Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vanilla Bean Cake with Caramel, Pecans, and
Chocolate Ganache

Over the weekend I baked a birthday cake for a friend. She wanted chocolate ganache and caramel on vanilla cake. I knew I would use a whole vanilla bean in the cake, but I didn't have a tried and true vanilla cake recipe. So after some searching I decided to try a vanilla buttermilk cake from smitten kitchen. You can find the recipe here: http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/07/project-wedding-cake-the-cake-is-baked/

This is the vanilla cake recipe she used to make a friends wedding cake and claimed that it was one of the best vanilla cakes to come out of her kitchen. Based on that statement I knew this was the cake I would make. I needed a cake that would hold up well when layered with ganache and caramel. I was a little nervous because the cake recipe was different from most because it didn't call for creaming the sugar and butter together and then adding the eggs. The recipe combines all of the dry ingredients, then the liquid ingredients, and lastly the eggs are folded in by hand. I followed the recipe except I ommited the 2 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract and used a whole vanilla bean instead. The cake did not rise much at all and resulted in moist, light colored cake flecked with vanilla. The cakes baked perfectly even and there was no need to level the cakes.

After the cakes were baked I made the caramel and chocolate ganache. I found recipes for both on the bon appetit web site. The recipes are here: http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/2008/09/chocolate_cake_with_fleur_de_sel_caramel_filling

This cake sounds so amazing! I will definitely be making this again with chocolate cake for myself. I followed the recipes for the caramel and the ganache and used it as a guide for assembling the cake. I've never made caramel before, so my first batch was disasterous. The smoke from the burning sugar set off the smoke detector and left the caramel a deep rusty color. I thought it would be okay, but after tasting it I realized there was no salvaging this burnt bitter concoction. Round two resulted in perfect golden caramel that tasted rich and buttery. You really have to watch the sugar changing color. My pots are dark so it was hard to see the amber color until it was too late.
The chocolate ganache was simple enough; heat the cream, then pour it over the chocolate , and allow the chocolate to soften before stirring until smooth. I made the cake, caramel, and ganache a day ahead and saved the assembly for the next day when the cake was being picked up. Yes, picked up. I was making the cake for someone else and didn't actually get to try it. Like I said before, I will definitely be making this cake again....very soon.

For the assembly I placed one layer of the cake on a board and topped it with chocolate ganache. I then filled a pastry bag with ganache and with a round tip I piped a ring around the cake creating a well in the center. Next I poured the caramel into the well and sprinkled chopped pecans onto the caramel. The second layer is then place on top and repeated with ganache, caramel, and pecans. The third cake layer is then put on top and covered with the ganache. Finally, I iced the sides with the ganache and coated the sides in the chopped pecans. How could this be bad? Put the cake in the refrigerator to firm up and take out for 30 minutes before cutting. Once the cake is cut the caramel will ooze out and create a gooey sauce for the cake. Yum!

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  1. Kristin, What a wonderful site! The cake sounds incredible. I didn't realize we had another in the family!

  2. Oops.....I meant to say "another WRITER" in the family.