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 isnâ€™t a hyphenate just yet and sheâ€™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€“ itâ€™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 kidsâ€™ glee and injected with the confidence of her mom-in-lawâ€™s caramel cake recipe, the rest is history in the making.
Iâ€™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 donâ€™t see myself demolishing Monicaâ€™s caramel cake in a single go, however. For one, itâ€™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 Monicaâ€™s mom-in-law, the result of 40+ (!) years of tweaking and tastersâ€™ feedback. Instances like this reinforce my interest in how bakersâ€™ 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, itâ€™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 caramelâ€™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, itâ€™s bliss in a candied brittle. Addictive beyond belief, I find myself stealing little bits here and there, telling myself Iâ€™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, thereâ€™s a crumb thatâ€™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, itâ€™ll tenderize, sousing in its caramel cover as you putter about your business; then, when youâ€™re ready itâ€™ll be what itâ€™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.