Treat – {Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake}

Over the summer, I spent a lot of time in a coffee shop in the historic downtown of Sandusky, Ohio. At the time, I was living Cedar Point’s employee housing with five other girls. We had neither air conditioning nor the ability to make the amount of ice necessary for the six of us to function on a day-to-day basis, so going out during the day was simply the way I adapted to survive.

Fortunately for me, my favorite haunt had fair prices. I’d hunker down with an over-sized and iced cup of whatever about three times a week at one of their tables, chatting up strangers while goosebumps appeared over my tired and oft weeping skin. The sound of the ice sloshing around in my plastic cup alone was well-worth the $3.50ish they charged for a drink. Calculated out, it would only take 28 minutes on the clock in the blistering sun to earn back the cost of that relief, so I couldn’t justify denying myself such a simple treat. It’s very American of me, I know, but I friggin’ needed that iced whatever, ok? With it came Wi-Fi, peace, companionship if I wanted it and a break from that God-awful Cedar Point housing.

I almost felt like I was robbing the place.

But, fast forward to today, and going out for a drink – a non-alcoholic one – seems so lavish and unnecessary that just the very thought of doing so makes me feel guilty.

That $3.50 could pay for 2.8% of a book for next semester. Or a little over an hour to park on campus. Or laundry. Or food.

Yes, I know that $3.50’s not a lot of money, but the thought of “wasting” it on a frou-frou indulgence like a fancy coffee that I am totally capable of making on my own for less is hard to fathom.

So instead of stopping at a local joint on my way home from work or class, I drop my bag at the door and brew my own pot of coffee (or pawn some off S now that dearest H has moved away with her single-serve coffee maker). Maybe I’ll heat up some soy milk and whisk it to a foam on the stove. Perhaps I’ll tip in an extract or spoil myself with a splash of cream. Whatever the method, my most favorite mug is filled and I’m on my way to the next thing on my list: class, work, homework… Whatever.

Momentarily I’ll be pleased with myself; having not yet mastered the art of garnishing my brew with designs, my drinks may be plain, but they’re also custom made to suit my tastes. For mere cents, I’ve created a fancy pants cup of whatever. Huzzah.

But, as I’ve recently realized, it never comes close to what I get from a coffee shop. Taste, of course, comes close, but the trouble is that I can’t enjoy my drinks quite so much at home. Surrounded by books and laundry and occasional disorder, curling up to relax with a latte on my couch (yes, I own one now) just… Can’t happen.

And so, with this realization, I’ve come to accept the fact that going out for coffee is worth the $3ish every once in awhile. It’s not quite a need like I was convinced it was over the summer, but it’s certainly a want that I’m comfortable allowing myself if the undeniable urge rears its head.

Because sometimes, especially during finals week, it’s fair to treat yo’self.

Wouldn’t you agree?

P.S. Fear not parents – I’m not gonna blow tons of money on coffee!

P.P.S. Also, I love you guys:)

Sweet and Salty Cake via Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
This cake is definitely a labor of love. But, for me, it was as much of a treat to make as it was to eat! I’ve made this cake 3 times and it gets better and better with each bite. To make a four layer cake, I halved only the cake recipe and poured it into two 6″ pans, then cut each in half before assembling.

Printable Recipe

Salted Caramel

1/4 c (60 ml) water
1/2 c (100 g) sugar
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 c (60 ml) heavy cream
1/2 tsp fleur de sel
1/8 c (30 ml) sour cream

Combine the water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan with tall sides, stirring to combine. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture reaches 350F on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the cream and salt. Bring to a boil and cook until salt has dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the cream from the heat and set aside.

When the caramel has reached 350F, remove it from heat and allow to cool for 1 minute. Carefully add half of the hot cream to the caramel (it will bubble) and whisk quickly to combine. Add the remaining half and whisk to combine. Whisk in sour cream.

Cool the caramel completely and store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

Whipped Caramel Ganache

1/4 c (60 ml) water
1 c (100 g) sugar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 lb (454 g) dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 c (180 ml) heavy cream
2 c (473 g) butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, softened but still cool

Combine water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan with tall sides, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the mixture reaches 350F on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

In another small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

When the caramel mixture has reached 350F, remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 minute. Carefully add half of the hot cream to the caramel and whisk to combine. Carefully whisk in the remaining caramel and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Place the chocolate in the bowl of an electric mixer and pour the slightly cooled caramel sauce over the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute. Slowly begin stirring the mixture, but hand, from the center out until the chocolate is melted and smoothed.

