This recipes was originally posted a few years ago on my old site, Baker By Design. I’ve always had the intention to one day recreate the recipe, maybe make some improvements and then take some pictures with something other than an iPhone. Then, today, I discovered it was National Popcorn Day. So I figured, I’ll just throw it up on here. Maybe one day I’ll make those new pictures happen. But then maybe I won’t. I should also state that this cake was used to bribe my way backstage at a Dragonette concert.
I am going to admit something to everyone: I don’t really like cake. Maybe it’s the amount of frosting, maybe it’s the size, maybe it’s always too dry, maybe it’s far too rich, maybe it’s just so common that I just have no desire to enjoy it. But for some reason, I just don’t like it. It never appeals to me. I never crave cake like I do with ice cream or sorbet or a brownie or a cookie or meatballs. And that’s just EATING it! As far as making a cake, it’s a lot of work…well, just a lot of steps. You have to make the cake, you have to make the frosting, you have to flavor it and you have to make it look pretty.
I’m not a cake decorator. I have no desire to do it. There are some AMAZING cake decorators out there. It’s mind blowing what some people will do. Maybe it’s the designer in me, but I feel like I’ve gotten the visually creative side out of me. Yes, I do think desserts and pastries should look beautiful…but I care more about flavor. If you make something that takes 80 hours and then is demolished within seconds or makes people have second thoughts about actually eating it…well, what’s the point? I think food should be beautiful and appetizing. You see it. You want it. You taste it. You have a mouth orgasm…also know as a mouthgasm.
So I’ve been pretty much against making cakes (don’t even get me started on cupcakes) for a while. Yet, for some reason, I’ve been wanting to make one for a while now. I can’t really explain why, I just had the urge. It could have something to do with the cake stand I got at HomeGoods…or maybe it’s because I wanted something a little more commercial…or…well…honestly, I don’t know. But it happened.
The idea for this cake stemmed from not wanting to do a crumb coat or some fancy frosting work. But rather than use cake crumbs or something else fairly standard, I thought I might try to work with one of my favorite combinations: salty & sweet. The cake itself is very simple. It’s not the focus. It’s a background flavor…an empty canvas. A vanilla genoise. Simple. Classic. Of course there’d be buttercream…but making it caramel never hurts…and what’s better than bourbon? (I guess Rye). And of course, what goes well with caramel and sweets? Buttered popcorn! (Seriously, I highly recommend buying a giant tub of buttered popcorn at the movies and then dumping in two packs of sour patch kids and shaking it all about. You WON’T be disappointed.)
Cakes are slightly deceptive. They seem like a lot of work. And in a way, they are. If you make one in one day with lots of components, yes. But if you’re smart and you plan it out, pretty much everything can be made ahead of time and assembled when you need it to. In fact, the simple syrup is best when made a couple of days ahead so that it really gets full of vanilla flavor. The cakes can be frozen and the buttercream can be stored in the fridge (just be careful when bringing it up to temperature).
For the popcorn, if you want to, go ahead and make it from scratch, but after everything else you’ve done, I find that just waiting about 4 minutes by the microwave is FAR easier. And there’s something pretty fantastic about that fake butter that we’ve all grown to love.
The syrup makes a lot. More than you need. You can cut it back if you want. But syrup lasts A LONG time. Use it in cocktails, turn it into sorbet, add it to coffee or hot chocolate. The cake batter also makes a lot (depending on what size cake pan/ring you use). For the cake seen here, I used two 7-inch rings and had enough for a third. You can cut it back if you like, or just bake it all off. Just remember that baking time will vary depending on the size, so adjust accordingly. With all the scraps of cake you have leftover, you can also do a number of things. Toast the crumbs and save for another cake, turn into cake truffles (which is, essentially a cake pop minus the stick but it sounds a lot fancier) by mixing with a bit of the leftover buttercream and syrup and rolling the leftover popcorn. Basically, you’ll end up with leftovers, but you can use item for anything. Don’t let it go to waste. And I feel it’s always better to have extra then to end up running out halfway through and going into a panic. Who knows, maybe in the following weeks you’ll find a frozen version of this: vanilla sorbet with toasted cake crumbs and buttered popcorn smothered with salted bourbon caramel. Maybe.