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
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.