Attach bowl to an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and run on low until the bottom of the bowl is room temperature when touched from the outside. Add butter and increase speed to medium-high, beating until mixture is well combined, thickened, and slightly whipped, about 2 minutes.

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

3/4 c (67 g) cocoa powder
1 1/4 c (296 ml) water, hot
2/3 c (156 ml) sour cream
2 2/3 (378 g) c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c (177 g) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c (104 g) vegetable shortening
1 1/2 c (300 g) granulated sugar
1 c dark (142 g) brown sugar
3 eggs, room temp
1 Tbsp pure vanilla

Preheat oven to 325F. Oil and line three 8″ x 2″ round cake pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa, water and sour cream. Set them aside to cool, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

In another large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Fit your electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat the butter and shortening together until very smooth, about 7 minutes. Add both the brown sugar and white sugar, then continue beating until light and fluffy, about 7 additional minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat each until very well incorporated before adding the next, scraping the bowl often. Add the vanilla, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and mix again for 30 seconds. Add flour mixture alternating with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Divide the batter evenly (using a scale, if you like!) among the three prepared pans. Bake until the cake is just firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes in the pan on a rack, then de-pan and cool to room temp. For the sake of trimming the cakes, I like to refrigerate the layers, well wrapped in plastic wrap, immediately after removing them from the pan. If you’re not too worried about crumbs, feel free to skip that step.


Salted Caramel
Whipped Caramel Ganache
Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

Using a serrated knife, trim the tops of cakes to make them level. Place the first layer on the cake plate. Using half of the caramel, spread a thin layer on the cake. Top the caramel with a layer of about 1 cup of the ganache icing. Add the second layer of cake on top and repeat the process with another layer of caramel followed by a layer of ganache icing. Place the remaining layer on top of the second layer with the bottom side on top. Frost the entire cake with the remaining ganache and garnish with fleur de sel.


  1. Jessica F says

    The cake looks beautiful! <br /><br />I was just talking with my mom today about spending money at coffee shops. It&#39;s finals week for me and that means some serious studying needs to happen, for long periods of time, and without losing my wits and going crazy(er). Coffee shops are perfect for studying because you are treating yourself to something special, so it&#39;s more fun to study. You

  2. says

    Oh my goodness, the whipped caramel ganache is calling to me… I&#39;ll probably dream about it tonight. Definitely going on my to-make list.<br /><br />:)<br />ButterYum

  3. says

    This sounds delicious Kaitlin, and yes, I know exactly what you mean about going out for coffee — it always seems so frivolous, but you can&#39;t put a price on an hour&#39;s relaxation, in my books.

  4. says

    Best of luck to all who have finals. We all need that bit of extra special splurge every once in awhile. But, have to say this cake, WOW!, its just the bling I need for Christmas. THANKS a MILLION!

  5. says

    Oh I am in LOVE with this cake – it&#39;s everything I love about desserts and more, and look at all those gorgeous layers. Salted caramel is probably the best invention ever :-)

  6. says

    I don&#39;t recall how I found your site but I absolutely love it. You are an inspired bakeress and it is sheer joy to read these posts. I am a huge fan of your recipes and glad you have the time (trust me, time will only become a more fickle and fleeting friend) to make such beautiful creations and share them. :)

  7. says

    I just stumbled onto this post through Pinterest and now I&#39;m your newest follower. Seriously, you have to be my new favorite blog simply because of this post and the fact that you linked Treat Yo&#39;Self into it. I am dying! Hope you&#39;ll stop by my little blog someday!<br /><br />Shannon @ Imperfectly-Inspired

  8. says

    Sandusky, Ohio reminds me of Tommy Boy. And that reminds me of M&amp;M&#39;s. And that reminds me of classic blue convertible cars with elk horns sticking out. WHich has NOTHING to do with this cake… But your cake, like always, looks AMAZING!!!!!!!

