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.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://cakemerchant.com/2014/10/16/cinnamon-caramel-pecan-cake/

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.

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.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://cakemerchant.com/2014/10/01/dark-chocolate-matcha-layer-cake/

Tea for Two: Pistachio Orange Mini Cakes with Grand Marnier Cream Cheese Frosting

Pistachio Orange Tea Cakes

It’s no secret that I love mini cakes, or all things miniature for that matter. If you don’t share in these sentiments, you may want to cover your eyes because it’s about to get obnoxiously mini up in here.

In college, my friends use to tease me about all of my mini kitchen things when they would come over. I would hear things like, “Why are your spoons so tiny?” or “When we go to Natasha’s house, we have to use miniature bowls.” In my head I’m thinking, duh, you have to use small spoons to eat out of small bowls, but I guess not everyone thinks like me.

Fast forward about 10 years or so to a few days after my wedding. I’m out shopping with my family who is visiting from India and we’re smack in the middle of tea time with no homemade chai in sight, so my aunt asks me to run into the coffee shop nearby and get her a cup of coffee. “I only want this much,” she says, showing me with her thumb and forefinger what would be a cup about this size. A few other family member chimed in saying they wanted the same. Perhaps they didn’t realize that they had traveled to supersized land, and the smallest cup at Starbucks was the size of their head. In the end, three people shared a tall latte still and couldn’t finish it. This leads me to believe that my affinity for miniatureness must be a cultural thing. Or a family thing. And now that I think about it, all of my small bowls and silverware were hand me downs from my mom anyway, so it must be my genes. See, I just can’t help but make mini cakes.

Pistachio Orange Tea CakesPistachio Orange Tea Cakes

These mini cakes go perfectly with a cup of afternoon tea. I’ve gotten out of the habit of observing tea time, but having my family visit recently made me want to start doing it again, even when it’s just me and Aaron in Dallas. I loved the fact that no matter what kind of chaos was going on during the hustle and bustle of the wedding, once a day, everything stopped for a little while so we could sit down and have tea. Mini cakes were not usually served (that would be my own personal touch), but since I’ve been missing my family a lot lately, I observed tea time with these mini cakes eaten off of mini plates with my mini cup of tea just for them. And also for my belly :)

Like most of the mini cake recipes on this site, this makes a small batch of two cakes that were baked in tin cans. Tin cans make the best little cake pans (I used 15 oz. cans). Just make sure they are BPA free and that you clean them thoroughly before you use them. This version of mini cakes are made with ground pitachios in the batter. I had originally planned to make lemon pistachio cakes, but made a last minute change and added some orange zest instead (mostly because I was out of lemons). I ended up really liking the orange/pistachio combo, and also added a tablespoon of Grand Marnier to the frosting because I just so happened to have a mini bottle (I didn’t even plan it) on hand.

Just in case I haven’t convinced you that mini cakes are the best yet, here are a few more reasons:

1. They have a better frosting to cake ratio than cupcakes
2. No wastage (cake wastage is the worst)
3. You can have a whole cake to yourself. Seriously, when’s the last time you can say you ate a whole cake?
4. Less calories (than a large cake). Obviously this does not have less calories than kale.
5. You can pretend like you’re a giant and eat an entire slice in one bite.

Pistachio Orange Tea Cakes

I didn’t add a lot of sugar to the cream cheese frosting since I wanted the cake to be less sweet, but it did make the frosting a little runny. You can add more sugar if you like, or stick the frosting in the fridge for about 15 minutes like I did.

Tea for Two: Pistachio Orange Mini Cakes with Grand Marnier Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: 2 mini layer cakes

Ingredients

    For the Pistachio Orange Cakes:
  • 1/4 cup (40 grams) unsalted shelled pistachios (not dyed red)
  • 1/3 (42 grams) cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (67 grams) sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • For the Grand Marnier Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 3 ounces (85 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (115 grams) confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
  • Finely chopped pistachios for topping

Instructions

    For the Pistachio Orange Cakes:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Grease and line 2 15 oz. tin cans with parchment paper (or use baking spray) and place the cans on a baking sheet.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the shelled pistachios until you reach a powdered consistency. Don't pulse for too long, or you will end up with paste.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to the food processor and pulse for a few times to combine.
  5. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes until light and creamy.
  6. Add the egg and beat to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary.
  7. Add the milk, vanilla extract, and orange zest and beat to combine.
  8. Add the flour/pistachio mixture and stir or beat on low until just combined.
  9. Divide the batter between the 2 cans and place the entire baking sheet with the cans in the oven (this will make it easier to get in and out of the oven).
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes (mine took right around 23) until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
  11. Let the cakes cool on wire racks for about 15 minutes.
  12. Run a knife around the edge of the cakes and invert on to the wire racks to cool completely.
  13. For the Grand Marnier Cream Cheese Frosting:
  14. With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes until thoroughly combined.
  15. Add the confectioner's sugar and beat on low until just combined.
  16. Turn the mixer up to medium and beat for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  17. Add the vanilla extract and Grand Marnier and beat to combine.
  18. If the frosting is running, put it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. If you like it sweeter, you can also add more powdered sugar to thicken it.
  19. To Assemble the Cake:
  20. Slice the layer cakes in half horizontally and place them on a 3 1/2 inch cake board (or directly on a plate if you don't have a small cake board).
  21. Spread a layer of frosting in between each layer.
  22. Place a dollop of frosting on the top of the cake, and spread evenly across the top of the cake. Work your way around the sides until the entire cake is covered with a thin layer of frosting. Let the crumb coat set in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  23. Once the crumb coat has set, spread a thicker layer of frosting on the top and sides of the crumb coat to create a smooth finish.
  24. Sprinkle the tops of the cakes with chopped pistachios.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://cakemerchant.com/2014/09/21/pistachio-orange-tea-cakes-grand-marnier-cream-cheese-frosting/

Cake recipe adapted from Epicurious