Maple Cake with Caramelized Pecans

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This recipe is adapted from Epicurious.. there’s smoky maple syrup in every part of the cake, from the frosting to the nuts on top. It starts with a dense and moist spice cake flavored with ginger and Chinese five spice. The cake is then smothered in a layer of maple frosting with creme fraiche that adds tanginess and whipped cream that keeps it light and airy. Finally, maple glazed pecans add crunch and nuttiness to the top and homemade caramel sauce brings the whole thing together.

Ingredients:

Maple-coated pecans:

  • 3/4 cup pecan halves
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
  • Coarse kosher salt

Cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger (1 1/2 to 2 ounces)
  • 1 cup maple sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 2/3 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses

Frosting:

  • 1 1/3 cups chilled crème fraîche
  • 1 1/3 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup maple sugar
  • 6 tablespoons powdered sugar

 

Method:

For maple-coated pecans:
Place large piece of foil on work surface. Combine nuts and maple syrup in heavy medium skillet (do not use nonstick) over medium-high heat and bring to boil, tossing to coat. Cook until syrup is dark amber and almost cooked away and thickly coats nuts, tossing often, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. Scrape nuts onto foil. Working quickly with 2 forks, separate nuts. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Cool until coating is crisp and hard, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD: Pecans can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

For cake: 
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Combine first 4 ingredients in processor; add ginger. Blend until ginger is finely ground, about 1 minute. Using mixer, beat maple sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time (batter may look curdled). Stir 3/4 cup hot water and molasses in small bowl. Beat dry ingredients into butter mixture in 4 additions alternately with molasses mixture in 3 additions.

Divide batter between prepared pans (about 21/2 cups each). Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 30 to 32 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks.

For frosting: 
Combine crème fraîche, cream, and both sugars in large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until very thick and stiff.

Cut around pan sides to loosen cake layers; turn out onto racks. Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread with 1 1/3 cups frosting. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons caramel sauce. Top with second cake layer. Spread remaining frosting smoothly over top and sides of cake. Drizzle top of cake with 3 tablespoons sauce. Cover with cake dome; chill at least 1 hour. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead; keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before continuing.

Cut pecans into pieces or leave whole. Press pecans into frosting on sides of cake. Cut cake into wedges. Spoon sauce over.

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