Candied pecans, praline filling and caramel buttercream make this cake a delectable treat that’s fit for any table. This cake is reminiscent of the Louisiana delicacy pecan pralines. Pecan pralines are pecans suspended in a thick caramel, and they melt in your mouth with each bite. This pecan praline cake stays true to this southern candy, since I’m pretty sure the praline filling could double as a pecan candy recipe if you just add some pecan halves to it and let it solidify at room temperature.
One reason pecans are found throughout Louisiana cuisine is because there are just so many of them! I have fond memories of walking home from school, stopping in a neighbor’s yard, and collecting as many pecans as I could carry. In fact, pecan trees produce so many pecans that folks are eager to give them away. Plus, unlike delicate berries or other fruit, pecans are much simpler to gather. You don’t have to worry about bruising the bounty or picking not-yet ripe berries. When pecans are ripe, they fall to the ground. You just gather them (but the real work comes in with shelling them!)
I wanted to bake something this weekend to celebrate my home state of Louisiana, as many people are still reeling from the devastation that has been caused by the flooding two weeks ago–flooding that has affected nearly everyone in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas–directly or indirectly. The city’s curfew was lifted a few days ago, but it still feels like a bit of a war zone. Certain resources (like vehicles) are still scarce because so many people lost their cars in the flash floods. I made this cake with my mother this morning. I came home to Baton Rouge to assist family with cleaning up following the flooding.
This unique cake is comprised of four parts: the cake layers, praline filling, caramel butter cream and candied pecans. Candied pecans are made by coating pecan halves in a sugar-egg whites mixture and then baking. The cake layers are similar to most cake, except they’re spiked with praline liqueur. The filling is made by stirring chopped pecans into a homemade caramel-type mixture. And the caramel buttercream is made by preparing a homemade caramel, then beating in butter. There are quite a few steps but it’s such a delicious and unique cake that it’s worth it!
- CANDIED PECAN TOPPING
- 2 cups pecan halves
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg white
- CAKE LAYERS
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
- 3 eggs + 2 egg yolks
- 1¼ cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon pecan liqueur
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- PRALINE FILLING
- ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1½ cups (6 ounces) powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cups finely chopped pecans
- CARAMEL BUTTERCREAM
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- Prepare the Candied Pecans: Preheat oven to 300°F. Whisk together 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1 egg white in a medium bowl until foamy. Add pecan halves; toss well to coat. Spread pecan halves in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated oven until browned, 25 to 28 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. (Pecans will become crisp when cool.)
- Prepare the Cake: Increase oven temperature to 350°F. Whisk together 3 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and ¾ teaspoon salt in a bowl. Beat 2 cups granulated sugar and 1 cup butter in a large bowl of a stand mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs and egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with milk, in 5 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed after each addition. Beat in pecan liqueur and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Divide batter evenly between 2 (9-inch) greased and floured round cake pans.
- Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 28 to 30 minutes. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans; cool completely on wire rack, about 30 minutes.
- Prepare the Filling: Combine ¾ cup dark brown sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, and ¼ cup heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter melts; bring to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; add powdered sugar and ¼ teaspoon vanilla. Beat at low speed until mixture thickens to spreading consistency, about 1 minute. Stir in chopped toasted pecans.
- Prepare the Buttercream: Whisk together 1 cup light brown sugar, 1 cup milk, ½ cup flour, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a small saucepan until smooth. Place pan over medium-high, and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is very thick and bubbly, 4 to 5 minutes. Spoon mixture into a bowl; place bowl in freezer, uncovered, until mixture is cold, about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
- Beat 1 cup butter with an electric mixer at medium speed, using whisk attachment, until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add cold brown sugar mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1½ teaspoons vanilla, and beat at high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate; spread Filling evenly over top, leaving a ½-inch border. Place remaining cake layer on top, pressing lightly. Spread Buttercream on top and sides of cake. Arrange Candied Pecans over top.
This recipe was adapted from Southern Living.