Burnt sugar cake

This cake is moist and decadent, with a rich caramel sauce poured over it just before serving. It is one of my friend Helene’s family recipes, given to her by her aunt.

Serves 12


1¾ cups (385 g) caster sugar

125 g unsalted butter, cubed

2 eggs, separated

1 tsp vanilla essence

2½ cups (375 g) plain flour

2½ tsp baking powder

good pinch of salt

1 cup (250 ml) milk


2 cups (400 g) brown sugar

125 g butter

1 tsp vanilla essence

½ cup (125 ml) milk

pinch of salt

½ cup (75 g) chopped, roasted, unsalted cashews


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease a 23 cm round cake tin and line the base with non-stick baking paper. Place ¼ cup (55 g) of the caster sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until melted and dark brown – swirl the pan to distribute the sugar occasionally, but
don’t stir. Standing back, carefully add ¼ cup (60 ml) boiling water (watch out – it will spit), then stir over medium heat until the toffee dissolves. Transfer to a heat-proof jug and set aside to cool.

2. Using electric beaters, beat the butter and remaining sugar until light and creamy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla essence and beat until combined. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, then fold into the butter mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk. Fold in the cooled sugar syrup.

3. Beat the eggwhites until stiff peaks form and fold them into the batter. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about 50 minutes, until the cake springs back when touched gently in the middle. Turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

4. To make the topping, combine all the ingredients except the cashews in a saucepan and stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Increase the heat to medium, bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes, until it reaches soft ball stage on a sugar thermometer. Remove from the heat and cool slightly for 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a heat-proof bowl and stand it on a damp kitchen cloth. Using electric beaters, beat on low speed for 3–4 minutes, until the mixture has thickened slightly and is lighter in colour. Pour it over the cake, spreading it so it runs down the sides a little. You have to work quickly, as the topping sets fast. Immediately sprinkle the top with the cashews, and leave to cool slightly before serving.

Extract from OUR FAMILY TABLE by Julie Goodwin
Published by Random House Australia (c) Julie Goodwin 2010 RRP $49.95