Caramel Spice Cake

Nothing says autumn quite like this caramel spice cake. It’s the very essence of fall with warm spices, vanilla Italian meringue buttercream, and buttery caramel. Check out the recipe and baking tips below.

caramel spice cake slice with candied hazelnut on top

About this Spice Cake

Creating a spice cake recipe from scratch was such a fun exercise. If you don’t already know, my goal is to create ALL of my recipes from scratch without looking at other people’s recipes.

I study my pastry chef materials from school, and I study various baking methods along with some basic textbook recipes.

But I never start with someone else’s recipe as my foundation.

I create my own.

caramel spice cake with italian meringue buttercream

The Goal:

The goal of making this autumn caramel spice cake was to create a soft and tender crumb that was moist but not heavy. Overly heavy cake textures aren’t as enjoyable, at least not to me (eww).

So how did I create the right texture?

Well, I didn’t get it right the first time. But because I knew what adjustments to make to the recipe, it only took 3 tries to get the texture exactly how I wanted it.

One of the keys to making this cake texture so dreamy and soft was the addition of shortening.

I used to have this misperception that shortening was only used for low-quality cakes, but that’s not the case.

Shortening is an amazing ingredient for cakes, you just have to know how to use it.

Baking can feel like a complete mystery because there are many factors to consider. But as you study and learn the science, it all comes together and feels far less mysterious. This is something that my baking clients learn and understand when we work together.

So if you are a recipe developer who wants to stop adapting and copying other people’s recipes, then learning the baking science is essential.

slice of caramel spice cake on a plate with a fork

5 Tips for Making this Spice Cake from Scratch

  1. Bring all of the cold ingredients to room temperature.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients to avoid flour lumps in the batter when it mixes.
  3. Don’t open the oven and turn the cake pan mid-bake. This can cause the cake to collapse in the center (I would know, I did it during a practice version ?)
  4. Test the cake with a toothpick during the last 3-5 minutes of baking to see if it’s done. If there are still crumbs on the toothpick, give it a few minutes to finish.
  5. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. If you remove the cake from the pan too soon, the cake is more likely to sink or collapse from the drastic temperature change between the oven and the kitchen air.
caramel spice cake with slices removed
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Spice Cake

caramel spice cake slice with candied hazelnut on top against a white and teal backdrop

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  • Author: Camille
  • Prep Time: 60 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x
  • Category: cake

Ingredients

Units Scale

Spice Cake

  • 170 g unsalted butter, room temp
  • 140 g shortening
  • 200 g light brown sugar
  • 160 g granulated sugar
  • 325 g cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 40 g molasses
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 160 g eggs
  • 210 ml evaporated milk
  • 30 g sour cream

Caramel Sauce

  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 130 g heavy cream, warmed
  • 42 g (3 Tbs) unsalted butter

Italian Meringue Buttercream

  • 200 g or 6 large egg whites, room temp
  • 450 g granulated sugar
  • 110 g water
  • 16 oz unsalted butter, room temp
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

For the Spice Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and butter and flour three*** 8″ round cake pans. 
  2. Cream butter, shortening, and both sugars on speed 3-4 in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment for 1-2 minutes. Do not cream longer.
  3. Sift dry ingredients, then add to the creamed butter mixture on low speed in four additions. Mix until dry ingredients are fully mixed with no dry streaks showing.
  4. Stop and scrape sides to make sure all ingredients are mixed.
  5. Add molasses, vanilla, and sour cream, and mix gently. 
  6. In a measuring cup, combine evaporated milk and eggs and gently mix with a fork.
  7. With mixer on low speed, add the wet ingredients in a steady stream. Stop once the ingredients are mixed.
  8. Pour batter evenly into the 3 baking pans. Smooth out the batter with a spatula and run a toothpick through the batter in the pans to get rid of air bubbles.
  9. Place all 3 pans in the oven but don’t let the edges of the pans touch. Bake for 22-27 minutes. The cake is done when you insert a toothpick in the center and it comes out clean.
  10. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack and cool completely.

For the Caramel Sauce

  1. Add sugar to a large sauce pan and spread in an even layer. Turn on heat to medium or medium low, and cook sugar until it turns a deep golden amber color. Do not stir the sugar. Instead, gently swirl the melted sugar from time to time to make sure all of the sugar granules melt.
  2. Remove the caramel from the heat, and add the butter to the hot sugar and whisk quickly. 
  3. Pour the cream in very slowly while whisking vigorously. If any hard caramel lumps form, place caramel over low heat and whisk until the caramel bits melt. 
  4. Pour caramel into a heat safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until needed.

For the Italian Meringue Buttercream

  1. Measure out eggs and pour them into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
  2. Add the sugar and water to a medium pot and turn the heat to medium. Don’t turn the heat up to high, as this can cause the temperature to rise too rapidly and go above the correct temperature.
  3. Turn the mixer onto speed 4 on a 10-speed mixer and let the mixer run while the sugar syrup is cooking.
  4. When the sugar syrup reaches 240 degrees, remove it from the heat. Turn the mixer to speed 5-6 and slowly pour the hot syrup into the whipping egg whites. For the best results, pour the syrup into the mixer between the edge of the bowl and the moving whisk. It can be a bit tricky, so pour slowly to keep it from splattering all over the bowl and your face!
  5. Let the mixer run on medium high speed until the meringue reaches 73 degrees F.
  6. Remove meringue to a bowl and set aside momentarily.
  7. Add butter to the mixing bowl, and switch to a paddle attachment. Cream the butter on medium low speed until smooth and creamy.
  8. Add 1/4 of the meringue into the butter and mix on medium low. Add the remaining meringue in 3 additions.
  9. Turn the mixer to medium-high and mix until the buttercream is light and creamy. If it looks grainy, keep mixing until it smooths out.
  10. Place the first cake layer on a cake turntable and add a layer of buttercream. Next add a thin layer of caramel being careful not to let it drip over the edges of the cake.
  11. Repeat with the remaining layers of cake, buttercream, and caramel, but don’t put caramel on top of the cake yet.
  12. Frost the entire cake once layered. Let it chill in the fridge for one hour so the buttercream is nice and firm.
  13. Warm the caramel slightly so it’s pourable, and spread over the top of the cake as desired.
  14. Slice and enjoy. Store the cake covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Notes

This is a Baker Street Society original recipe.

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