Chocolate Brownie Birthday Cake with Homemade Caramel and Pistachios Recipe

So if you’ve read about how celebrating birthdays in the US and Italy is different, you’ll know that usually the birthday girl/boy makes their own cake or brings food/drink to celebrate a birthday with their colleagues*, I thought it only fair to give some presents to my readers, too!

Remember Pocket Coffee**? And what about the summer version, the Pocket Espresso to Go? I’ll send a 3-pack of each kind (for Pocket Coffee love all year long) to two lucky commenters! (comments accepted just today, Oct 12th)

Just tell me: What treat / dessert would you make or bring to share on your birthday?

One of the things that I really miss in Italy is caramel. It’s not present in many sweets and some of the caramel I’ve tried here cannot compare with that from France or the States. So I decided a gooey caramel topping with tons of salted pistachio kernels was going to be a perfect topper for this Chocolate Brownie Cake topped with Homemade Caramel and Pistachios!

Chocolate Brownie Cake with Homemade Caramel and Pistachios

If you haven’t bought Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From my home to yours yet, what are you waiting for? Several of the recipes I’ve made from this cookbook have been home runs and I can’t wait to try them all!

Chocolate Brownie Birthday Cake with Homemade Caramel and Pistachios Recipe

Notes: Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from my home to Yours. The original recipe calls for using salted peanuts which I’m sure would be excellent, but I loved the pistachios. She also lists corn syrup in both the cake and caramel recipes, and I chose to substitute honey for CS in both cases, which is not a perfect solution. Read more about using corn syrup on David Lebovitz.

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar* (or light)
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons honey* (or light corn syrup)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/176C. Butter and flour an 8-inch round springform, and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt in a separate container. In a heatproof bowl or double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter until fully melted. Remove from heat.
  3. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer or whisk the eggs and sugars together until well blended, then add the honey and vanilla. Whisk in the chocolate-butter mix and then slowly work in the dry ingredients until just mixed.
  4. Pour the batter into the springform and bake the cake for 40-45 minutes, checking for donenness after 35 minutes by inserting a knife into the cake (mine was done early).
  5. Cool the cake on a rack/outside of the oven for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan before removing them and let the cake cool completely. It may be concave, but if it’s puffed up, you can shave it down slightly so it will sit evenly when inverted. Invert the cake and put the sides of the springform pan back on. Proceed to the homemade caramel below.

Evening up the Chocolate Brownie Cake

Homemade Caramel

If you’ve never made caramel at home, what are you waiting for? It’s extremely easy, it just takes a little bit of daring and keeping a close eye on that sugar! I can’t wait to make it again.

Making Homemade Caramel

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons honey* (or light corn syrup)
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup salted pistachios (or peanuts or salted nuts)

  1. Using a heavy-bottomed saucepan (not recommended to use nonstick) combine sugar, water, and honey until just mixed. Put over medium-high heat, not stirring, until the mixture turns a dark amber color (5-10 minutes depending on size of pan and heat). You can test a drop of the mixture on a white plate to gauge color. The secret is getting the mixture as dark as possible without it burning – if you start to get dark spots on the side of the pan or smoking, turn heat slightly down and rotate or move off heat for a few seconds before returning it.
  2. After reaching desired amber color, turn heat down slightly, protect your arm and body by moving back from the pan and pour in the cream and butter. The mixture will bubble up and sputter, but you can use a wooden spoon to mix in the newer ingredients and make the texture more uniform
  3. Once mixed well, add the salted pistachio kernels and pour into a heat-safe bowl and/or cup. While the mixture is still hot, spoon the pistachios onto the cake, and then spoon enough caramel on to fill in the cracks.
  4. If you’re planning on serving shortly, take the sides of the springform pan away, plate the cake and drizzle the warm caramel on the edges of the cake so you will create large caramel drips as show in the picture.
  5. The extra caramel can be stored in the refrigerator or eaten as soon as it’s cooled (like in my house).

*Unfortunately for my colleagues, this cake will not be making an appearance in the office this birthday. My father was in town all weekend and therefore I was out of the kitchen. They will have to be happy with a substitute!

Chocolate Brownie Cake with Homemade Caramel and Pistachios in the Springform pan

**Disclosure: No Pocket Coffee was harassed or harmed in this post. The items in this giveaway were purchased with the author’s money and I am not being compensated for mentioning them. I will receive 4-6% of the purchase price if you buy the cookbook mentioned in this post via the affiliate link…but who cares? Buy the cookbook wherever you like – just get it!

