When I make something that’s over-the -top good, just criminally delicious and decadent, I know it because my mom takes one bite and says: “This is disgusting.” “Disgusting” is her highest form of praise and it’s what she says after a bite of brown sugar cake. Because there is nothing like it. It’s my go-to cake for any occasion but typically I like to make it for other people as a gift. It’s actually a dangerous confection because it’s so good you might eat the entire thing in one sitting. And kids love it even though it’s not slathered in frosting or made out of ice cream.
This is actually kind of a bizarre cake to make–not difficult at all, but at one point you take it out of the oven and make holes in the top to sink in a teaspoon of brown sugar that’s been mixed with hot cream and butter. Weird. But effectual. I got the recipe from what is one of my favorite baking cookbooks (one that’s definitely worth adding to your collection): THE CRAFT OF BAKING by Karen DeMasco. Here it is adapted from the book:
Recipe for Brown Sugar Cake
For Brown Sugar Topping and Filling
-1 cup packed dark brown sugar
-4 tablespoons unsalted butter
-1/4 cup heavy cream
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-3/4 cup almond meal (if you can find this at Trader Joe’s and not only is it good for baking but you can also use it to bread things like chicken cutlets or toast it lightly, toss with a bit of butter, and sprinkle over a pasta dish) or DeMasco recommends almond flour, which will make a more refined cake but is not always easy to find.
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp kosher salt
-2 sticks unsalted butter, very soft, and more for pan
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/4 cup packed brown sugar
-3/4 tsp vanilla extract
-3 large eggs
Directions for the topping:
-Put the brown sugar in a medium bowl. In a small sauce pan, bring the butter and heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the brown sugar. Whisk until no lumps remain. Set aside.
Directions for the cake:
-Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 10-inch round cake pan, and line the bottom, with a round of parchment paper.
-Cover the bottom of the prepared cake pan with three quarters of the brown sugar topping, spreading it out to make an even layer.
Freeze for at least 5 minutes, or until ready to fill. Reserve the remaining mixture to use as a filling.
-In a medium bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt.
-In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is well combined before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
-Remove the bowl from the mixer, and using a spatula, fold in the flour mixture. Pour the batter into the cake pan, over the topping, and smooth it out with a spatula.
Put the pan on a baking sheet and bake until the came begins to rise around the edges, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and insert a scant teaspoon of the brown sugar filling in ten spots on the cake (or maybe a few more) sinking it down into the center.
-Return the came to the oven and bake until it is golden brown and firm to the touch, 15 to 20 minutes. Turn the cake out of the pan and onto a plate and serve immediately–with a side of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream or nothing at all.
(if you’re going to bring it to a party or just serve it later you can leave it in the pan, cooling it on rack, then reheat it in an oven at 350F for five minutes before putting it on a serving plate).