February 11, 2015

Chocolate cake with caramel buttercream and crunchy caramel popcorn



Over the past 5 1/2 years I've taken countless photos. It would be quite exciting to know the exact number... or maybe not.
Out of all these, obviously I love all the photos I post, more or less. But there are some that are special. Those that have a little extra something.
This whole shoot is exactly like that for me.
What makes it even more special is that the house we shot this in is no longer what it used to be. Obviously, the house was pretty run down and in great need of renovation, but still.. look at that turquoise kitchen cabinet and that beautiful golden medallion wallpaper. The paintings, the marble table and the chair. I could spend a long time in there, just looking through the old newspapers lying around.



I had been in this house a few times prior to shooting in it, with permission from the owners of course. When I was working on my last published book "Sweet food & photography" I told my publisher about this house and I could see the excitement in her eyes. I told her about the wallpaper, the newspapers (I had yet to discover the kitchen cabinet) and the light. There is definitely something special about the light in old houses. She said to me "you HAVE to take photos in this house". So I took her advice. First, we (and by we I mean me and my friend/assistant Emma) made a test shoot with some muffins and pies I had lying around at home. I remember it was so freezing in the house that day. Even colder than outside. I think this was in April 2014. I realized that it was a perfect location to shoot and that I had to come back and do it again.




https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7383/16497694931_7d3a797a14_b.jpg

About one month later we came back to shoot. Everything was exactly as we left it. What I also love about this shoot is that I didn't even have to bring any props. We found everything we needed in the house (except for the cakes, flowers and plates, obviously). Now, all of that is gone. I'm a rather nostalgic person, so the fact that it's all gone makes me think about it even more. I try to remind myself that the house was in pretty bad shape and that it was just a matter of time before it had to be demolished or something. Now, the house has new owners, turning it into their dream house. I'm just happy I was able to take these photos before it was too late! Of course, I gave a copy of my book to the previous owners as a thank you for letting me shoot there.
Many of these photos are from my book Sweet food & photography, which is being translated into English, French, Dutch and German. Feeling very grateful! I also felt like I had to share this recipe from the book because it truly is one of the best cakes. The crunchy caramel popcorn on top.. well, all I can say is, try not to eat them all straight from the baking sheet...
Oh, and by the way, that framed photo to the right in the photo above is of a kitten sitting on a table next to a cactus. How great is that?






CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH CARAMEL BUTTERCREAM 
AND CRUNCHY CARAMEL POPCORN
Recipe from my book Sweet food & photography

INGREDIENTS 
CHOCOLATE CAKE
75 g (about 5 1/2 tbsp) butter
1 3/4 cup + 2 1/2 tbsp (270 g) all purpose flour
2/3 cup (60 g) cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp (340 g) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs
barely 1 cup milk
2/3 cup strong hot coffee or water

SALTED CARAMEL
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup (225 g) granulated sugar
1 scant stick (100 g) cold butter, in cubes
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes

CARAMEL SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
4 egg whites (approximately 150 g)
3/4 cups + 1 1/2 tbsp (180 g) granulated sugar
2 sticks + 2 tbsp (250 g) butter, at roomtemperature, cut in cubes
1/3 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp caramel (recipe above)

CRUNCHY CARAMEL POPCORN
1 bag of salted microwave popcorn (only use half of the popcorn for this recipe), or make your own
1/3 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp caramel


INSTRUCTIONS
CHOCOLATE CAKE
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour two 6-inch (15 cm) baking pans.
2. Melt the butter and let it cool.
3. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, coffee and butter and stir until batter is smooth.
4. Divide the batter between the baking pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans before you turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.


SALTED CARAMEL
1. Gently heat the cream in a small saucepan. Set aside.
2. Put the sugar in another saucepan and heat on medium high until the sugar starts melting around the edges. Carefully swirl the sugar with a heatproof spoon until all the sugar has melted. If you’re using a baking thermometer, the sugar should be about 338°F (170°C).
3. Add the butter, piece by piece, and stir until melted. Carefully add the warm cream (it will bubble up!) little by little and stir until smooth. Stir in the salt.
4. Pour caramel into a jar and let cool to room temperature while you make the buttercream.


CARAMEL SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
1. Pour egg whites and sugar in a clean and heat proof bowl (preferably stainless steel or glass). Put the bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. The bowl should fit snugly, and the water should not be touching the bowl.
2. Whisk the sugar and eggs with a whisk constantly until the mixture reaches about 65°C (about 140-150°F). If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, just rub some mixture between your fingers. If the sugar has melted and mixture is hot to the touch, it's ready.
3. Remove the bowl from the heat, beat until white, fluffy and cool with a stand- or electric mixer. This step can take about 5-10 minutes.
4. When the bowl feels cool to the touch, start adding the butter, piece by piece. Don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled and soupy just keep beating until smooth! Add the caramel and beat until smooth.