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  1. says

    Well, my husband recently had a birthday and asked me to make 2 Crostate di Mele for him to take to work. When it’s my birthday, I will treat my co-workers with a little taste of home… by making a Cheesecake.

  2. says

    Happy Birthday! That cake looks amazing. When I worked in an office here, I never took anything to work for my birthday or saw anyone else bringing anything. It could have been due to the fact that many of the people I worked with were fashion types who rarely ate meals much less sweets. Though I have noticed that when you go out with Italians on your birthday, it’s your treat – you are usually expected to spring for at least the spumante and the cake. Have a great day!

  3. says

    Yummmmm!!! And happy birthday!

    I like to make tiramisu for my birthday. :-) I never was too into caramel, but I DO like and miss dulce de leche, Argentina’s answer to it. I plan on trying to make some soon. Wish me luck!

  4. says

    I’mItalian and for me a birthday dessert is a chocolate cake. It’s a sort of tradition in my family.
    For my father b-day my mother does the so called “Amato Bene” a sort of cream made of chocolate, butter and liquour. The recipe is a secret of my family even if it originally came from a Slovenian radio broadcast in 1976 (the year of my birth and the year of heardquake in my Region (Friuli)).
    My sister for her b-day wants since ’90s a cake made of chocolate and nuts. She likes traditions and particurarly this one :)
    While for me I change year after year the cake or dessert. This year in Canada I did a Strudel, last year a cake with strawberries in and a sort of choco-Pan di Spagna with mango jam.
    For my boyfriend b-day having a lot of hosts I did Tiramisù or Amata Bene or a year 3 cakes: one with carrots and almons, one was a sort of soft crostata with a lemon cream inside, and one a fabolous Truffel Torte adapted from an Austrian recipe.

  5. says

    Happy Birthday!! And this is so my kind of birthday cake! I adore chocolate + caramel. I have a super gooey chocolate cake recipe I make and fill it with espresso whipped cream and top it all with chocolate buttercream frosting. Yum is it good!

  6. Kristine K. says

    Happy Birthday…it would be tough – I LOVE carrot cake, tiramusu, wonderful FLAN and decandent DARK CHOCOLATE anything …this looks amazing – my husband’s birthday is coming up – I think I know what I am going to make….May all your wishes come true!!

  7. Brady says

    The caramel pistachio brownie looks wonderful!
    I think I would make a dark chocolate layer cake with blackberry jam filling with dark chocolate ganache icing.

  8. rowena says

    I will have to gracefully bow out and make a run to the nearest pasticerria…heck, that’s what the boys in hubby’s office do!

  9. Christine says

    When I lived in Italy, I would die for a key lime cheesecake with graham cracker crust. To die for! And the flavors don’t exist in Italian desserts. Since I was teaching over there, I made brownies from scratch or Rice Krispie treats for my students on my birthday. A little taste of the U.S.! The kids loved them both…and so didn’t my colleagues.

  10. says

    Above, you said: “I chose to substitute honey for CS in both cases, which is not a perfect solution.” Are you saying that you would switch back to corn syrup (CS) in the future for this recipe? Also, is corn syrup readily available in Italy? Any brands too look out for?

    Also, did you suggest refraining from using a non-stick pan for the caramel because it’s too thin (and has more potential to burn)?

    Thanks…looks delicious, by the way.

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      Hi Neil, it’s not perfect in that I think the CS was used in the cake to make it denser – next time I might try MORE honey than just a direct substitution, or more liquid in general as it was a little bit drier than I wanted. In the caramel it worked nicely but I think the CS probably helps keep it more liquid if you have to use the extras, etc.

      I haven’t seen CS in Italy but I haven’t been looking too hard. I think you can find Golden Syrup (UK) which can substitute in some cases.

      I don’t recommend a non-stick (Teflon-coated) pan because : heavy bottom pans tend to cook and heat more evenly (and yes, avoid burning) but I don’t like to caramelize things on Teflon, in general.

  11. says

    Happy Belated Bday Sara. Oh does that look incredible. I think I’ll gain the weight just looking at it. My question is how do people not gain weight in Europe eating those incredible desserts? Lots of exercise perhaps… :)e

  12. says

    I am not an aficionado of specific cake flavors, rather a lover of most every cake combination possible. And this, oh this, cake seems so unbelievably rich and utterly good.

  13. says

    If someone baked that for me for my birthday, I would consider it a gift and proceed to eat the entire thing by myself without even pausing to ask what everyone was looking at.

    Intensely delicious looking, that cake. WOW.

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