America's Most Wanted
Courtesy of Hummingbird Bakery

“The caramel cake is the best, hardest Southern thing to make,” says chef Amy Tornquist of Hummingbird Bakery in Durham, North Carolina. “To master it is to be a Southern chef—or at least a Southern pastry chef. I often see them for sale but they’re rarely delicious.” For her perfected version, Tornquist lets the cake batter sit overnight. That way the cake is firmer, with a crumbly top. “The caramel icing is the hardest part,” she says. “You only get one shot.” She often holds the icing in a bowl over boiling water so that it doesn’t cool down too fast, giving her a chance to properly ice the cake. “I’ve cried over caramel cakes repeatedly,” she says. “I actually stopped making them for a long time because I figured life is too short. But when it’s made right, caramel cake is the best.”

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