CRUNCHY CARAMEL POPCORN
1. Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
2. Make the popcorn according to the instructions on the bag.
2. Put half of the popcorn and the caramel (if the caramel is too thick, heat it for a few seconds in the microwave) in a bowl and stir until the popcorn is coated with caramel. Spread popcorn in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with baking paper.
3. Bake the popcorn for 15 minutes, stirring a couple of times. Remove baking sheet from the oven and leave to cool.


ASSEMBLY
1. If cakes are rounded on top, even out with a knife. Cut both cake layers in half using a sharp serrated knife (you'll end up with four thinner layers). Put the first layer on a cake board or a cake stand. Spread buttercream on the first layer. Add the next layer and repeat until you've used up all four layers
2. Spread a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake (this is the crumb coating layer, to hold all the crumbs in place) using an offset spatula. Put the cake in the fridge for about 10 minutes or until the crumb coating layer has firmed up a bit (leave the bowl of frosting in room temperature).
3. Spread the remaining buttercream all over the cake until cake is smooth. For a totally even and smooth surface, dip an offset spatula in warm water and dry it between every pass. Works like a charm!
4. Put the crunchy popcorn on top of the cake and pour remaining caramel sauce over.



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55 comments:

  1. Such a fascinating and touchingly beautiful story behind this shoot, Linda! Thank you so much for sharing this with us :) not to mention this incredible cake -- the caramel popcorn on top is the crowning glory. Congratulations on your gorgeous book!

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  2. Oh.. I am so hungry now. That cake looks so good. I am definitely going to make this one. xo

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  3. Oooh my god, this looks INCREDIBLE delicious!!! Yummy yummy yummy!

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  4. Wow underbara foton! Och receptet ser riktigt gott ut det också!

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  5. These photos are just amazing. It's so wonderful that you were able to shoot them in that house; from what I can see, the house is gorgeous, made especially so by all that history. Love.

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  6. Gorgeous ass always. I still wonder how, how, how you manage to stock all these props and furnitures at your place (or studio ?) ! It's amazing and I know it's so muc hworks behind. Bravo !

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  7. You know,this is my favourite photo shoot out there too :) Love going back to your images to get inspiration.I just love how much of 'you' you put into each photograph.Thank you dear Linda!And wishing you many more beautiful old houses to shoot in :)

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  8. That looks amanzing, i'm looking forward to the german version of your book! :-) But i'm curious who eats all this delicious stuff? you look so skinny ;-)

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  9. I have just loved the photos that I've seen from the house! Always thought they were just amazingly extra 'wow!' But the story makes it even more magic. And, isn't there something magic about an empty home? It's almost as if, in the quiet, one can finally here the house itself - speaking - it's own personality coming through. Yes! Magic! A magic story!! <3

    xxo

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  10. Oh Linda, this looks amazing and you found a dream house for your session. I love those photos so much, breathtaking!!!

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  11. Oh mamma!!!
    E' bastato un click e come Alice nel Paese delle meraviglie mi ritrovo catapultata all'improvviso in una dolcissima fiaba!
    Non voglio uscire....voglio perdermi, per una notte almeno!;)))

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  12. These images are beyond perfect - so much dessert!! I feel like dancing...and then having some of this cake. WOWZA!

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  13. This is beyond gorgeous. Thank you for sharing this stunning cake and these photographs! I need to try this recipe out! I'd love to shoot in a gorgeous old house someday. How did you come across this house before??

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  14. I just love your photos here...the house is absolutely beautiful! It sounds delicious too :)

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  15. Love the backstory! I love old things and get nostalgic over old things found, old houses, photos, anything really that speaks of a time gone by... ;)

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  16. The house looks amazing. Desserts everywhere. And this cake. No words.

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  17. Wow I'm in love with you're picutures. Really good inspiration!

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  18. I was wondering do you also have the recipe of those buns on the newspaper?

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  19. Beautiful, what talent you have! It's made all the more enduring with the background story.

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  20. A beautiful house forever captured in your beautiful photos! I'm looking forward to your book release here in the U.S. Thank you for sharing the recipe of this gorgeous cake!
    Colette

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  21. Gosh, what a magical place! So perfect for your incredible creations...

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  22. These are ridiculously beautiful photos. The cakes look so good but they're almost too beautiful to eat.

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  23. holy cow. the styling on these photos is just so so so great.
    absolutely amazing!

