Cinnamon Caramel Pecan Cake

Butter Pecan Cake

It’s October, which means two things.

1. The entire series of Gilmore Girls is now on Netflix, so I will never again be a productive human being.
2. The house must always smell like cinnamon and toasty pecans.

The mall where I grew up used to have stands of cinnamon candied pecans around the holidays, so it just doesn’t feel like fall without that heavenly smell. I suppose a scented candle would suffice, but baking has a better end result, so here’s yet another excuse to bake a cake. I don’t think Aaron has ever repeated, “Something smells good,” as much as when I was making all the components to this cake. It really is everything that’s good about fall wrapped up in one lovely little layer cake package- layers of buttery cake with toasted pecans, a brown sugar and cinnamon frosting, and a caramel sauce that’s spiked with some rum. What could be bad about that?

Butter Pecan Cake
Butter Pecan Cake
Butter Pecan Cake

When I was getting ready to make the caramel sauce for this cake, I realized I was out of cream, so I decided to try this version which uses brown sugar and evaporated milk. Unlike the traditional method, this one is practically foolproof. There’s very minimal chance of burning the sauce or yourself (both of which I have done), and while the flavor is not quite as complex as the recipe I usually use, it still beats the crap out of the store bought variety. I added a healthy dose of vanilla, a big pinch of salt, and stirred in a couple of tablespoons of rum at the end to give it some more depth. If it’s your first time making caramel, this recipe is a good option.

Oh, and before I go, let’s talk about this brown sugar and cinnamon swiss buttercream for a sec. Make it, frost your cake with it, and don’t worry if you have leftovers. Spread it on cinnamon rolls, toast, spoon it into your mouth while watching Gilmore Girls, bathe in it, whatever. I always err on the side of extra frosting since I like a smooth finish to my cakes, and I assure that the leftovers never made it to the freezer.

For the caramel sauce recipe, click here. I added 2 tablespoons of rum along with the vanilla extract.

Cinnamon Caramel Pecan Cake

Yield: One 4 layer 8-inch cake

Ingredients

    For the Butter Pecan Cake:
  • 3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/3 cups (140 grams) chopped pecans
  • 2/3 cup (150 grams) butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 1/3 cups (270 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • For the Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 10 ounces (280 grams or about 10 large) egg whites (I used liquid egg whites)
  • 1 1/2 cups (330 grams) light brown sugar, packed
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 US sticks (3 cups or 680 grams) unsalted butter, softened but still cool and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Instructions

    For the Butter Pecan Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Place the melted butter and pecans in a baking pan, stir to coat the pecans, and bake 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Grease and line 2 8-inch baking pans with parchment paper.
  4. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium high for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
  6. Turn the mixer town to medium and beat the eggs in one at a time until incorporated.
  7. Add the vanilla and beat to combine.
  8. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  9. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and the milk into the creamed mixture in alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
  10. Stir in 1 cup of the toasted pecans.
  11. Divide the batter between the 2 pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Watch the cake carefully at the end of the baking time as it can over bake and dry out quickly.
  12. Cool on wire racks for about 10-15 minutes.
  13. Run a knife around the edge of the cake pans and turn the cakes out on the wire racks to cool completely.
  14. For the Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  15. In a large bowl (I used the bowl of my stand mixer), combine the egg whites, brown sugar, and salt.
  16. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk often. The water should not touch the bowl, since it's the steam that will be heating the egg whites. If they heat up too fast, you'll end up with scrambled eggs.
  17. Using a candy thermometer, heat the mixture to 160 degrees fahrenheit while continuing to whisk the mixture. 160 degrees is for food safety issues. If you use pasteurized egg whites, you can stop heating around 120-140 degrees until the sugar has dissolved.
  18. Remove the egg whites from the heat and use a whisk attachment to beat the egg whites on medium high until stiff peaks form and the meringue has doubled in volume (about 8-10 minutes). At this point, the meringue should look stiff and glossy, and the bowl should be neutral (not warm) to the touch. If your meringue is still warm, you'll run into problems later.
  19. Turn the mixer down to low and mix in the cubes of softened butter, one at a time until they become incorporated into the mixture.
  20. It may look curdled at first, but continue mixing until the frosting has become smooth.
  21. Add the vanilla extract and cinnamon and beat to combine.
  22. To Assemble the Cake:
  23. Split the cake layer in half horizontal with the knife to divide them.
  24. Place one layer of the cake on an 8-inch cake board.
  25. With an offset spatula, spread about 1 cup of the frosting on top of the first layer, followed by about 1/3 cup of the caramel sauce (If the caramel difficult to spread, warm it up slightly in the microwave and use a piping bag to drizzle it on the buttercream).
  26. Repeat this process with the second and third layer, spreading another 1 cup of the frosting and 1/3 cup of caramel on top of each.
  27. Place the 4th layer of cake on top.
  28. Place the cake on a turntable, and apply a thin layer of the frosting on the sides and the top of the cake to lock in the crumbs.
  29. Let the frosting set up in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  30. Apply the remainder of the frosting to the sides and top of the cake, using an offset spatula and a bench scraper to smooth out the sides.
  31. Put the cake in the fridge for another 1/2 hour-1 hour to let the frosting set. (This will keep the frosting from melting when you add the caramel sauce and help control the "drippiness" of the caramel).
  32. If the caramel sauce has gotten too thick, microwave it 10 second intervals until it is slightly runny but not hot.
  33. Pour small amounts of caramel sauce over the top of the cake until is starts to gently run down the sides.
  34. Smooth the top of the cake out with an offset spatula if necessary.
  35. Top with the remaining toasted pecans and serve at room temperature.
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Notes:
Cake recipe adapted from Taste of Home.
You can halve this recipe to make a 4 layer 5-inch cake (like the one you see pictured here). Reduce the baking time by about 5 minutes.

