When I think of caramel cake, I think of a lightly-spun wonder barely sturdy enough to carry its cloak of caramel. This cake is nothing like that.
When I first meet Monica Allado-De Luzuriaga, her name isn’t a hyphenate just yet and she’s on the powerlifting team at the gym we both attend. Life goes on and one day, I find her online,Â â€œâ€¦ just pricing my caramel cakeâ€¦â€, which gives me good reason to re-connect with her.
While the powerlifter-baker combination seems odd â€“ a light touch is a boon to a baker after all â€“ it’s obvious she can do both with aplomb. Spurred to bake by her husband and mom-in-law, herself an accomplished baker, Monica gamely took to the kitchen. Enlivened by her kids’ glee and injected with the confidence of her mom-in-law’s caramel cake recipe, the rest is history in the making.
I’ve said before that a caramel cake may be my most favorite cake in all the world, probably because I can polish off a 9-incher in one sitting, the forbidden excess of which, appeals to me. Plus, I always love a good caramel in whatever form. I don’t see myself demolishing Monica’s caramel cake in a single go, however. For one, it’s much denser than expected for this type of cake; as she puts it, â€œâ€¦it was a chiffon cake that slowly evolved into a sponge cake … plus an additional touch of butter.â€ Equally fascinating is that the recipe belongs to Monica’s mom-in-law, the result of 40+ (!) years of tweaking and tasters’ feedback. Instances like this reinforce my interest in how bakers’ recipes are refracted through the spectrum of tastes and times.
For a dessert to keep me enthralled, it must have contrasts, and this caramel cake has it in spades. First, it’s an arresting vision, a preview of the flavor phases to come. The honeyed glow of caramel made with browned butter and sugar then beaten with condensed milk which provides the dominant note coupled with a hint of what may be evaporated milk. I feel that a splash of vanilla extract would cut the sometimes overly milky aftertaste, round out the flavor a bit. But what I appreciate about this cake is that the caramel’s not too sweet, just continuous smoothness all throughout until it comes to the cashew praline.
Let me tell you about this praline. Chewy and crunchy with crushed cashews, it’s bliss in a candied brittle. Addictive beyond belief, I find myself stealing little bits here and there, telling myself I’m â€œsmoothing out the edges,â€ and before I know it, half the cake is woefully naked. Never mind, this is a cake to celebrate in, not to regret. Underneath that caramel-cashew coat, there’s a crumb that’s delightfully dense but downy too, echoes of butter and flour resonating. I beseech you to not eat this cake straight from the fridge, lest you want a brick-like cake. Let it sit a bit, it’ll tenderize, sousing in its caramel cover as you putter about your business; then, when you’re ready it’ll be what it’s meant to be, edible satin waiting beneath that captivation called caramel.
Caramel Cake by Monica Allado-De Luzuriaga
9â€ round – P650
9â€x13â€ rectangular cake – P1200
44 Samar Ave. Brgy. South Triangle, Quezon City 1103
*For orders please call, text, or PM (private message) through Facebook or Friendster or Multiply
*Minimum 2 days notice is required for orders.
*Pick up is at the address above.