30 April 2015

Grandma's Little Yellow Cake - Caramel Icing

Grandma's Little Yellow Cake - Caramel Icing / www.delightfulrepast.com

This was my Southern grandmother's basic Little Yellow Cake when she wasn't getting fancy with a layer cake. The "little black dress" of cakes, it can be accessorized lots of ways, and she had four toppings she used for it at various times: caramel icing, chocolate icing, broiled coconut or streusel.

My husband prefers the chocolate icing, but I just had to have caramel. Some cooks shy away from making caramel because it's one of those things with a bit of a mystique about it. But, truly, it is so easy. Sometimes I start with regular granulated sugar, but this one is made with dark brown sugar and couldn't be easier. 

The cake is a tender yellow cake that starts with the butter being cut, or rubbed, into the flour mixture as if making biscuits. Grandma was constantly making biscuits, so she always had buttermilk on hand. I don't always have it, so I just use milk soured with cider vinegar, as shown below.

This got me thinking about Grandma's kitchen (especially since I just wrote about My Kitchen). She had a tiny, and I mean teeny tiny, kitchen that was always neat as a pin. Never a dish in the sink or anything left on the counter. Her kitchen equipment was so limited, she would be goggle-eyed with wonderment to step into my kitchen. And yet her cooking was not limited. Go figure. 


Grandma's Little Yellow Cake - Caramel Icing / www.delightfulrepast.com


Grandma's Little Yellow Cake with Caramel Icing 

(Makes one 9-inch/23-cm round or one 8-inch/20-cm square layer) 

The Cake 

1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Enough milk to make 1 cup (8 fluid ounces/237 ml)
1 1/4 dip-and-sweep cups (6.25 ounces/177 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 dip-and-sweep cup (1.25 ounces/35 grams) cornstarch
3/4 cup (5.25 ounces/149 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


The Caramel Icing 

1 cup (8 fluid ounces/237 ml) heavy cream
1/2 packed cup (4.25 ounces/120 grams) dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 


1 Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas4. Grease well and lightly flour one 9-inch round or 8-inch square pan; you can skip the flour if you're going to serve it directly from the pan as I did this time. Measure vinegar into 1-cup glass measure; add enough milk to make 1 cup. Stir and let stand about 5 minutes while you proceed.

2 In mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in the butter as if making biscuits. Add soured milk, eggs and vanilla. With electric mixer, mix on low speed for 30 seconds to combine, then on medium speed for 1 minute. 

3 Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

4 Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on rack for an hour. Grandma usually just served this cake directly from the pan, and that's what I did here. 

5 After the cake has been cooling for 45 minutes, put the cream, sugar and salt in a heavy-bottomed 1.5-quart saucepan and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Then boil without stirring until the caramel registers about 232F/111C to 240F/115C on an instant-read* thermometer, about 10 to 12 minutes. 

You could use a candy thermometer that clips to the pan, but since I'm not a candy fan I don't have one of those. I use my Thermapen for everything!

6 Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Pour onto cake and immediately spread it to cover cake; the caramel sets up very quickly.  

38 comments:

Angie Schneider said...

The cake itself looks already very good and the caramel icing makes it even more tempting!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Angie, thank you! Of course, I really miss eating it in my grandma's little kitchen!

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

4 to 1. That’s my ratio of frosting to yellowcake (not the uranium). Have been known to leave a caramel frosted yellowcake looking like a giant yellow sponge. There’s an art to removing the frosting with tongue or fork. But I have to admit your cakes always look moist enough to…um, eat. Tell your husband that chocolate is good, but he really needs to get with the program…

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

I'll tell him right now! And you can march right into the kitchen and whip up a little pan of the caramel!

Bernideen said...

Oh yumminess! This cake looks so moist and fresh! Great recipe - thanks for linking!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Bernideen, thank you. My number one consideration with all things I bake is how well it goes with a cup of tea!

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

Jean, This cake looks wonderful and with caramel icing--Yum! I'll have to say my husband prefers chocolate icing as well--but caramel sounds divine. I love the story about your Grandmother's kitchen! ♥

Cranberry Morning said...