No Bake Tiger Butter Tart

Tiger Butter Tart

Have you heard of tiger butter? It’s basically just white chocolate, peanut butter, and dark chocolate all swirled together to look like tiger stripes. I was first introduced to tiger butter on my 7th birthday, so it’s kind of a nostalgic flavor for me. I had a candy making party at the shop where my mom took cake decorating classes, and even though we made lots of different candies that day, I can’t remember any other than the tiger butter. Maybe there’s something about the chocolate peanut butter combo that just sticks with you. Or perhaps it’s because I was in a sugar coma from all of the candy I ate, so I don’t remember much else. I do remember my friends and I eating the hell out of some tiger butter, though. My poor mother…

I didn’t think about tiger butter for a long time after that, but when I moved to LA, they had tiger butter caramel apples at a candy shop near Hollywood and Highland. Every time a friend or family member would come to town, we’d do the usual touristy stuff and as a reward for seeing the walk of fame for a gazillionth time, I would treat myself to a tiger butter apple.

Since it’s almost Halloween, I had planned to make tiger butter caramel apples in the spirit of the holiday. I soon realized that these apples required more coordination than I had, so I ended up making this tiger butter tart instead, and I think it tastes even better than the apple version. I suppose it’s no longer a Halloween themed treat, but it does taste like candy. Plus, it’s way easier to make. The swirl pattern is simpler than it looks.

You’ll start by pouring in your peanut butter ganache filling into the prepared tart shell. Then take your chocolate ganache and put it into a piping bag or a plastic bag (make sure it’s slightly cooled so you don’t melt the bag) and creating a zig zag pattern over the peanut butter mixture. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be precise. Next, take a wooden skewer and stick it about halfway down into the filling (don’t let it touch the crust) and make a figure 8 pattern all throughout mixture. Again, doesn’t need to be precise. It will still come out looking pretty.

Tiger Butter Tart

The first time I made this, I used whole Oreo cookies for the crust, but combination of whole Oreos with a sweet tart filling was tooth achingly sweet. I ended up using a mixture of Newman’s Own alphabet cookies and chocolate graham crackers just because it’s what I had on hand. You could also use the outsides of Oreo cookies minus the cream or those elusive chocolate wafer cookies (which I finally found but were quite expensive). I ended up using a stick of melted butter in the crust, but you may need more or less depending on what kind of cookie you use. Just make sure the texture is not too crumbly or you won’t be able to mold it into the tart pan. A chocolate shortbread crust would work nicely too. Maybe I’ll try that next time when I’m not too lazy to roll out dough.

I hate to dirty extra dishes so the first time I made the filling, I dumped the white chocolate into the pot of hot cream and whisked the heck out of it to make it smooth keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. However, you’ll end up with grainy ganache if you do this. Put the white chocolate in a separate bowl, pour the cream over it, and let it melt slowly. It’s worth the extra dirty dish.

Tiger Butter Tart
Tiger Butter Tart

No Bake Tiger Butter Tart

Yield: One 14x5 Tart

Ingredients

    For the Crust:
  • 10 ounces chocolate wafer cookies
  • 8 tablespoons (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • For the Chocolate Ganache:
  • 1/3 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Plastic bag
  • Wooden skewer
  • For the Peanut Butter Filling:
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) good quality white chocolate, chopped (not candy melts)
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter

Instructions

    For the Crust:
  1. Put the chocolate wafer cookies in a food processor and process until they are finely ground.
  2. Add the melted butter and mix until the cookie crumbs are well coated.
  3. Press the crust into a 14x5 inch tart pan (I used this one) and refrigerate while you make the filling.
  4. For the Chocolate Ganache:
  5. Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
  6. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until just boiling.
  7. Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate and let sit for about 5 minutes.
  8. Whisk gently until smooth and set aside to cool slightly.
  9. For the Peanut Butter Filling:
  10. Place the chopped white chocolate in a heat proof bowl.
  11. In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream until it's just about to boil.
  12. Pour the heavy cream over the white chocolate and let it sit for about 5 minutes.
  13. Whisk the ganache gently until smooth.
  14. Add the peanut butter a few tablespoons at a time and whack gently after each addition until the mixture is smooth.
  15. Pour the peanut butter mixture into the prepared tart crust.
  16. To Make the Swirl
  17. Once the chocolate has cooled slightly, put it into a piping bag or a ziploc bag.
  18. Snip the corner off the end of the bag and pipe onto the peanut butter filling in a zig zag pattern.
  19. Put a wooden skewer halfway dow into the mixture being careful not to touch the bottom and swirl it around in a figure 8 motion.
  20. Refrigerate the tart for about an hour, or until set.
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Dark Chocolate Matcha Layer Cake