  9. says

    I&#39;m not the most skilled baker in the world… but this is calling to me like no other. I might just jump into the kitchen tomorrow, roll up my sleeves, and make this!

  10. Anonymous says

    I love reading your blog with my 3 year old and will be making the Super Epic Rainbow for his 4th birthday coming up {per his request!}. I have a husband with massive food allergies and I can manage all the replacements I would need to make this cake except the caramel. Is there any other way to make caramel aside from corn syrup? stephenny

  11. says

    I&#39;m thrilled you guys like the cake so much! Thank you!<br /><br />Jessica F, I totally agree! <br /><br />JLL24 – awesome!! I hope your fam loves it :) <br /><br />Karla, such a sweet comment. Thank you!<br /><br />Shannon – I&#39;m so happy you enjoyed the reference! <br /><br />Ashlye-Jane, I emailed you :) <br /><br />Anonymous – That&#39;s adorable! Fortunately, you can omit the corn

  12. says

    Heh, I was just telling the boy the other day that he needs to &#39;treat yo&#39;self&#39; more often. Such a great line :) The cake looks awesome by the way. I&#39;ve had that recipe bookmarked for ages. It looks like such a tour de force that I haven&#39;t gotten round to making it yet. Oh and like you, I&#39;ve also come to the conclusion that bad coffee is an evil thing. If it&#39;s expensive

  13. says

    I love the &quot;Baked&quot; books as well – both of them. I think I&#39;ve managed to make most of the layer cakes in both books at this point.<br /><br />Are you an MSU student? My Alma Mater!!

  14. says

    Y, I agree! I couldn&#39;t stop laughing during that episode :) You should definitely make the cake! I swear to you that it&#39;s worth the effort :)<br /><br />Mackenzie, I&#39;m so glad you agree! This is my favorite cake in terms of flavor. NOM!<br /><br />Princess Polkadot, I&#39;m working on that! Their books are truly amazing. I wish I could visit the actual bakery. And yes – I&#39;m a

  15. mrsmchiney says

    How hard would it be to scale this up for a bigger crowd? Doubling the cake recipe would make two 11×8&quot; pans (I think). Would just doubling everything else be enough? I can&#39;t wait to try it!

  16. says

    Hey Mrs. Mchiney, <br /><br />Doubling the recipe will make enough to fill those pans, but the cakes will be a little thinner, I think, as the area of the three 8&quot; pans is 150 in^2 and the area of the two 11×8 pans is 176 in^2. As for the rest of the components… I think doubling should work out ok. Extra never hurts, though 😉 <br /><br />Thank you, Joy!

  17. says

    Help! I&#39;m attempting to make this cake because it sounds so delicious, but it is by far the most advanced cake I&#39;ve ever made. My ganache seems a little thin. It coats a spoon but slowly drips off. I think it may be because my butter was room temperature when I mixed it. I had it sitting on the counter too long. What would you recommend doing to thicken the ganache? Would just

  18. Anonymous says

    this looks so lovely, i will be trying this one out for sure! actually, im currently looking to get myself some 6&quot; pans which are harder to find here in australia than i thought, so i am looking at amazon. can i just ask, are the ones you use 2&quot; or 3&quot; sides? im just not sure which to get. most recipes i find just say 6&quot; tins, does it matter? <br />- tahlia

    • says

      Hi Tahlia,<br /><br />I like the pans that have 3&quot; sides. Having taller tins will ensure that all recipes calling for 6&quot; tins will work for you because they allow for more batter.

  19. says

    Hi Kaitlin, I have just discovered your blog and I&#39;m loving it! I now have a long list of &quot;to bake&quot; coming up ;)<br /><br />I have a quick question about this (I&#39;m planning to make it for my birthday on the weekend!) – at the beginning of the recipe you say &quot;To make a four layer cake, I halved only the cake recipe….&quot;. Are the measurements you&#39;ve listed ALREADY

  20. Anonymous says

    I&#39;m have the same question as Jo, are the measurements given in the recipe already halved or should I halve them myself?

    • says

      The cake recipe, as written, will make (3) 8&quot; cakes. I just halved it at home and made (2) tall 6&quot; cakes instead and cut them in half horizontally to make a 4-layer cake.

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