dark chocolate caramel cake


if you’d told me a year ago that my favorite colors would become pink and yellow, i would’ve laughed hysterically. my wardrobe consisted of blacks, grays, dark greens, and the very occasional light blue. my bedroom was literally 50 shades of gray.

but something changed, and now i can’t get enough of bright colors. it’s been raining in dc a lot lately, and that coupled with all the big gray and white buildings makes me feel sort of blah, so i like wearing vibrant outfits to brighten the environment.

when it comes to cake and frosting, i generally try to stay away from artificial food coloring. i’ll use it if i have to (e.g. red velvet cake, buttercream roses), but i feel that it’s not very appetizing. no one wants to bite into a cupcake and have their teeth turn blue. to add color to my desserts, i instead opt for natural dyes, like matcha green tea powder and fruit juice, or i craft products with high levels of contrast in order to play up their natural colors.

i implemented the latter in this cake; i love the contrast of black cake with white frosting, golden caramel, and green rosemary. though it isn’t a bold shade of pink or yellow, i still find it to be extremely bright.


  • 1.5 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt

vanilla buttercream

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk or heavy cream


for the cake, preheat the oven to 300º. grease a half-sheet pan and line with parchment paper. pour the hot coffee over the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and let sit for a few minutes, until the chocolate has melted, then stir until smooth. beat the eggs in a stand mixer until thick and lemon colored. add in the chocolate mixture, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. mix in the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. mix until well incorporated. pour the batter into the pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until just set. let cool completely in the pan.

for the vanilla buttercream, combine the butter, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and cream them together on medium high until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. add the vanilla and milk or cream and mix for another few minutes.

to assemble, use a 6-inch cake ring to stamp out 2 circles from the cake. clean the cake ring, and place it on a cutting board or sheet pan, then use a strip of acetate, wax paper, or parchment paper to line the inside of the cake ring. place one circle in the cake ring and use the back of a spoon to spread some buttercream over the cake. repeat, then top with a layer of caramel and a circle of rosemary sprigs. transfer the sheet pan to the freezer, and freeze for 12 hours to set the cake. serve at room temperature.


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