Saturday, September 6, 2014

Brown Butter Pecan Cake

Southern butter pecan ice cream has always been a favorite ice cream flavor of mine.  It's got that perfect salty sweet thing going on that I just adore.

I had been developing a cake recipe for a butter pecan cake, and a few weeks before the wedding, I felt like I just couldn't wait any longer to try it.  With as much as I had to do, I wasn't sure why I wanted to give myself even more work, and yet, when I'm inspired to bake something, it's hard for me not to see it through right at that moment.  Inspiration comes and goes, and when it goes, it doesn't always come back when I have the time for it.

This is a cake that celebrates butter.

Between the cake and the buttercream, there are two pounds of butter in this cake.  That's more than you'd find in a pound cake.

I browned the butter, for both the cake and the buttercream, to bring out its nutty richness.  The browned butter, the salt, and the toasted pecans...  it all came together in beautiful harmony in this decadent cake.

In fact, I loved this cake so much, that I nearly switched it out for one of the other recipes I had been planning to make for my wedding cakes.

Baker's Note:
After browning the butter, you'll find that it has reduced a little and you'll have slightly less than what you started with.  I measured out the 1 1/2 cups for the cake first , and used the remaining 2 - 2 1/2 cups for the buttercream.

Brown Butter Pecan Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, browned and cooled to a room-temperature solid
  • 2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
  • 2 1/2 cups unsalted butter, browned and cooled to a room-temperature solid
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4-5 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped pecans, lightly toasted and cooled

To make the browned butter for both the cake and the buttercream, place the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook the butter, swirling occasionally, until nutty brown solids form at the bottom of the pan.  Scrape into a bowl and refrigerate until solid, then set out to soften to room temperature before using (this step can be done a day in advance).

Bake the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray the bottoms of four 8-inch pans with non-stick baking spray, line with parchment paper, then spray the paper as well.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl in 3 additions, alternating with the milk and sour cream, starting and ending with the flour, stirring just until moistened.  Fold in the pecans.

Pour batter into the pans.  Bake cakes for 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool cakes in the pans on a wire rack, covered loosely with a clean kitchen towel.

Make the Buttercream:
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter until smooth.  In a separate bowl, combine the powdered sugar, meringue powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  With the mixer on low, add by spoonfuls.  Add the milk/cream and vanilla and increase speed to medium high, whipping until very light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.  Fold in the chopped pecans.

Fill and frost the cooled cakes with the buttercream.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen