I feel bad for Thanksgiving. As soon as the page has been turned on October and Halloween is over, everyone sets their sights on Christmas. Starbucks already has their red cups out, Christmas decorations are front and center at just about every store, and I have already seen a few people put up their lights and trees.
And even though I love Christmas as much as the next person, lets pump the breaks here folks and give Thanksgiving it’s fair share! And even though Thanksgiving is really all about the food (nothing wrong with that), it should also be a time to reflect on everything that we are thankful for.
One thing I am definitely thankful for is this cake! I know I say everything I make is good (well, not everything, but anything that ends up on the blog), but this cake is AMAZING. And I don’t throw that term around all willy nilly. I mean it!
I started with a basic vanilla cake, but I swapped out some of the sugar for maple syrup and then folded in some toasted pecans. When I tasted the batter, I was actually a little disappointed in the maple flavor. It just wasn’t popping like I thought it would. Then, when I stated a bite after it had baked, that maple flavor really exploded!
The cake by itself tastes like a stack of pancakes that has been drenched in butter and maple syrup. I mean….come on! How could you refuse a slice of that? The pecans not only add a nice crunch, but that deliciously nutty, buttery flavor.
But it’s not just about the cake flavor, its also about the decoration. This is the first time I had really attempted to decorate a cake this elaborately. Just like with cookie decorating, I picked up most of my tricks from watching lots and lots of You Tube videos (you can learn anything on YouTube). One of my favorite channels is How To Cake It! You must watch her videos, she is amazing!
Anyways, I started by leveling all my cakes and removing the caramelized edges. Because I wanted this to be a “naked” cake, I wanted all the edges to look perfect and to be able to see the little pecan pieces through the buttercream.
In between each layer, I spread on a generous portion of Italian meringue buttercream and the scattered on some toasted pecan pieces. Once all the layers had been stacked up, I topped it off with the rest of the buttercream and spread the excess down the sides of the cake. I made sure to fill in any gaps between the layers. Then, with a bench scraper, I scraped off all the excess.
While the cake chilled in the fridge, I made the wreath decorations. The leaves are made out of various colors of fondant rolled together and cut out with some leaf shaped pie crust cutters. The branches are made out of melted chocolate, piped out to fit on top of the cake. And the flowers are piped out with buttercream using some really awesome techniques that were also learned from YouTube.
Once the branches had hardened and the flowers were hard from the freezer, I assembled everything into a wreath! Doesn’t it look pretty!
I think it would be perfect as the center piece for a Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving dinner! Or just make the cake (sans decor) and eat it anytime. Trust me…you won’t regret it.
You can watch how I made the cake in the short video below. I apologize in advance for the poor quality, I am still learning how to work my new camera and the editing software. But I am hoping to do a lot more videos, since that is practically how I learned everything I know. 😉
PIN NOW, MAKE LATER
- 2 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 8 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups whole milk
- 5 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup pecans pieces
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 egg whites
- pinch of cream of tartar
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of 3 8" round cake pans with parchment.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, sugar, and maple syrup until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and eggs, 1-2 at a time.
- In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Mix in 1/4th of the dry ingredients, then 1/3 of the milk. Follow the a third of the remaining dry ingredients, and half of the milk. Continue this pattern until completely mixed. Fold in the pecan pieces.
- Portion out the cake batter into each of the cake pans. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Let cool on the counter until they come to room temperature. Wrap in plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
- In a small sauce pan over medium heat, bring sugar and water to a simmer.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the whisk attachment installed, begin whisking the egg whites and cream of tartar until the form soft peaks. Turn off mixer and wait until the sugar mixture comes to 240 degrees, as measured on a candy thermometer.
- Once the sugar is at at 240 degrees, turn mixer back on, and slowly stream in the sugar mixture. Continue beating until the bowl is no longer warm.
- Mix in the butter and vanilla until completely incorporated.
- Remove the tops of the cakes with a serrated knife so that all cakes have flat tops and are evenly sized. Place the bottom layer of the cake on a stand, the top with 1/4 of the buttercream. Spread out to the edges of the cake, then top with pecan pieces. Top with another layer of cake and press down slightly. Top again with 1/3 of the remaining buttercream and repeat the process. For the final layer of cake, turn it upside down, so that the flat bottom is on top. Spread half of the buttercream on the top of the cake, pushing any excess down the sides. Use the remaining buttercream to fill in any gaps between the layers. Use a bench scraper to scrape around the sides of the cake, removing all excess buttercream. Using an off set spatula, spread the excess buttercream on top toward the center of the cake, until you have a nice flat surface. Chill for at least 30 minutes, then decorate as desired.
If you don't want this to be a "naked" cake, make a double batch of buttercream. Then completely cover the sides of the cake with icing.