Saturday, September 19, 2015

Butter Pecan Praline Anniversary Cake

A few weeks ago, September 1st, was our first wedding anniversary.  As it happens, it was also almost exactly six weeks after my shoulder surgery and I had been dreaming all summer of the first cake I would make once my right arm was no longer confined to a sling.  After nearly no baking for those six weeks, I knew I would be making the cake to out-shine all my other cakes, something completely and outrageously over the top.

If you remember my previous post about our wedding cakes, there were five cakes that day, all of which were nearly gone by the end of the evening with the last few pieces packaged up in little take-home boxes for the guests.  The next day, I really found myself wishing we'd saved a few pieces of cake for ourselves, since I was too full for more than a bite of each at the reception, but I was happy that our friends and family were able to enjoy them later.

Since I didn't save the traditional top of the cake in the freezer to eat on our anniversary, I had always planned on baking something fresh, but what I hadn't planned on was my silly shoulder deciding it needed surgery this summer.  It was a long six weeks, and even now that I'm able to use my arm more, it aches all the time as I have to stretch the muscles back out and strengthen my arm again.  It hasn't kept me out of my kitchen, though.

This was a fairly ambitious cake to attempt for the first weekend I started using my right arm again, and it wasn't without its challenges.  Unable to raise my arm high enough to frost and decorate the cake on the kitchen counter, I had to set it down lower on a chair to be able to reach it, but it all worked out quite well, I think.

I started with my recipe for brown butter pecan cake, a rich and luxurious cake full of the nutty and aromatic flavors of browned butter, spices and salted pecans.  The scent in the house after baking this cake is indescribable.

Because I planned to pour a sticky salted caramel glaze over the top, I chose to frost the cake with just a thin crumb coat of buttercream, so as not to overwhelm it with too much sweetness.

After the glaze came crunchy caramel popcorn with candied pecans.

And lastly, amber shards of caramelized sugar, beautiful and translucent.  The sugar making was an experience in itself, and my counters were a sticky mess afterwards, but it looked so stunning on the cake.

It's not an every day cake.  But first wedding anniversaries only happen once.

Butter Pecan Praline Cake

Recipe for Brown Butter Pecan Cake

Salted Caramel Glaze
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark corn syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
After baking and frosting the cake, prepare the glaze.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter then add the sugar, corn syrup and salt.  Cook over medium low heat while whisking occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in the vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth.  Let the glaze cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes before pouring over the cake.

Refrigerate until set, but serve at room temperature.

Just before serving, garnish with the popcorn (note, the popcorn does become chewy as it sits on the cake).

  • Extras Needed: Pecan Praline Caramel Popcorn

Sugar Decorations
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a saucepan.  Without stirring, cook over medium heat until the sugar is amber colored.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Use a spoon to drizzle the hot sugar over the paper; let cool completely until hardened, then break into shards to use as decorations.

For the spun sugar in the center of the cake, dip a fork in the hot sugar and fling it back and forth over a bowl to create the threads of sugar. (There are many helpful video tutorials online for this that I suggest you watch first.)

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen