I am used to odd looks. I thrive upon odd looks. But when I moved out, my mother's advice to me was not, 'be yourself', but 'maybe don't be yourself too much, just for the first few weeks'. You see where I'm going with this.
I'd been worried that real life would force me to hand in my Daring Baker badge and gun (only kidding, we don't get badges), so a cake-centric challenge this month was a huge relief. People will let you get away with a lot of odd looks if you buy them off with cake at the end of it. Just to be on the safe side - and also because I wasn't, to be honest, hugely excited by the recipe as it stood - I decided to throw dulce de leche into the equation (explanation for those ignorant of this miracle: you know when you boil a can of condensed milk and your kitchen explodes, blah blah? Dulce de leche is the milk caramel you are rewarded with at the end. Worship it).
Rather than blow up the kitchen (people always get a bit narky over that, I'm damned if I know why) I'd stumbled across a technique for making dulce de leche in the microwave that sounded loads quicker & safer, so I decided to try that.
Technically I tried it twice, because, uh, the first time I ate all the results before I knew what'd happened. Ahem.
Empty the can into a large glass bowl, and cover with cling film. You can either keep a tiny bit uncovered to prevent excess steam build-up or cover it fully and punch a few holes in the top with a pair of scissors; I had more success with the latter.
Microwave on medium power (I used level 5 on a 10-level appliance) for 2 minutes. Remove, stir with a wire whisk, and recover. Cook on medium for 2 more minutes. Remove, stir with a whisk, recover.
Then, in increments of 2-1/2 minutes, cook (on medium power) for another 10 minutes, stirring between each interval. After the first two stirs, you'll notice that the milk bubbles and foams up as it expels moisture. Then, with each stirring, the milk will be thicker and more caramel colored. If after the 10 minutes, you like the color and consistency, stop! If you'd like a thicker sauce, continue cooking in 1-minute increments for another 2-3 minutes.
Remove from the microwave, and let cool before packing in a glass jar, or use right away as a topping for ice cream.
Onto the cake itself - and I'm sorry, I just wasn't blown away by it. It wasn't a very demanding recipe (what came over you, DBers?!) but apparently a popular one. Nn. Sure, it was nice - I adore the frosting - but the cake itself was pretty plain, with unneccessary caramel-making steps that didn't add much to the flavour; call me uncivilised (and admittedly I had trouble browning the butter; is that what we used to call burning it in the old days?) but it just tasted like a plain sponge to me. Without the dulce de leche filling, there wouldn't have been much special about it at all. That said, I didn't exactly have trouble eating it, and the frosting is killer (there should have probably been more of it, but, uh, it had to sit in the fridge a couple of days, and mysteriously depleted).
I would say: if you fill the cake with dulce de leche, I recommend adding a little cream or milk to it to soften it a little (so it's a little gooier/runnier) - mine was really too thick to be a cake filling, but it only occured to me afterwards that I should have done something more with it. Le sigh.
November's Daring Baker Challenge comes from a recipe by Shuna Fish Lyndon, as chosen by DB host Dolores with co-hosts Alex (Brownie of Blondie & Brownie) and Jenny of Foray Into Food. Thank you!