ontario maple pecan cake with salted buttercream

ontario maple pecan cake

maple syrup is an absolutely wondrous thing. sweet liquid tapped from a tree is boiled down to make a syrup that is unique in flavour like nothing else i can imagine. it’s one of the many lovely things about living in canada, and in ontario in particular. the season is short, and for that reason the product of maple sugaring is rare and expensive. yet it’s an affordable little luxury, one worth indulging in to enjoy its smoky-sweetness, dripping down a stack of pancakes or fluffy buttermilk waffles on a lazy sunday, or used to make a special dessert.

when we had a special birthday to celebrate, i decided that springtime and maple syrup season should also be celebrated, and so i made this ontario maple pecan cake. the cake itself, studded with pecans, is easy to bake, and at the end, it gets layered with fluffy mounds of the most silky of embellishments, a buff-coloured french meringue buttercream made with pure maple syrup. heaven!

i hope you make this cake at least once. you’ll love the results, and won’t believe how easy the buttercream slides over the cake, or holds a piped peak.

ontario maple pecan cake

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups ontario syrup
3 eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup half and half cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, divided.

1 recipe of ontario maple french meringue buttercream
flaked sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350º. butter and line 2 9-inch cake pans with parchment.Tap out any excess flour, and set pans aside. Fit your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and beat the butter until it has a creamy, mayonnaise-like consistency. (Placing warm hands on the bowl while it beats is helpful) Pour in the maple syrup, and add the eggs, one at a time. the mixture will look broken, not smooth. in a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. add the flour mixture all at once, and pulse to combine. pour in the cream and vanilla, and mix a few more times until smooth. Stir in 3/4 cup chopped pecans. divide batter between the two pans, and bake for 20 minutes, then rotate pans and bake 20 minutes more, or until cake tester comes out clean. cool on racks. when completely cool, slice each layer in half horizontally. spread each layer with 1/2 cup of maple buttercream. mask cake with buttercream, and decorate as you wish. we used a naked base and a star tip for the top. sprinkle with remaining nuts and a pinch pf the flaked sea salt.

salted ontario maple french meringue buttercream

i start with unsalted butter because it tastes fresher, then salt to my liking with sea salt.

6 yolks from large eggs
2 cups ontario maple syrup
1 pound of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into bits
1/2 tsp. sea salt, or to taste

fit an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, and beat egg yolks on high speed until very light and pale yellow, about 5 minutes. place the maple syrup in a large pot and bring to a boil. use a candy thermometer and bring the syrup to 240º, or the soft ball stage. this can take 10-15 minutes.
with the electric mixer running, pour the syrup in a slow, steady stream down the side of the mixing bowl into the egg-yolk mixture, about 1 1/2 minutes. continue beating until the bowl is just slightly warm to the touch, 5 to 6 minutes. switch to the paddle attachment, and toss in the pieces of butter until it is all incorporated. beat a couple of minutes more, until the frosting is very light and fluffy. add the sea salt to taste. use right away.

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chocolate ginger sparkle cake

chocolate ginger sparkle cake

i really do have a thing for cake. i should probably start posting some different desserts. more pies and tarts, or maybe a torte or crumble or a custard or even a fool. i’ll put that on my to-do list. today though, it’s all about this rich and decadent chocolate ginger sparkle cake.

i don’t remember where this recipe came from, but i have it written in a recipe notebook i started in 1991, when i really started getting into food. it’s written in point form, which leads me to think i was watching a cooking show and frantically wrote it down. i’ve made this so many times since, for special occasions and catering jobs, and it’s always a hit. the ginger was an addition i made later, because i think ginger and chocolate get along famously and that it makes this cake even more special.

pay attention to the times for beating the eggs, and don’t skimp. this cake contains no chemical leaveners, so it relies on incorporating air into the eggs for volume. fold very carefully too, so you don’t deflate your egg whites. is a dense cake, but it shouldn’t be stodgy. the plus side is that it’s easy to handle the layers, and it comes out very straight.

chocolate ginger sparkle cake

chocolate ginger sparkle cake

12 ounces grated semi-sweet chocolate (the best you can wangle)
1 1/2 cups cake flour
pinch salt
8 eggs, separated
3/4 cup + 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 lb + 2 tbsp. very soft butter
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger

for the icing:

1/2 lb softened butter
3/4 cup good cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup half and half cream or milk
4 cups sifted icing sugar

butter 2 8-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper, then butter the parchment, and set aside. preheat oven to 350F. place the egg whites and the 1/2 cup of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. using the wire whip attachment, whip on high speed until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. scrape into a bowl and set aside. switch to the paddle attachment. place the yolks in the mixer bowl with the remaining 3/4 cup sugar. beat at medium-high speed until very light, about 4 minutes. add the butter to the egg yolks, a little at a time, until incorporated. reduce speed to low, add flour and mix until just blended. remove bowl from mixer, and using a rubber spatula, gently fold in half the egg whites until still a bit streaky. add the remaining egg whites and gently fold until incorporated. it may take several passes, as the batter is very dense. gently fold in the grated chocolate and the ginger. divide into the two pans, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean of any raw batter (there will be melted chocolate on it)

cool on rack for 20 minutes, then turn out onto the rack, remove parchment, and cool completely.

meanwhile, prepare the icing by placing all ingredients in a food processor and blitzing until smooth, scraping the sides down once or twice. scrape into a bowl, cover, and chill for 1/2 hour.

to assemble, split each cake round in half lengthwise. spread each layer with about 1/2 cup icing, then coat the whole cake with a very thin layer (this is the crumb coat, which seals the cake for further frosting) chill for 15 minutes. at this point you can either slather on the rest or add another smooth layer and pipe the edges.

makes 1 serving. (ok, 12-16)

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french walnut cake

french carrot cake

quite often, i write the blog while eating what i’ve made. right now is one of those times. cake, coffee, and writing seem to go together just right.

i call this french, because it is loosely based on the lovely and traditional french perigord walnut cake, but with the addition of shredded carrots.

it mixes up in one bowl, and needs no further adornment than a good drizzle of honey at the end.

it’s nice enough for company, but simple enough to make just because you feel like some cake. slice and eat with coffee. enjoying at breakfast time would not be the weirdest idea.

Walnut Cake 2

french walnut cake

1 cup walnuts, ground very fine
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cold coffee
1 large carrot, grated
2/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup honey

heat oven to 350f. butter a 9″ round cake pan, line with parchment, then butter the parchment.

in a medium bowl, stir together the walnuts, flour, baking soda, and salt. in a large bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar. add the coffee, carrot, and melted butter, and whisk to combine. add the dry ingredients, all at once, and mix together quickly with rubber spatula. batter will be runny. scrape into prepared pan. bake for 50 minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick. if needed, bake 5-10 minutes more. remove from oven an cool on a rack for 20 minutes.

turn out onto a plate and spread the honey over the top. cool completely, then slice.

makes 8 servings.

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brown butter cornmeal lime cake

brown butter cornmeal lime cake. it sounds like i took a bunch of whatever i had in the kitchen and made a cake out of it, doesn’t it? oh, wait…

i rounded up the ingredients, cornmeal…yogurt…limes…i thought, how can i bring these all together into a cohesive whole? the brown butter was the key, adding a lovely toasty, caramely note that complements the cornmeal, and balancing out the acid in the limes and the yogurt.

luckily this worked on the first try despite not having one of these.   i would suggest eating in within a day or so, when it’s supremely fresh. you could easily make this in a loaf pan, but i wanted to use the lovely violet cake plate from dis-a-ray that my special brit friend gave me for my birthday. he’s very thoughtful that way, and was very excited it said “made in england”.  or maybe he knew i would immediately make a cake to go on it. either way, we ate it up with a pot of earl grey and it was delicious.

keep a close eye when browning the butter. it doesn’t take long to go from brown butter to burnt butter.

brown butter cornmeal lime cake

brown butter cornmeal lime cake

1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
1 cup plain yogurt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp lime zest
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4  cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup brown sugar

for the glaze:

1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup brown sugar

for the drizzle:

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp lime zest

preheat oven to 350f. grease a 9″ cake pan and line with parchment. grease the parchment and set pan aside.

in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. cook slowly, swirling the pan and watching for the butter to change colour from pale straw to a light butterscotch colour.  when it’s just aproaching a deep amber colour, and smells like toasted nuts, remove from heat and swirl a few times. set aside to cool slightly.

in a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup of the brown sugar. whisking does a great job of breaking up the lumps in the sugar.

when the butter is cooled, whisk in the yogurt, eggs, and zest. pour all at once into dry ingredients and mix well, but do not beat.

pour into prepared pan and bake for 75 minutes, or until dry when tested with a toothpick.

meanwhile, make the glaze. heat the 1/3 cup lime juice with 1/3 cup brown sugar until sugar is melted. pour over warm cake, then cool cake completely.

when cool, mix the icing sugar with the 2 tbsp. lime juice and blend well. drizzle over cake, and sprinkle on the remaining zest. allow glaze to set before serving.


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