Every month I get together with some girls for a Cooking Club. The host for the month picks the theme and you have to make something that you’ve never made before. This month’s theme was Southern – didn’t have to be southern US but that’s the spin we all took. I decided to make a butter pecan cake with whipped cream pecan icing. I also made some pralines with the extra pecans and cream. I checked out some butter pecan cake recipes online but found far too many recipes calling for the butter pecan cake mix you can find in the store. Pfft! Here’s my take:
Butter Pecan Cake
2 1/2 sticks butter (20 tbl; 1 1/2 sticks at room temp, 1 stick will get melted)
2 cups pecans, chopped
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 3/4 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk (I had 1%)
1/2 cup sour cream (I used light)
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9″ cake pans, making sure to tap out the extra flour. Alternatively, you can use baking spray that contains flour.
Melt 1 stick of butter over medium-low heat in a medium-sized pan. Add pecans to the pan, stirring frequently as they toast in the butter. The kitchen will begin to smell like nutty pecan heaven after a few minutes; continue to toast the nuts for 8 – 10 minutes or until a rich golden brown. The butter should foam up and just begin to die down when you’re good to go. This makes for a rich, flavorful browned butter to go in the cake batter.
Strain the toasted pecans, reserving the melted butter. Let cool for about 10 minutes.
While the butter is cooling off: in a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside. Combine the milk, sour cream, and vanilla extract in another bowl. Set aside.
Cream the remaining 1 1/2 sticks room temp butter until pale in color. Add in the sugar and beat for 2 minutes. With the mixer running, pour in the butter from the pecans. Make sure you pour in all the brown bits from that settled to the bottom of the butter – those are going to really give the cake the butter pecan flavor. Beat for an additional 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating well after each addition.
Next, add half of the dry mixture; mix briefly until just combined. Add in half of the milk mixture; mix briefly until just combined. Repeat with the other half of the dry and wet ingredients. Turn the mixer off and fold in 1 cup of the toasted pecans; reserve remaining cup for the icing. I love pecans but don’t really like nuts in my cakes so I skipped adding the pecans here. Instead, I made pralines with 1 cup of the nuts. Recipe below icing recipe.
Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean/with one or two crumbs stuck to it. Cake will be pale on the surface and a golden color on its edges and underside when you turn it out. Let cool on wire racks for ten minutes then turn out onto the racks and cool completely.
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Whipped Cream Butter Pecan Icing
8 oz cream cheese, softened but not warm (light is fine)
1/2 stick butter, softened but cooler than room temp (4 tbl)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup heavy cream, very cold
1 cup toasted pecans, reserved from recipe above
Beat cream cheese and butter until just combined. Add in brown sugar and salt; beat for 30 seconds. Slowly add the powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Stir in the pecans gently.
In another bowl, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks are formed. (You can tell you’re getting close when you can see faint trails left in the cream from the beaters while the mixer is on. When you have stiff peaks, you’ll be able to see distinct grooves in the cream left behind by the beaters. As soon as you see those, stop the mixer and lift out the beater out and turn bottom side up. The cream should cling to the beater and come to a stiff point at the top with minimal droopage. If the tip of your cream droops over a bunch, you probably have soft peaks. In that case, keep beating the cream for a few moments longer. The trip from soft peaks to stiff peaks to overbeaten cream can be a ultra-quick one if you aren’t careful.) When the whipped cream is ready (stiff peaks in this case), mix 1/3 of it into the cream cheese/sugar/pecan mixture to lightened it up a bit. Then pour the lightened cream cheese mixture into the bowl of whipped cream. Fold the two together gently until they are just combined.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to ice the cake. A little chill on this icing helps when you go to slather it on the cake. When you’re ready and the cake is cool and the icing is chilled, build your masterpiece.
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If you saved the cup of pecans from the cake OR you have an extra cup of pecans lying around, here is a recipe for microwave pralines. Pralines are normally made on the stove with a candy thermometer. I was behind schedule while making my cake but wanted to make pralines to use up my toasted pecans so I found this really easy recipe on allrecipes. I scaled it down and adjusted it to my taste, using up my 1 cup of pecans. My version makes 24 small pralines, or 12 big ones.
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbl butter
1 cup pecans (I had chopped ones, halves would be pretty though)
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a microwave safe bowl, combine sugar, cream, salt, butter and pecans. (Use a larger bowl than you think because this mixture will more than double in size as it cooks – you definitely don’t want this bubbling over in your microwave!) Microwave 9 minutes on high, stirring once halfway through.
Let rest 1 minute. Stir in vanilla; continue to stir 3 minutes more to cool the mixture down. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto buttered waxed paper. (If mixture seems too runny, allow to cool 30 seconds and try again. I let mine cool about 3 extra minutes while I took pictures and it was a great consistency) Let cool completely on the waxed paper before removing. Store in a container with tight-fitting lid or in a zip lock baggy… if they last long enough to be stored! I added some to my cake for as an extra treat.
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So, what’s with my blog title? Let me share…
I finished my cake, had it all ready to go in my cake carrier, and left the house with the famous last words: “This cake holder better hold.” I have used this cake holder before and this cake was not particularly heavy. I made it out to my car, to Siiri’s house for Cooking Club, and walked across the street. Then…
I stopped in my tracks and stared at it for a good 30 seconds. Did that seriously just happen? What are we going to have for dessert?! So I walked in carrying only the top of my cake carrier, the road kill left outside for the moment. I intended to get some paper towels to scoop it up and then chuck it. Silly me, I did not realize the level of awesomeness my Baltimore friends could achieve. I walked in with my carrier top and was greeted with some curious looks. After announcing why I only had the top, the immediate response was a resounding “Save The Cake!” We all ran outside: Siiri with a plate and two spatulas, me with my camera, all of us with schoolgirl silliness.
Thankfully, the cake had two layers. We were able to get the safe-from-road-rash layer piled up and brought inside where it quickly became part of our appetizer course (as well as dessert later). I added some of my extra pralines for good measure. Everyone really loved the cake and someone even said “This cake is so good I’d eat it off the ground!”
I’m also the grateful new owner of a locking cake holder, courtesy of Siiri. She happened to have 3 in her possession and gave me one to spare future heartbreak!
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Friends’ Kitchen Treats from this month’s Southern Cooking Club
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Another kind of Treat: Art!
My friend Siiri and her mom are both amazing artists. Her mom does fabulous portraits and watercolors. Siiri does these funny & clever egg paintings:
I took these while checking out her house after CC – apologies for the glare. I really love the one in the top photo – it’s called The Audience. So many fun details in there. Check out the little guy on the left side, behind the big, doofy egg: he is not happy about his seat! 🙂 You can get original paintings as well as prints of her work. I’m thinking a print of The Audience is gonna look pretty darn cool in my basement by the couch.
She also does charcoal, watercolor, and totally adorable and life-like pet portraits. To see more of her egg paintings, check out her shop on Etsy. To see other work by Siiri and her mom, check out their site here – it’s still being updated so feel free to contact Siiri (firstname.lastname@example.org) directly for more info. Aaaand she also has a frame shop if you need custom mattes, frames, or help finding the perfect spot on your wall for your own art. This girl is full of talent… all this in addition to saving butter pecan cakes from creatures lurking in the wild!
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Comments, requests, and suggestions welcome!