Finally Following the Trend – Salted Caramel Brownies

Have you ever noticed how similar the food world is to the fashion world? Certain foods become really trendy just like certain designs and patterns. For example, cupcakes were all the rage several years ago and bacon desserts were pretty hot for a while. I remember a few years ago, salted caramel was super popular. All over the food blogosphere, you’d see recipes for salted caramel ice cream, salted caramel cupcakes, and of course, salted caramels. However, I distinctly remember seeing recipes for salted caramel brownies pop up the most (or maybe I just gravitated to brownie recipes back then).

After making the Salted Caramel Chocolate Ganache cake, I had a LOT of salted caramel leftover. To use it up, I decided to finally follow the trend and make those salted caramel brownies that I’d seen so many times before on food blogs. I saw this recipe from She Makes, She Bakes and loved how chockfull of caramel the brownies are. Apparently, the trick to getting a thick layer of caramel is to partly bake half of the batter first, then top it with caramel and the rest of the brownie batter, and bake the brownies again.

I had a little difficulty spreading the rest of the brownie batter on top of the caramel, so some caramel was peeking out from the edges. While the brownies were baking, I noticed the exposed caramel bubbled up a bit. Fortunately, it didn’t burn… although apparently, burnt caramel is rather popular too (or at least, it’s a popular ice cream flavor in the Bay Area). I also lucked out with putting parchment paper on the bottom of the pan, which made clean up much easier.

My brownies didn’t have as thick of a layer of caramel as I’d like, but they still tasted delicious. They were fairly rich, but not so rich that you had to eat them with a glass of milk (though, washing them down with milk was definitely satisfying). A quick tip: topping the brownies with sea salt helped bring out the flavors of the caramel and chocolate.

Also, these brownies were a bit more fudgy than I’d like. This might have been due to me using buttermilk in the place of eggs since we had run out… oops! But nonetheless, they were extremely delicious. In fact, they were so good that a whole plate of brownies was completely gone after only a few hours. So make sure you eat one because these brownies will disappear super fast!

This is a bit off-topic, but look how awesome these brownies look in natural light! I baked them at night, but didn’t photograph them until the next morning. The natural lighting made a huge difference. If you haven’t noticed already, I’m guilty of using instagram for a lot of my photos (don’t judge me too harshly… I just really like some of the filters!) since I think instagram makes them look better. However, with this natural lighting, the filters didn’t really make much of a difference because the pictures were already so beautiful. For instance, take the photo above. The rays of sunlight peeking through my kitchen window add a nice vintage-y feel to it, don’t you think?

Salted Caramel Brownies
Adapted from She Makes, She Bakes

1/2 cup butter
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped
3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs (or 1 cup of buttermilk/milk if you run out of eggs like I did!)
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt

Salted Caramel (leftover from this recipe or just follow the original recipe)

1. Melt the stick of butter in the microwave and add the chocolate. Stir the chocolate and butter together. Microwave the mixture for another 30 seconds and stir. Repeat until fully melted.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla until incorporated. Add in the butter and chocolate mixture and mix until thick and glossy (about a minute). Stir in the flour and table salt until just combined.
3. Line a 9×9 pan with aluminum foil (I used parchment paper), leaving a few inches hanging over the sides (this foil will turn into handles to lift the brownies out of the pan later). Spray the foil generously with nonstick spray, paying special attention to the corners and sides. (This isn’t needed if you use parchment paper.)
4. Pour half of the brownie mixture into the pan and spread to corners. Bake for 20 minutes and let cool for 20 minutes.
5. Pour the caramel over the cooked brownies and spread to the corners.
6. Pour the rest of the brownie mixture evenly over the caramel (be careful not to just dump all of the batter in the center) and spread to the corners.
7. Sprinkle 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of sea salt on top of the brownie batter.
8. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the center is set.
9. Cool completely before lifting the foil out of the pan.
10. Top the cooled brownies with coarse sea salt and devour!

