Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Maple-Pecan Birthday Cake

Last week we had a surprise birthday party for Louise and I was in charge of - guess what - the cake.
After spending an evening sitting on my bed with my baking books spread out around me I was honing in on a winner. I wanted something with nuts and I didn't want to make a chocolate cake. In the end I ended up going for the vanilla cake in the Magnolia Bakery cookbook with a maple syrup buttercream and some pecans thrown in.
I don't think I'll ever be a huge fan of layered cakes but there is something special about having a layered cake as a birthday cake.
For any special occasion really.
Perhaps it's that even though they aren't much more work than a loaf cake they do look like you put loads of work into it.
I don't know, does anyone else have an opinion on this?
Anyhow, the cake - make the icing the night before you want to make the cake, that way the icing becomes less grainy (from the sugar) and it'll take less time on the day. That said, this is one of those cakes you can make while still doing work - there's quite a lot of steps but there's time between them so you can tidy your room (probably should have gone for that option), or get some writing done, or read an article, or whatever else you can think of.
Oh, and this is one of those cakes where it is just way easier to use measuring cups, so get some if you don't have them already :)

Maple-Pecan Birthday Cake

Maple Icing
2 cups Butter, unsalted, at room temperature
5 cups Confectioner's Sugar, sifted
11/2 cups Light Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Milk
3 tbsp Maple Syrup

Cream the butter for about 3 minutes (electric mixer...unless you have awesome muscles :) ) then add the sugars and keep the mixer going at a low speed for another 2 minutes.
Now you add the milk and syrup and beat for another 3-5 minutes. You will notice that it's ready when it goes all smooth and creamy and awesome.
Store this icing at room temperature (for up to 2 days) until you are ready to ice the cake.

11/2 cups Self-Rising Flour
11/2 cups Plain Flour
1 cup Butter, unsalted, at room temperature
2 cups Sugar
4 Eggs, at room temperature
1 cup Milk
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Preheat your oven to 175˚C.
Grease and flour the side-bits of three 18 cm  cake tins. Cut out baking parchment to fit the bottom of each tin and assemble the tins.
Mix the flours in a small bowl. In your favourite mixing bowl (I don't know about you, but I definitely have a favourite bowl amongst my mixing bowls) cream the butter for about 3 minutes (we're still using an electric mixer for this), then add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and make sure they are well incorporated into the batter.
Now you add the flours and the remaining wet ingredients alternating (i.e. 1/3 of the flour, 1/3 of the milk, another 1/3 of the flour, etc). Make sure you don't overbeat the batter at this point.
Divide the batter between the tins and bake the cake for 25-30 minutes.
Allow the cake to cool in the tins for the first hour, then give them another hour or so on a wire rack until they are completely cooled.

Assembly & Garnish
11/2 cups Pecans, coarsely chopped, toasted (you can toast them in the oven after you have taken the cake out. At 175˚C this should probably take just under 15 minutes. Make sure you turn them every once in a while)

To ice the cake, brush all crumbs off the cake layers. Then spread some icing between the layers and sprinkle some pecans on each layer (just under 1/3 of the pecans on each layer). Stack the layers on top of each other, then ice the top (if you haven't done so already) and the sides. Sprinkle some more pecans on the top and attempt to stick some to the sides (I am told you can throw them at the side and they will stick to the cake - I seem to be too stupid to get this to work so I tend to just stick them to the side by hand).

Enjoy a tiny slice of this cake (trust me, unless you want to develop type 2 diabetes or something else on the spot, start with a very small piece, you will get a sugar high no matter what) with some coffee or milk and preferably with lots of birthday candles on top :)

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