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A little while ago, a very short, simple e-mail popped up in my Inbox. It said, “I was wondering if you have a favorite maple syrup and if you’ve ever tasted pure maple syrup from Quebec.” I wrote back that I didn’t, and I hadn’t. I thought the company might send me a sample-size bottle of syrup. Instead, Brien Fine Maple Products sent me a lovely package filled with maple syrup, fine granulated maple sugar, chipped maple sugar, maple butter and soft maple candies. No strings attached. They didn’t ask for a review, or three links or so much as a mention.

Pure generosity.

So, I took the box of pure Canadian maple goodness to my grandmother’s house, because Mommaw’s the only person I know who eats waffles with butter and syrup for breakfast EVERY SINGLE DAY. Since it was dinnertime, Mom made pancakes, and we all tried the syrup and dipped our spoons into the maple cream, which was almost as thick as peanut butter. Mommaw was beaming. In total maple syrup nirvana. Most syrup is just sticky and sweet, but this maple syrup had personality. The flavors were complex and depthy. It had a past. If regular syrup were Miley Cyrus, maple syrup would be Meryl Streep.

As for the rest of the syrup and the two types of maple sugar, I thought they’d be perfect for this Maple Pound Cake with Pecan Crunch Buttercream and Candied Pecans that I’ve been lusting after from Warren Brown’s “CakeLove.” The cake is dense, moist and absolutely saturated with maple flavor. You could bake it, dust it with confectioner’s sugar and live a rich and very fulfilled life. But, if you want to really take this cake to the next level (or dress it up for company), split the cake and fill it with pecan crunch buttercream. Then, use your remaining buttercream to top the cake, and decorate it with homemade candied pecans.

You know those times when you get lost in the Zen of Baking, when hours slip by, and you’re completely caught up in the measuring and mixing and the details of the process? That’s what making this cake was like for me. A few rainy-day hours getting lost in the process and the intoxicating scent of pure maple syrup.

Merci beaucoup to Brien Fine Maple Products. You have a convert.

Maple Pound Cake

Adapted from Warren Brown’s “CakeLove”

    Dry:

  • 13 1/2 ounces (2 1/2 cups + 3 tablespoons) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons maple crystals
    Liquid:

  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon whiskey
    Creaming:

  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 18 1/2 ounces (2 1/4 cups + 1 tablespoon) extra-fine granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set the rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Sift the flour directly into a bowl on a scale for accurate measuring.
  3. Measure the other dry ingredients into a separate mixing bowl, add the flour, and whisk for 10 seconds to blend. Set aside.
  4. Measure the liquid ingredients into a separate bowl, whisk to combine, and set aside.
  5. Measure the butter and sugar into separate bowls, and set aside.
  6. Crack the eggs and yolk into separate bowls and set aside.
  7. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on the lowest speed for 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, slice the vanilla bean lengthwise with a paring knife and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the creaming butter and sugar.
  9. With the mixer still on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time followed by the yolk, fully incorporating after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl.
  10. Add the dry ingredient mixture alternately with the liquid mixture in 3 to 5 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. This step should take a total of 60 seconds.
  11. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl all the way down. Mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds to develop the batter’s structure.
  12. Spray your Bundt pan well with a nonstick spray.
  13. Fill the pan about three-quarters full by depositing the batter in small clumps around the prepared pan. Level the batter with the rubber spatula.
  14. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes.
  15. Once the cake doesn’t jiggle in the center and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, the cake is done. Remove the pan from the oven, and place on a wire rack.
  16. Once the cake has cooled for 5 to 10 minutes, remove the cake by inverting the pan onto a flat surface. Allow it to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes, before serving.

STORING: Store under a cake dome at room temperature, or wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to 1 week. To store longer, label, date, and store the plastic-wrapped cake in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Pecan Crunch Buttercream

Adapted from Warren Brown’s “CakeLove”

Yield: 4 to 5 cups

    Yolk Mixture:

  • 6 yolks
  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) extra-fine granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons potato starch
  • 2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    Milk Mixture:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 ounces (1 cup) unsalted pecans, halved
  • 7 ounces (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) extra-fine granulated sugar
    Flavorings and Butter:

  • 3 ounces (1/4 cup, packed) muscovado or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon crystallized or raw honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) extra-fine granulated sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Separate the yolks into a large bowl. Add the 2 ounces sugar and the potato starch, whisk to combine and set aside. Add the 2 ounces butter, but do not stir in.
  3. Measure the milk mixture ingredients into a 2-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn off the heat, and let the mixture steep for 10 minutes.
  4. Measure the flavorings into three separate bowls, and set aside.
  5. Strain the pecans in a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl to capture the flavored milk. Leave the nuts in the sieve to drain over a medium-sized bowl–you’ll use them later.
  6. Return the steeped milk to the saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once it reaches a simmer, slowly pour it into the yolk mixture, whisking slowly in small circles first and ending with broader strokes until finally combined. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
  7. Return the saucepan to the stove and heat over medium heat, whisking constantly but not rapidly, for about 4 minutes. The key is to keep the pastry cream moving so it won’t scorch on the bottom of the saucepan.
  8. 6. When you begin to see lava bubbles–large, slowly forming bubbles that burp steam–reduce the heat to the lowest setting and whisk briskly for 1 minute to pasteurize the pastry cream.
  9. 7. Pour the pastry cream into the bowl of a standing mixture fitted with the wire whip attachment. Add the muscavado, honey and vanilla extract. Whip the pastry cream on high speed until it’s cooled to room temperature, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  10. Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Whip on medium speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile, toss the drained pecans with 1/4 cup sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Place on an ungreased parchment-lined sheet pan. Toast for 5 to 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on the nuts–they tend to turn quickly from toasted to charred.
  12. Let the pecans cool thoroughly before breaking them into chunks with your fingers. Add them to the buttercream and mix on low speed until the nuts are fully incorporated.
  13. Spread the buttercream on thick between cake layers, and leave the sides exposed.

Candied Pecans

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 pound pecan halves
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl with the wire whip attachment, combine the egg white and vanilla until frothy.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the sugars, salt and cinnamon.
  4. Add pecans to egg whites, and stir to coat the nuts. Toss nuts in sugar mixture.
  5. Spread the nuts on the baking sheet. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

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