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Impressing Foodies – Salted Caramel Chocolate Ganache Cake

I’m very lucky to have a group of friends who love to cook and bake as much as I do. Having these common interests makes it a lot easier to get along with them and share my experieinces. However, it’s a little more challenging when you want to cook or bake something for people who love food as much as you do. Take my friend’s boyfriend for instance. He’s a self-proclaimed foodie who cooks and bakes much fancier things than I do. In fact, he wooed my friend with a three-course meal on one of their first dates. (Which reminds me, I need to find a guy like that.)

Anyways, his birthday was coming up and she wanted to make him something impressive. We all know he loves salted caramel and chocolate ganache, so once I found this recipe from Bon Appetit, I knew it was the perfect cake for him. This cake is the definition of richness with two layers of chocolate cake filled with chocolate ganache and salted caramel. It was definitely the hardest cake I’ve made so far since it had so many components.

The first layer topped with chocolate ganache and salted caramel

Since my experiences with caramel haven’t been that great, I was a bit worried about making the salted caramel. It’s really easy to burn caramel, so keep an eye on it when it’s cooking on the stove. Since my friend and I were both a little paranoid about burning caramel, we may have took it off the stove a bit too early. So, the caramel wasn’t as thick as we wanted. To drive off some liquid, we kept it on the stove on low heat for about 15-20 minutes. After that, the caramel was the perfect consistency.

Assembling the cake was both the funnest, but the messiest part. First, we spread a layer and piped a ring of chocolate ganache on top of one of the cake layers. Then, we filled with ring with a generous amount of salted caramel and placed the second cake layer on top. Lastly, we frosted the cake with chocolate ganache and decorated it with toasted almonds and drizzles of salted caramel.

The cake was decadent and delicious, but extremely rich. So much that I could only take a few bites at a time. You’ll definitely want to have a glass of milk nearby to help wash down the cake. The caramel could have been slightly saltier, so don’t be afraid to add more salt. If you’re looking for a rich, decadent cake, definitely try this one. However, be warned, it’s a fair amount of work, but it’s definitely worth it in the end.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Ganache Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit

For the cake:
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup hot water
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee
1 1/4 cups almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped

For the caramel filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 stick unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Large pinch of fine fleur de sel (we used fine sea salt)

For the chocolate ganache:
1 1/2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 cups heavy whipping cream

For the chocolate cake:
1. Mix the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl.
2. Add the milk, eggs, and melted butter and beat at low speed until blended.
3. Increase the speed and beat for 2 minutes.
4. Dissolve espresso powder in 1 cup hot water and add to the batter.
5. Beat until blended (batter will be thin) and divide batter between 2 pans greased and lined with parchment paper.
6. Bake the cakes at 350F until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on racks 10 minutes.
7. Flip the cakes onto cooling racks. Peel off parchment and cool completely.

For the caramel filling:
1. Stir sugar, 1/4 cup water, and corn syrup in deep medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves.
2. Increase heat to medium; cover pan and cook 4 minutes.
3. Uncover the pan and increase the heat to high.
4. Boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber.
5. Remove from heat and add cream (mixture will bubble). Then, whisk in butter, then sour cream, lemon juice, and pinch of sea salt/fleur de sel. (We noticed that our caramel was pretty thin still, so we left it on low heat for 15-20 minutes to thicken up.)
6. Let cool completely.

For the ganache:
1. Place chocolate in large bowl.
2. Bring cream to a simmer in medium saucepan.
3. Pour cream over chocolate and let chocolate soften for a minute. Whisk until chocolate is smooth. Cool, then cover and chill.

To assemble the cake:
1. Spoon 1/2 of the ganache into pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch plain round tip.
2. Pipe a ring of ganache around edge of layer.
3. Spread 1/2 of the caramel filling evenly inside ring.
4. Sprinkle the caramel with large pinch of fleur de sel and some almonds.
5. Top with second cake layer, ganache, ganache ring, caramel filling, fleur de sel, and almonds.
6. Spread remaining ganache over top and sides of cake. Press remaining almonds onto sides and drizzle with caramel. Basically, just decorate it how you want to.