning them out onto a rack.
1. Heat the cream on a low heat in a small saucepan. Set aside.
2. Put the sugar in another saucepan and heat on medium high until the sugar melts.
3. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the warm cream a little at a time and stir until smooth. Stir in the salt.
4. Pour the caramel into a jar and let it cool to room temperature.
CARAMEL SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
1. Pour the egg whites and sugar into a heat proof bowl (preferably stainless steel or glass) and put the bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water in the pan, but sits slightly above.
2. Whisk the sugar and eggs constantly until the sugar has melted and the mixture is hot to the touch.
3. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat until white and fluffy with a stand or electric mixer. This will take 5-10 minutes.
4. When the bowl has cooled down, start adding the butter, piece by piece. The mixture may look curdled but just keep beating until smooth. Add the caramel and beat until combined.
1. Preheat oven to 150°c.
2. Make the popcorn according to the instructions on the bag.
2. Put the popcorn and the caramel in a bowl and stir until the popcorn is coated with caramel.
3. Spread the popcorn in a single layer on a baking tray covered with baking paper.
4. Bake the popcorn for 15 minutes, stirring a couple of times. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
1. If the cakes have a rounded top, cut the tops off with a knife.
2. Cut both cake layers in half using a sharp serrated knife or a cake cutter if you have one (if you don’t, buy one!, they’re amazing).
3. Place the first layer on a cake board or a cake stand and spread some buttercream on.
4. Add the next layer and repeat until you’ve used up all the layers.
5. Spread a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake using a spatula (metal, not plastic). This is a crumb coating, so don’t panic when it doesn’t look pretty.
6. Put the cake in the fridge for about 10 minutes or until the crumb coating layer has firmed up a bit.
7. Spread the remaining buttercream all over the cake until cake is smooth. To help with the smoothness, I dip my spatula in a glass of warm water, dry it and then smooth out the butter cream with each pass.
8. Carefully place the popcorn on top of the cake and pour the remaining caramel sauce over.