(This is a recaptured recipe from my mom’s childhood, called Burnt Sugar Cake, which my grandmother made back in the 20's and 30's. My mom knew what the caramelizing procedure should look like, and had a good idea of the ingredients, but no one ever found a written recipe after my grandmother died. When this recipe turned up in a search the result matched my mom's memories.)
DEPRESSION ERA BURNT-SUGAR CAKE
¾ cup regular sugar
¾ cup boiling water
2/3 cup butter, softened (I use Fleischman’s unsalted margarine)
1 cup regular sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, separated3 cups cake flour, sifted with 3 teaspoons baking powder and a dash of salt
¾ cup milk
½ cup of the above burnt sugar syrup
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted with a dash of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Reserved burnt-sugar syrup
Pecan halves, for garnish
Burnt-sugar syrup: In small heavy skillet or saucepan, heat 3/4 cup sugar, stirring, until a brown syrup forms and mixture begins to smoke. [They really mean this, so have your exhaust fan runnin' on high!] Very gradually stir in 3/4 cup boiling water and remove from heat. Cool thoroughly.
Cake: Cream butter and sugar until light. Gradually beat in 1/2 cup burnt-sugar syrup. (Reserve the reminder for the frosting.) Add vanilla, then egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk, beating until smooth. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.
Pour into two 9-inch layer pans lined on the bottom with waxed paper. Bake in moderate oven (375 F) about 25 minutes. Cool and frost. Top with nut halves if desired. [I always desire pecans on everything, how about you? I put them on in a nice spoke pattern all over the top and sides, and had no complaints whatsoever.]
Burnt-sugar Frosting: Cream butter or margarine. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, salt, vanilla, reserved burnt-sugar syrup and enough cream for spreading consistency.
Google source: Alberta Ruthrauff/ Woman’s Day Cookbook (1950s)