For the brioche dough:
For the caramel custard cream:
- 1 large egg
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1-1/3 cups whole milk divided
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch salt
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Make the dough:
- In a small saucepan (or a small cup if you want to use the microwave), combine milk and 1 tablespoon honey and heat until it registers between 110 degrees F to 115 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Pour the mixture into bowl of an electric mixer and sprinkle over yeast. Let mixture stand for 10 minutes, until yeast is creamy.
- Transfer bowl to mixer stand and attach paddle attachment. While mixing at low speed, gradually add eggs, all-purpose flour, sugar, and salt, and mix until blended. Gradually add all but 2 tablespoons of bread flour. Mix at medium speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Dough should not stick to sides of bowl; if it does, add some of all of remaining 2 tablespoons of bread flour until dough cleans sides of bowl. Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing at medium speed until it is blended into dough. (Dough will be very soft.) Transfer dough to a work surface and knead by hand a few times to ensure that butter is completely incorporated into dough. Shape dough into a ball and transfer it to a medium buttered bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until it has doubled in volume.
- Punch dough down to deflate it, and knead it a few times. Return dough to bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or up to 12 hours). Dough should have doubled in volume. If it hasn't, let it stand at room temperature until it has.
- Butter bottom and sides of a 9" spring-form pan. Shape dough into a ball and arrange it, smooth side up, in center of pan. Flatten ball gently with your palm until it covers bottom of pan. Cover pan and let dough rise until it is puffed, about 1 hour. Position a rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F about 20 minutes before dough is ready.
- In a small saucepan, heat remaining 1/3 cup honey just until warm. Brush honey over top of dough, then sprinkle with almonds. Bake cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until it is a lovely golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Cool cake in pan, set on a wire rack, for 15 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool cake on the wire rack completely.
Make the custard:
- In a small bowl, whisk together egg and cornstarch. Whisk in 1/3 cup of milk until smooth; set aside.
- Place remaining 1 cup milk in a small, microwavable cup and microwave at high speed until scalding, about 1 1/2 to 3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine sugar with water and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and cook, without stirring and occasionally brushing down the sides of pan with a wet pastry brush, until syrup caramelizes and turns a golden amber color. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the hot milk (the mixture will bubble up). Return the pan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until any hardened caramel has dissolved and mixture is smooth.
- Whisk about 1/4 cup of hot caramel mixture into egg and cornstarch mixture. Return entire mixture to saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until custard comes to a boil. Continue to boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Remove pan from heat, scrape bottom of pan with a spatula, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in butter until melted. Quickly strain custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Whisk in vanilla extract and salt. Set the bowl containing caramel mixture in a large mixing bowl filled one-third of way with ice water (be careful that water doesn't splash into caramel mixture). Stir custard mixture frequently until it is slightly chilled, about 15 minutes. Cover surface of custard with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to assemble and serve cake.
- Assemble cake: Using a long, serrated knife, cut cake in half horizontally to form two layers.
- Remove caramel custard from refrigerator and beat vigorously with a rubber spatula until smooth. In bowl of an electric mixer, using whisk attachment, beat 1/2 cup heavy cream at high speed until it forms medium-stiff peaks. Gently fold whipped cream into caramel custard. Spread caramel cream over bottom layer of cake (it will be a thick layer). Top with other cake layer. Sprinkle top of cake very lightly with confectioners' sugar and serve immediately or refrigerate for up to an hour before serving.
- Difficulty: *** Preparation Time: 1 1/2 hours plus rising and baking times