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  24. I was just pondering the other day how I could utilize popcorn into a dessert! This is fabulous :-)

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  25. Beautiful photographs & food styling - that cake looks pheNOMenal!

    Rxx

    www.peppermintdolly.com

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  26. Thank you for the wonderful photos and mouth watering cake. I love to bake and even more I love to make cakes, but I have to say yours make anything I do look like kindergarten work. You are a true artist!!!!

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  27. Thank you! I made this amazing cake over the weekend. It tastes as goods it looks, a perfect marriage of cake / icing! I am excited for your new book to come to Canada. Thanks again!!

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  28. Your pictures are SO incredibly stunning!!

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  29. Vad kul att du bloggade om just detta recept från din fantastiska nya bakbok! Var exakt denna tårta jag gjorde som min födelsedagstårta i år- (älskar att baka som du). Den är helt underbar och alla ville ha receptet för att själv göra ett försök. Tack, nu kan jag dela det och samtidigt uppmuntra dem att hitta till dig som så många andra! Keep up the good work!

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  30. Your photography is wonderful and makes the desserts look most appealing. I can hardly wait to make the cake. Would you be able to provide the recipe for the delicious-looking buns on the top left shelf? I would love to try those too!

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  31. This cake looks stunning! I would love to try it but the recipe is asking for nearly 1 kg of sugar! Is it possible to reduce the amount somewhere along the steps?

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  32. Detta är min absoluta favorittårta, otroligt god!

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  33. what a fantastic cake.
    one question: do you mind translating the cups in mililters for the liquid ingredients? That would help me a lot as i use the metric system.
    Thank you!
    lizzy

    PS: english is not my mother tongue. sorry :(

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  34. Tårtan smakade underbart - tack för att du delar med dig av din kunskap och begåvning!

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  35. I'm here for the first time and I'm impressed: beautiful, magnifique photos ! ! !

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    1. Welcome, Jo! So glad you're here! Thanks a lot for your kind comment!

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  36. I'll have to say it again, you're a fantastic photographer! These pictures are so inspiring, I might have to get your book and take notes.

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  37. Hi Linda! Clarice here (@brigadeirochoc on Instagram), hope you are well.! Not sure if you will read this comment as this is an old post, but I have been obsessing over this cake since you posted the first pic on Instagram. I hardly ever bake cakes (maximum once a year, for my kids birthday, if that), but really want to attempt this as I'm dying to try it, and I LOVE caramel popcorn. With their joint birthday party next Saturday I'm hoping to give this a try. Just wondering though if there are elements I can prepare beforehand and place in freezer or fridge (eg. the cake and/or icing or caramel sauce), or does it need to be assembled practically hours before it is served? (I can't see it surviving well in my fridge overnight, but the party is in the morning, so I know I will be frantic trying to get everything else ready). It is autumn/winter here, so not that warm overnight.

    Kind regards xx CC

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  38. This cake looks so amazing I have to try it, but can I make it the night before I serve it? Or does the cake get soggy over night?

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    1. You can definitely make the cake and the buttercream the day before, no problem! I actually find it to be the most delicious after a day or so. The caramel popcorn would probably be best if you make them before serving, or at least the same day, or they will get soft :-)

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  39. Hi Linda, just a quick question if you could answer please :) ı have got bigger baking pans do I have to change anything while baking? Thanks :)

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    1. Sorry for the very late reply! You would need to change the baking time a bit, start checking a little earlier. :-)

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  40. I made it for my birthday three days ago and ... well that was fantastic! Everyone was fighting for the crunchy popcorn!
    Thank you so much, Linda!=)
    A year ago I was enchanted to a passionate baker by your amazing talent!
    Спасибо))

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    1. So so glad you enjoyed it!! x Linda

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  41. Hi Linda, this is quite out of the blue but I've been eyeing this recipe for a while and plan on making it for my younger sisters birthday. A quick question about the salted caramel? How do you go about cutting the cake? Do you take the caramel popcorn off first or brave it and cut through? I'm making this next weekend and would love to get your advice! Thanks x

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    1. Hi! I usually just cut trough, no need to remove the popcorn. Try working around the popcorn with the knife though and it'll be easier. Best of luck! x

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  42. Hi Linda, LOVE your blog! I'm planning to make this cake but can I please ask, how many grams is 1 bag of popcorn and do you use the whole bag? Also, I am trying to get my hands on an English copy of your book Sweet Food & Photography and can't find it anywhere!

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  43. Hi Linda! Your cake looks great! Would like to give it a try one day! May I know for the oven temperature of 175DegC, it is in fan forced mode or conventional mode?

    Thanks!

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  44. Amazing photos, really breathtaking<3

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