Talk about “The Agony and the Ecstasy!” My emotions (that’s a nice word for temper) vary from minute to minute when I’m baking and decorating a cake. It’s not that I’m a diva…I just don’t deal well with distractions, and the phrase “GET OUT OF MY KITCHEN!” has echoed throughout the house more times than I care to admit. I’ve had more than my share of cake disappointments over the years, though I wouldn’t call them failures since I usually managed to patch them up and turn them into something presentable-if not prizewinning. Happily, there have also been enough rousing successes to keep me coming back for more!
No celebration is complete without a cake, and that cake should be baked with love, rather than selected by its past-pull date at the grocery store. The exception might be a wedding cake; I’ve done a couple of these, and they are a royal pain in the
ass rear. I’d definitely leave that for a professional – one who has teams of kitchen workers to clean up the gargantuan mess.
Every cake doesn’t have to be a creative masterpiece, but once your ideas get flowing it’s comparable to what I imagine an artist sees in a blank canvas: endless possibilities! My goal is to make a cake that’s so lovely no one will be able to cut into it. There have been some beauties, but never one that stopped the knife from descending. Yet.
If you’re used to cake recipes that begin: “empty 1 box of yellow cake mix in a large bowl”, you’re out of luck here. We’re going to make this baby from scratch, and when you take a big bite of maple-rum goodness, you’re going to thank me! (When you step on the scale…not so much.)
I love, love, love maple. My favorite treats are those little maple sugar candies from Vermont that are pressed into the shape of maple leaves or Santa Claus. They’re so rich you have to nibble them very, very slowly. One year I made them myself by boiling down pure maple syrup and pouring it into special little rubber molds. They turned out great, and I sampled them. I sampled them a lot. It was years before I could face anything maple again.
I’m happy to say that I’m fully recovered, and here is the perfect cake to prove it! (You’ll want to make one to celebrate the first day of fall, or to serve at Thanksgiving.)
MAPLE PECAN RUM CAKE
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups white sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons maple flavoring (“Mapleine”)
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/8 cup rum (or skip this and reduce the flour to 3 cups)
1 cup chopped pecans (more for decoration if desired)
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Prepare two 9 inch cake pans. You may simply grease and flour them, but I prefer to spray them with a flour-oil combination like “Baker’s Joy”, then put a 9 inch round of parchment paper in each and spray them again lightly.
- Thoroughly cream the butter and sugar together. It should be very light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each egg is added. Stir in the maple flavoring.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk separately, in 3 additions, beginning with the flour and ending with the buttermilk. (This means you’ll add a heaping cup of flour mixture and mix until combined. Add 1/3 cup buttermilk, mix until combined. Repeat until it’s all gone.) Stir in the rum, then fold in the pecans.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes, and then turn out on rack to continue to cool completely.
Put one cake on serving platter, flat side up. Cover with buttercream frosting. Place the other cake over the frosting, flat side down. Don’t worry if the top is domed a bit – this is one cake that doesn’t need to be level. The maple topping will “flow” better if it’s a little rounded.
Note: The top photo is a 3 layer cake, smothered in chopped pecans. You’ll have to make two batches of cake batter to make it look like that. (Freeze the extra layer for midnight snack attacks.) At the bottom of this blog is a photo of a two layer version topped with white chocolate leaves.
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons cream
- With an electric mixer on low speed, beat butter and powdered sugar together until thoroughly blended.
- Add the vanilla and cream and mix on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. If you need to adjust the consistency for spreading, use a little powdered sugar or cream to thicken or thin the frosting.
Once cake is frosted, top with maple icing. Ladle warm (not hot!) icing…or pour it right out of the pan, if you’re brave…on the center of the cake top and, with a knife or spatula, encourage it to cover the top of the cake completely and ooze over the edge. It hardens rapidly in the pan, so work quickly, but don’t despair if this happens. You can always reheat it very gently on the stove, adding more milk if necessary.
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring (Mapleine)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons cold milk if necessary
- Boil together brown sugar, milk, and butter for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool slightly.
- Add vanilla, maple extract, and powdered sugar. Beat well to avoid lumps. This should be thin enough to ladle onto the top of the cake and have it drip appealingly over the edge, but not so thin that it pours down the sides all over the plate! Add a little cold milk if necessary, and stir well, cooling as much as possible without letting it harden.
Decorate however you wish. Consider candy corn, chopped or candied nuts, or (if you can find them) those lovely maple sugar leaf candies from Vermont! I drew leaf shapes on waxed paper and outlined the leaves with white chocolate. Once it hardened, I filled in the shapes with melted white chocolate in various autumn colors. Simple and fun!
The best thing is, there should still be plenty of rum left in that bottle to toast a perfect cake!