Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Help - Read this and Help yourself to a Slice of Southern Caramel Cake

Help yourself to a a slice of my Caramel Cake

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett is AMAZING! You must read this book - so hard to put down! It was easy to read and interesting. It's a fictional story told from the point of view of the maids (the help) that raised the children in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960's and offers a point of view that I've never read anywhere else. The characters in the book are so fun and hilarious, and you will become so wrapped up in their individual stories. At the end, it was hard to believe that it was just a book - it seems like all the characters should be real people, and you really get to know them. I was kind of sad they weren't real when I finished the last page. And...let me just tell you, that the "surprise cake" Minnie makes, is the funniest thing EVER and well deserved.  Don't get mad, get even! It will make you laugh, cheer, and cry in a few parts...and surely give you a perspective you may have never thought about otherwise.  Minnie was known for her Caramel Cake, so I decided to make one!

You can learn more about the book at:

Throughout the book, Minnie, one of the main characters makes all kinds of Southern Cakes. The one that caught my eye that I wanted to make was the Caramel Cake.

I first tried Caramel Cake in Athens, Georgia where I went to college at the University of Georgia.  There are several restaurants in Athens which serve cakes from a local baker, Cecilia Villaveces. She has a bakery in Athens called Cecilia Villaveces Cakes.  I first tried her cakes (and my first caramel cake) at Last Resort Grill and also at Lumpkin Cafe.  I haven't been there in several years, so I'm not sure if they still sell her cakes or not.

The noted Caramel Cake from Cecilia's in Athens, GA
See the gallery of her cakes

I looked online for several Caramel Cake recipes to try. Here were a few I looked at:

I saw on author Kathryn Stockett's website a recipe for the Caramel Frosting from the Memphis Junior League Cookbook. I thought this had to be authentic, and very different from the one on Paula Deens' website.

Apparently, this must be popular because the cookbook was sold out. The Memphis Cookbook, first published in 1952, has the distinction of being the second oldest community cookbook in continuous publication.

Paula Deen vs. the Junior League?  Probably evenly matched, but I think I'll go with Paula as she has the cake, filling and frosting recipe. Also, the Junior League frosting recipe calls for a cast iron skillet - and I realized I don't have one of those.

I used Paula Deen's Recipe, and here is my masterpiece!

My Caramel Cake!
This cake was quite the project and I had to read several of the "reader reviews" of the recipe to make sure I didn't mess it up.
Step 1) Make three cakes from scratch for the layers.  Lot of mixing. Surprisingly, the layers turned out very even and I didn't even have to cut the tops off before assembling.
Step 2) Make the caramel filling and assemble. Boiling sugar and butter to make caramel. Quite the science project.  You must boil/simmer for 3-5 minutes or until it isn't gritty any more.
Step 3) Make the caramel frosting and frost.  Another science project. Let it boil!
Step 4) Add pecans and put in the fridge to set

Here are a few pictures along the way:

Here are the cakes after I flipped them out of the round pans to cool.  They were pretty easy to flip.  I did some serious greasing of the pans with butter and then floured them as well to avoid sticking. 

Right after I assembled with the caramel between each layer on on top.  The trick to making it work is letting the caramel cool to "warm-hot" vs "hot hot" before putting on the cake.  Also, the cake layers should be cool....and don't make the caramel filling until you are ready to assemble.
I cut a slice after letting it sit in the fridge a few hours and it cut perfectly!  The slice looked awesome.  It is very rich and it's hard to eat more than a few bites though. So will I make it again?  Yes...but it will be a while. Time consuming!


  1. That cake looks delish!!! Save me a piece, J! Also, suggestion for a great book I am reading right now that will definitely give you baking inspiration: Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult.

  2. Swwwweeeeettttt indeed....but still delish....another great coffee partner...bold Columbian goes well….I would suggest your next literal adventure perhaps be related to pizza…

  3. Yummy and I heard it's a great read. Still haven't purchased this one, but it's next on my list. Keep up the wonderful work.

  4. This is such a fun idea! I can't wait to see what all you recommend! I did not like The Help... I was disappointed at the end. But, I dream about Cecilia Villaveces Cakes. She did all of the wedding cakes at the Hardeman-Sams House when I worked there. That was the first caramel cake I ever had, too, and it was definitely her best and the best I've ever had!

  5. Thanks for the posts friends! I did a pasta one this week (although I cheated and bought the pizza to go along with it)!

  6. Jessica, I really like your blog. I just started reading "The Help" (because of you) and this recipe is going to be made shortly!
    Thanks and good job,

  7. Charlotte, thanks for the note. I hope you enjoy the book!

  8. I finished reading The Help a few weeks ago and have been craving caramel cake ever since. I have never had it, let alone made it, and then I ran across the recipe and your review on thus finding your blog. What a great idea for a blog!
    I was wondering if you thought making a regular yellow cake box cake would be a good substitute for the cake? And then use the recipe for the filling and icing. Just an idea I had to make the recipe go quicker.
    I LOVED The Help, by the way. It is now one of my favorite books.

  9. Hi Bridget - thanks for your note! I'm glad you like my blog, and the cake recipe was great! Yes, I actually think a yellow cake mix would work fine - you might need to make 2 boxes and use about 3/4's of it to fill up both pans. The icing and filling were the best part (in fact the cake was a little dry)...let me know how the mix works out!