Cooking the sugar until it's a deep brown color--almost "burnt"--creates a caramelized flavor that enhances this special occasion dessert. An equally enticing cream cheese frosting is topped with candy bar chunks.
In a large skillet cook the 3/4 cup sugar over medium-high heat until the sugar just begins to melt. Do not stir. Reduce heat; cook until sugar is golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes more, stirring mixture constantly.
Carefully stir in hot water (syrup will form lumps). Bring mixture to boiling; reduce heat. Continue stirring until mixture is free of lumps. Remove from heat. Pour syrup into a large glass measuring cup. Add additional water to equal 1-3/4 cups liquid. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Separate eggs. Allow egg whites, egg yolks, and butter to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile. grease and lightly flour three 8x1-1/2-inch round cake pans; set pans aside. In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda; set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1-1/2 cups sugar, the egg yolks, and the vanilla; beat until well combined. Alternately add flour mixture and sugar syrup to egg yolk mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.
Thoroughly wash beaters. In a clean medium mixing bowl beat egg whites on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into batter. Spread batter in the prepared pans.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove cake layers from pans. Cool thoroughly on wire racks.
To assemble, spread 1/2 cup of the Browned Butter-Cream Cheese Frosting over bottoms of two of the cake layers. Sprinkle each frosted layer with half of the finely chopped candy. Stack these layers on cake plate, frosted sides up. Place the remaining cake layer on top, rounded side up. Spread remaining frosting on top and sides of cake. If desired, garnish with the coarsely chopped candy bar pieces.
Makes 16 servings.
Browned Butter-Cream Cheese Frosting
In a small saucepan heat and stir the 1/2 cup butter over low heat until melted. Continue heating until butter turns a delicate brown. Remove from heat. In a large bowl combine cream cheese and the 3 tablespoons softened butter. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar. Beat in the browned butter and vanilla. Gradually beat in the 4-1/2 cups powdered sugar and milk until frosting is of spreading consistency.