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Candy cake cause for celebration

Tribune News Service photo

Outdoor gatherings and single-serve food items were the rule of thumb for my older son’s birthday last month.

How things have changed in that time: from cupcakes for the kids with candles only on the birthday boy’s portion, to maskless parties with a communal cake. My younger son’s birthday this week hopefully heralds the end of pandemic restrictions among family and friends. And that — if nothing else — is reason enough to celebrate.

While my older son is a confirmed chocoholic, my younger son is more expansive in his tastes. I have a feeling that candy bars as a cake would tickle his fancy.

This sheet cake allows the cook some creative license without fussing over layers and piping frosting. Instead, whipped cream tops this fluffy white cake that gains some essential crunch from crushed candy bars.

Keep this cake cool until you’re ready to serve it, or the whipped cream might melt. Consider making it for a Memorial Day bash, too.

Candy Bar Sheet Cake

For the cake:

Nonstick baking spray

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup dry milk powder

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

5 large egg whites

For butterscotch sauce and frosting:

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup whole milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup chilled heavy cream

2 Butterfinger or Heath candy bars (2.1 ounces each), roughly chopped

Heat oven to 325 F. Grease a 9-by-13-by-2 1/2-inch metal baking pan with baking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, milk powder, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, whole milk, oil, vanilla and egg whites until smooth. Pour liquid ingredients over dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake in preheated oven until pale golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, for about 40 minutes.

While cake is in oven, make butterscotch sauce. Combine in a small saucepan the brown sugar, whole milk, butter and salt; melt over low heat. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until sauce thickens, for about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Pour sauce into a bowl and let cool to room temperature or refrigerate until no longer warm.

Remove the cake from oven and transfer to a wire rack. Let cake cool for 20 minutes, then use a half-inch-wide wooden dowel or handle end of a wooden spoon to gently poke holes three-quarters of the way down cake, spaced about 1 inch apart. Pour butterscotch sauce all over cake, aiming to get most of it to soak into holes in cake.

In a large bowl, whisk the cream by hand or with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Scrape whipped cream onto the cake and use a small offset spatula or table knife to spread it evenly over top. Sprinkle the chopped candy bars all over cake and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour before serving from pan.

Cooled cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days. Butterscotch sauce can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Reheat sauce before stirring again and using. Completely assembled cake can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.

Makes 12 to 16 servings.