Dark Chocolate Matcha Cake

I’ve been having some anxiety about writing this post because I don’t know whether to call it matcha or matcha tea or matcha green tea. Are any of these redundant, or all they all correct? For now I’ll call it matcha, but please correct me if I’m wrong. I totally roll my eyes when people say chai tea, so if I’m going to be all judgy, I better use matcha correctly.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to this cake. Sure, you can mix matcha powder and hot water and drink it and it’s great, but I’m pretty sure this stuff was meant to be used for frosting all along. Now that I’ve added matcha powder to swiss buttercream, I can’t imagine it any other way. The flavor is delicate yet earthy and goes so well with dark chocolate. I usually use this recipe for SMBC from Bravetart as my base recipe, but this time, I decided to play around with the ratios a bit. In terms of egg whites/butter/sugar, I usually do 1:1:3, especially if I’m adding something sweet to the frosting like chocolate or caramel sauce. I have also seen other bakers recommend a 1:2:3 ratio, but this time, I a tried 1:1.5:2 ratio. Less butter made the frosting less rich and let the delicate flavor of the green tea come through, and since the matcha isn’t sweet, I added a bit more sugar than I normally do.

The chocolate cake is a hybrid of a few of my favorite cake recipes. I wanted it to be light and less fudgy than my go to chocolate cake, but not lacking in chocolate flavor. After some experimentation and a few fails (and maybe some tears) I decided to go with a butter based chocolate cake. I tend to prefer oil based chocolate cakes because they don’t dry out as fast, but I have a feeling that this cake won’t last long anyway, especially once you slather it in matcha frosting.

Dark Chocolate Matcha CakeDark Chocolate Matcha CakeDark Chocolate Matcha Cake

Dark Chocolate Matcha Layer Cake

Yield: One 3 layer 6-inch cake

Ingredients

    For the Chocolate Cake:
  • 2 ounces (60 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) boiling water
  • 1 cup (125 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 11 tablespoons (155 grams) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the Matcha Frosting:
  • 6 large egg whites (or 170 grams liquid egg whites)
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granuated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 sticks (340 grams) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons matcha powder plus additional for dusting

Instructions

    For the Chocolate Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Grease and line 3 6-inch pans with parchment paper.
  3. In a bowl, combine the unsweetened chocolate, cocoa powder, and boiling water and whisk until smooth.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  5. With an electric mixer (or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  6. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 30 seconds after each addition.
  7. Add the buttermilk and vanilla extract and beat to combine.
  8. With the mixer on low, add the 1/3 of the chocolate mixture followed by 1/2 the flour mixture, alternating between the 2 mixtures and starting and ending with the chocolate. Do not over mix.
  9. Divide the batter between the 3 pans and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  10. Cool on wire racks for about 15 minutes.
  11. Run a knife around the edge of the pans and turn the cakes out onto to wire racks to cool completely.
  12. For the Matcha Frosting:
  13. Combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt in a bowl (I used the bowl of my stand mixer).
  14. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. The bowl should not touch the water, nor should the water be at a rolling boil. It's the steam that's going to heat the egg whites, since you don't want scrambled eggs.
  15. Heat the egg white mixture until it reaches 160 degrees fahrenheit, whisking frequently so as not to get scrambled eggs.
  16. Remove the bowl from the heat, and whip the egg whites on medium high using the whisk attachment of your stand mixer.
  17. Whip the egg whites until they become fluffy and double in volume. The bowl should be cool to the touch (this will usually take several minutes).
  18. Turn the mixer down to medium low, and add the butter in one chunk at a time, until it has all been incorporated.
  19. If the mixture looks curdled at this point, this is normal. Just keep whipping for a few more minutes until it comes together. If the mixture looks soupy, you can add a few cubes of chilled butter, or stick the whole bowl in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes and then continue beating.
  20. Once the buttercream has become smooth, and the vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.
  21. Add one tablespoon of the matcha powder and beat to combine. Add additional matcha powder according to your taste.
  22. To Assemble the Cake:
  23. Place one layer of the cake on an 6-inch cake board.
  24. With an offset spatula, spread about 3/4 cup of the frosting on top of the first layer.
  25. Repeat this process with the second layer, spreading another 3/4 cup of the frosting on top.
  26. Place the 3rd layer of cake on top.
  27. Place the cake on a turntable, and apply a thin layer of the frosting on the sides and the top of the cake to lock in the crumbs.
  28. Let the frosting set up in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  29. Apply the remainder of the frosting to the sides and top of the cake, using an offset spatula and a bench scraper to smooth out the sides.
  30. Pipe the remainder of the frosting on top with an open star tip and dust with matcha powder.
  31. Serve at room temperature.
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