That looks delicious, Jean. My aunt used to make a similar cake with boiled chocolate frosting, which we kids would peel off, roll up, and eat before we ate our cake. :-)) The caramel topping would be great too!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Martha, thank you. I love telling a little about my grandmothers in my blog!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Judy! I'm going to look into that "peelable/rollable" boiled chocolate frosting--it's a new one on me!

Amy at love made my home said...

I love anything caramel!!! xx

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Amy, I do too! Yet until I was about 25, I preferred chocolate. Not any more!

kitty@ Kitty's Kozy Kitchen said...

Yes please, I'd love a slice of Grandma's recipe for yellow cake! That would be the perfect ending for me this evening, Jean.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Kitty, thank you! Wish I had a piece right now myself!

Elsie said...

I want some of this with a glass of cold, creamy milk to go with!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Elsie, that *does* sound good! I can't think of the last time I had a glass of milk with cake, but I just might do that next time.

Sandi@ Rose Chintz Cottage said...

Your cake looks delightful, especially frosted with caramel! My grandmother had a huge kitchen with a pantry off that. But then she had a big house. She was quite the cook and there was always something delicious cooking or baking in her kitchen. So many lovely memories! Thanks for sharing.

Blessings,
Sandi

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Sandi, thanks for sharing lovely memories of your grandmother. I love grandmother stories!

Swathi Iyer said...

Looks delicious, I need to try it just for icing, Grandma are always best cooks Jean. This is one is really tempting.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Swathi, thank you. I hope you like it as much as we do!

Stephanie said...

Oh my, this cake looks divine! Thank you SO much for sharing the delicious recipe, my friend :) And how precious that it's your sweet grandmother's recipe.

Thank you for the lovely visit to my blog - your comments are always a joy. Hugs!

Bonnie said...

I love simple cakes. They are not as intimidating yet a wonderful treat. I love the comparison to the "LBD". Thanks for sharing.... Have a wonderful weekend!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Stephanie, thank you! And she really was sweet. My other grandmother was wonderful, too, but I don't think anyone would've called her sweet! :D

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Bonnie, you're the first person to comment on the "LBD"! Thank you!

Kate @ Framed Cooks said...

Grandma's recipes are the best! I have a molasses cookie recipe from my grandmother that I treasure. Thanks for this one!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Kate! I'll check that out.

Kristi @ Inspiration Kitchen said...

OMGosh Jan - this looks absolutely amazing. My mouth watered when I saw it. It looks so moist and addictive!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Kristi, thank you! Yes, it probably is addictive -- why can't I get addicted to something like poached fish!

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

Yellow cake with caramel icing sounds perfect to me. I love that this is your grandmother's "little black dress" of cakes!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Bianca, thank you! Glad you liked that. Funny thing, neither of my grandmothers were "LBD" women (but I am)!

April J Harris said...

I love how you describe this cake as the "little black dress of cakes". It's so deliciously versatile with the different icings - I would definitely try to caramel first as well! The cake looks so tender and lovely. Isn't it amazing how some of our grandmas made do with so much less and yet it never seemed to hold them back?! Thank you for sharing with us at the Hearth and Soul hop. Pinned and will tweet!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thank you, April! AND thank you for pinning and tweeting - much appreciated.

Sippity Sup said...

I'm guilty of having too much kitchen and too much kitchen stuff. I guess our grandmas really did live in a "simpler time". GREG

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Greg, I do *try* to live simply -- and in many ways I succeed -- but kitchen stuff seems to be my weakness!

Miz Helen said...

Hi Jean,
What a delightful cake, it looks delicious! Hope you are having a great week and thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
Come Back Soon!
Miz Helen

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Miz Helen! Hope you have a great week!

Brooks said...

My grandmother had a tiny kitchen too, minimal gadgets, and put out meals and baked goods like nobody's business. I miss the conventional ways of yesteryear, but a treasured recipe like this keeps the memory close by.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thank you so much, Brooks! Wouldn't your grandmother be dazzled by your new kitchen!

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