First, happy Easter, or Passover, as applicable.
The good people at Gourmet should hire me as their spokesman. Ms. Reichl, you out there reading? This month’s cover had me wide-eyed and drooling. The recipe for the Pecan Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting left me convinced that I had to make this – for Easter.
I’m not generally a baked-goods fan. Those of you who know me, know that I’d be happy just a la mode. But, reading the recipe for this cake – got me – pecans with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and ginger. I could smell it from the ingredient list!
Having never made a four-layered cake (can you believe that?), I thought I did pretty well. The recipe is lengthy and involved, but it is very user-friendly for those with the patience. And, trust me, it’s worth your while.
In addition to the cook’s notes included (at the bottom) in the recipe, I would add that the recipe for the frosting, as usual, makes more than you will need.
Gourmet April, 2007
Several traditional southern themes – pecans, Caribbean spices, and, of course, thick, tangy cream cheese frosting – come together in this gorgeous layer cake that’s both down-home and elegant.
1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces and softened, plus additional for buttering pans.
2 ¾ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 ¼ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature, 30 minutes
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups sour cream
¾ cup pecans (3 oz), toasted, cooled and finely chopped
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
3 ¾ cups confectioners sugar (from 1-lb package)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/3 cups pecans (5 oz) toasted cooled and finely chopped
Special Equipment: 2 (9-inch) round cake pans (2 inches deep)
Make Cake: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour cake pans, knocking out excess flour.
1. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a large bowl.
2. Beat together butter (1 ½ sticks) and brown sugar in another bowl with an electric mixer (fitted with paddle attachment if using a stand mixer) at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Beat eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture and sour cream alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until batter is just smooth. Mix in pecans until just combined.
3. Spoon batter evenly into pans, smoothing tops, then rap pans once or twice to expel any air bubbles. Bake until pale golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edge of pans, then invert racks over pans and reinvert cakes onto racks to cook completely.
Make Frosting: Beat together cream cheese, butter and zest in a bowl with clean beaters at medium-high speed until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Sift in confectioners sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined, then add lemon juice and beat at medium-high speed until frosting is smooth.
Assemble and Frost Cake: Halve each cake layer horizontally with a long serrated knife using a gentle sawing motion. Put 1 layer, cut side up, on a cake stand or large plate and spread with about ¾ cup frosting. Stack remaining cake layers, spreading about ¾ cup frosting on each layer and ending with top cake layer cut side down. Spread top and side of cake with remaining frosting (about 3 ½ cups) and coat side of cake with pecans (1 1/3 cups), gently pressing to help them adhere.
1. Cake layers (not split) can be kept, wrapped individually in plastic wrap and placed in large sealed plastic bags, chilled 1 day or frozen 1 week. If frozen, thaw in bags at room temperature about 2 hours.
2. Frosting can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature then stir until smooth before using.
3. Cake can be assembled and frosted 8 hours ahead, then kept, loosely covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature.