Call it a family heirloom if you will – this recipe for delicious Burnt Sugar Cake has been in my husband’s family for a very long time. His grandmother would make the cake when her kids were little and over the years it’s become a family FAVORITE. While she was still alive she taught me the special method of burning the sugar over the stove and so I like to think that a part of this family heirloom lives on in me. I’ve wondered why someone would ever imagine taking sugar, putting it into a hot pan and cooking it until it turns into a hot steaming black liquid and then put it into a dessert cake. But someone did and to this day Burnt Sugar Cake remains my husband’s favorite cake. The frosting is a delicious carmel-like frosting and both together make a great cake that I always try to make for my husband’s birthday, Father’s Day and any other special day for him.
Burnt Sugar Cake Recipe
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
3/4 cup shortening (I’ve always used butter)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs separated (beat the egg whites until stiff and add at the very end)
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
Burnt Sugar Cake Frosting
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup cream, or canned milk (I just use regular milk)
1/2 tsp vanilla
Directions for the cake: The first step is to burn the 1/2 cup of sugar into a nice, dark liquid that you will add to the cake batter. Place the 1/2 cup sugar into a thick-bottomed sauce pan on medium high heat. Be patient. This process can take about 15 minutes. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up to quicken the process. The sugar will slowly start to melt and turn soft. It will slowly turn into a liquid. A little stirring might be be necessary to evenly distribute the sugar as it melts. Once the sugar gets to a liquid stage it can quickly turn from a light caramel color to a dark brown. Take it off the heat when it is dark brown. Don’t wait until it is too black. Immediately add the 1/2 cup of boiling water to the burnt sugar. This will create a large amount of HOT steam. To avoid burning my self I usually put the pan down in the sink and cover it with a kitchen towel and pour the boiling water through a small opening a little at a time. When the steam subsides I remove the towel and add the 1 cup of cold water. Stir and then allow the sugar liquid to cool. I put together some images of the process so you can see what it looks like as the sugar melts and when to take it off the stove top.
The above picture is right before I took it off the stove and then the bottom two pictures are right after I added the hot water.
The next picture is after I’ve added the cold water and it’s ready to cool.
Add vanilla. Add flour and baking soda and mix. Fold in the egg whites. Pour into a greased 9″x13″ and bake for 30 minutes at 350°F. Frost with Brown Sugar Frosting. Because I always double the recipe, I bake it in a jelly roll pan. I also double the frosting which makes a very generous amount and I don’t use all of it on the cake because it’s just too much but a single batch isn’t enough in my opinion.
Above is the cake batter color, before it bakes. Below is the baked cake. I frost it while it’s still warm and let the cake and frosting both cool together.
Directions for the frosting: Combine all ingredients for frosting in a pan and bring to a boil. Boil for 1½ minutes! This is important because if you cook it too long it will be too dry when it cools. Remove from stove and cool. Stir in vanilla and enough powdered sugar for desired frosting consistency. It should be a little thicker than cake batter consistency–nice for pouring but not too runny
I like to use a wire whisk attachment to mix the frosting. It helps to get the powdered sugar lumps mixed well and smooth.
Pour the frosting onto the cake while both are still warm. Spread it out and let them cool together.
I totally forgot to take a picture of the finished cake. I’m sure I’ll be making it again soon so I’ll update then!