Butterscotch Pecan Cake with Brown Butter Frosting

This weekend has been spent pottering around the flat, doing academic chores of various kinds – updating my electronic bibliography, reading, some field note writing – hardly the stuff of exciting blog posts. I’ve also been making this cake.

It is adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe that I found online.

Martha is often a person I turn to when I want a dramatic cake. Let’s face it, the Americans do good cake, and this one is no exception. I made this for a friend’s birthday. Her birthday was actually earlier this week but for various reasons (field work, the death of a beloved cat, the Princess departing for London) I only found time to bake this weekend. You need a few days for this cake as there are multiple stages to attend to – the cake making, frosting and sauce making, frosting refrigerating, cake refrigerating etc. You can make it in a day I suspect, if you’re not using the light to photograph every step (as I did) and you have tasks you can complete in amongst all the waiting.The cake itself is good (I had to cut off the nice dome top so I could soak the top layer in butterscotch sauce so I snacked on the unneeded pieces for breakfast). It is dense with caramel tones. Once it’s been assembled it is sweet, but in a good way. The main event is the frosting and butterscotch sauce. The middle layer of the cake basically tastes of butterscotch because it is so heavily soaked in the stuff. This is a cake for your caramel-obsessed friend. I think the brown butter frosting gets slightly lost against the butterscotch but maybe I didn’t brown the butter for long enough? I got a bit worried I was going to end up with blacked butter at one point so maybe I removed it early, I’m not sure. I think it’s a crowd pleaser anyway. (And I’ve saved the excess frosting for use on cupcakes at some point.)

I made half the amount of the online recipe as I did not want a massive layer cake. I baked it in a 20cm cake tin, as one cake, as opposed to the layers recommended – I actually think this makes soaking easier as you simply cut the cake into three layers and then soak all the exposed layers. I adjusted the measurements from imperial ounces to metric grams, and changed the sugars used in the cake. I also used golden syrup instead of corn syrup and double cream instead of heavy cream. The result was a perfect, small, layer cake which gave us all a sugar rush at brunch. Winning I think.

Butterscotch Pecan Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
Adapted from marthastewart.com
For the Cake:
450ml plain flour
1/2 + 1/8 tsp baking powder
3/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/4 tsp salt
150g butter, unsalted, soft
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup golden caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 + 1/8 cups rum
1/2 + 1/8 cups buttermilk

 For the Frosting:
175g butter, unsalted (60g for melting; 115g for adding in later)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup double cream
1/4 tsp salt
300g cream cheese
1/4 cup icing sugar

For the Butterscotch Sauce:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
45g butter, unsalted
1/4 cup golden syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup double cream

1 cup pecans, chopped

To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 170C and line a 20cm tin with baking paper. Place the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Place the butter and sugars in a bowl and beat until creamy.

Add in the eggs, beating between each, followed by the rum and vanilla.

Fold in the flour in three stages, alternating with the buttermilk. The batter is quite stiff, make sure everything gets incorporated. Place the batter into the baking tin, smoothing the top down with a spatula.

Bake for about 40 minutes, until the cake is cooked through and bounces back when you touch the top.
Allow to cool in the tin for ten minutes before cooling completely on a wire rack. If you’re only icing it tomorrow, wrap the cake in plastic wrap when it is cold.

You can start the frosting whilst the cake is cooking.
For the frosting:
In a saucepan place 60g of the butter and heat it until it turns dark golden brown and starts to smell nutty. This takes about 10 minutes. Add in the sugar, cream and salt and bring everything to the boil and cook for three minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and cool.

Using an electric beater, or standing mixer, if you have one, beat the brown butter mixture for a minute. Then start adding in the rest of the butter, cut into cubes and at room temperature, until everything is incorporated and no pieces of butter remain.
In another bowl whisk the cream cheese and icing sugar. Add the brown butter mixture to the cream cheese and beat until all incorporated. Refrigerate, covered in clingfilm, for at least an hour.

For the butterscotch sauce:
Heat the sugar, butter, golden syrup and salt until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to the boil and boil for a couple of minutes. Add in the cream (the mixture will foam up) and boil for another two minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

To assemble:
Cut the cake into three layers. Spread each exposed layer with butterscotch sauce – the top of the bottom layer, both sides of the middle layer, and both sides of the top layer. (I did this by spreading butterscotch sauce onto the side going onto the cake first and then, once it was on the cake, spreading the exposed layer with sauce.)

Spread frosting on the bottom layer before layering the next piece of cake. Once all three layers are assembled, spread frosting on the top and sides, creating a crumb layer.

Refrigerate the cake until the crumb frosting layer is firm, about an hour or so. Then apply the final layer of icing and decorate the sides with finely but roughly chopped pecans.