Salted Pecan Cake + First Look at “Cake, I Love You!”

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Salted Pecan Cake has a gooey pecan topping with soft yellow cake beneath. Make it for a dinner party, gift it to a friend, or keep it all for yourself - we won't tell!

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

When it arrived, the first page that fell open in Jill O’Connor’s new book Cake, I Love You! was her recipe for Salted Pecan Cake.

A not-so-subtle voice in my head screamed, “Stop what you are doing right now and go directly into the kitchen.”

Salted Pecan Cake

Get the book! Cake, I Love You: Decadent, Delectable, and Do-Able Recipes by Jill O’Connor

As it happened, I needed something to take to a friend’s house for supper that night, so out came the mixer and the cake pan.

Salt and caramel and pecans! I was all over that, and so was my host that night.

Her parting words to me at the end of the evening: “Sally, do not ever, ever make that cake again and bring it to my house. I will eat the whole thing at one sitting.”

Jill O’Connor is no slouch. Cake, I Love You! is only the most recent of at least seven books this master baker has written – not to mention her recipes for Fine Cooking, Bon Appetit, Better Homes and Gardens and House Beautiful magazines.

The relatively small size (171 pages of 50 recipes) of Cake, I Love You! belies the hidden trove of information packed between the covers.

Salted Pecan Cake

Jill supplies you with all you need to be a successful cake baker: advice on equipment, special tools and the best ingredients along with lots of tips on how to build a better cake.

Do you know why many cake recipes call for room temperature eggs? Or how to split, fill, stack and frost cake layers for a beautiful finish?

And if you don’t know what a crumb coat is, Jill explains that too. This is all good news for the novice and experienced baker alike.

The organizing principal behind the book is seven different flavor profiles: Banana, Coconut, Chocolate, Caramel and Butterscotch, Citrus, Spirits and Spice, Garden and Orchard, with advice and recipes for squeezing the best results from each flavor.

Can’t decide where to start? Look for a “crowd-pleaser” icon next to the recipe – these icons indicate a classic and iconic cake that you’ll want to make again and again.

After making the Salted Pecan Cake, I can’t wait to try Brown Butter Banana Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting, Black Irish Chocolate-Whisky Cake and Pastel de Tres Leches. And I will also surely make a few loaf cakes for gift giving.

I’ve already tried the Kona Coconut Loaf (splendid) and look forward to Luscious Lemon Loaf and Blood Orange Ricotta Pound Cake.

Salted Pecan Cake

I also want to make Jill’s version of Old-Fashioned Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake with Melted Chocolate Bar Frosting again. This has been a favorite of mine for decades and my go-to birthday cake, but I’ll bet that Jill’s tweaks have brought it to new heights.

Recently I discovered the power of cake as an expression of thanks. An acquaintance did me a huge favor, and I wracked my brain to find a way to thank her.

A cake on a plate (a nice one from a thrift shop that she could keep), wrapped in cellophane and tied with a ribbon, was a surprisingly well-received way to express my gratitude.

Now I have a whole new volume of recipes to choose from to please guests, family and favor-givers. I think I’ll stick with my first impulse: Open the book at random and march into the kitchen. That’s a no-risk strategy. And that’s why I love you, Cake, I Love You!

Get the book! Cake, I Love You: Decadent, Delectable, and Do-Able Recipes by Jill O’Connor

Salted Pecan Cake + First Look at “Cake, I Love You!” Recipe

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  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings

Golden syrup or corn syrup is necessary for this recipe to keep the topping gooey and prevent it from becoming grainy. Do not skip, replace, or reduce.

Reprinted with permission from Cake, I Love You by Jill O'Connor (Chronicle Books, 2017)

Ingredients

For the topping:

  • 1/2 cup (110 g) salted butter
  • 1 cup (200 g) firmly packed golden brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Golden Syrup (or light corn syrup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
  • 1 cup (120 g) chopped pecans, toasted

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups (150 g) sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (110 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) firmly packed golden brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoon Golden Syrup
  • 2/3 cup (160 g) sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp Maldon (flaky) sea salt

Special equipment:

  • (do not substitute another size or baking time will be significantly affect and the topping can overcook)

Method

1 Preheat oven and prepare the pan: Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Coat a 9-in (23-cm) round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

2 Make the topping: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the salted butter. When the butter starts to bubble and turn golden, add the brown sugar and golden syrup.

Decrease the heat to medium and stir until the sugar melts and starts to bubble. As soon as the mixture starts to boil, cook for 1 minute exactly (set a timer!), stirring continuously. Be very careful with this timing. (Boiling for more than a minute will result in caramel that will harden on the cake and be difficult to slice.)

Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, bourbon, and pecans. Pour immediately into the prepared pan, using a small spatula to spread in an even layer. Set aside.

3 Make the cake batter: In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and fine sea salt.

In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the golden syrup, sour cream, and vanilla.

With a rubber or silicone spatula, fold in the flour mixture by hand just until the batter is combined and no streaks of white remain. Spoon the batter into the pan with the topping, smoothing it evenly with a spatula.

4 Bake the cake: Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

5 Invert the cake and serve: Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Invert the cake onto a serving plate. If any bits of caramel or nuts remain in the pan, simply scrape them from the pan and spread them over the cake with a spatula. (Do not scrape once the topping has cooled or else the bits will often become grainy.)

Sprinkle the Maldon sea salt over the top of the cake. Serve the cake warm, cut into thick wedges.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

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Showing 4 of 14 Comments

  • MG

    Can’t wait to try this one. Wanted to confirm that 1 1/2 cups (150 g) sifted cake flour means these are measurements AFTER sifting (the recipe would read “cake flour, sifted” if the measurements were to be taken before sifting)? And I had a similar question about the caramel. Sounds like we should start the minute count when there are just a few bubbles (like a simmer) versus rolling boil? Thank you!!

  • Rita Popp

    Epic fail for me on many levels. The caramel was grainy and crystallized and the cake was underdone even though I cooked it 15 min longer than listed (and my oven temp is accurate!). The whole thing fell apart when I tried to get it out of the well lubricated pan. The longer it sat the soggier it became. It sure looks delicious, but I won’t be making it again!

  • Lee Rand

    Mine seems to take a lot longer to bake. It’s been in 15 mins more than your recipe and still seems runny. Any idea where I could be going wrong?

  • N

    Can honey be substituted for the golden syrup? Many thanks!

  • Lise

    In Dennark we make a very similar cake called: drømmekage – drømme=dreams + kage=cake, so translated to dream cake! The only difference is that in the topping, pecans are replaced with coconut rasp. :) Like this link: http://nordicfoodliving.com/danish-dream-cake-drommekage/ Have fun :)

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Salted Pecan CakeSalted Pecan Cake + First Look at “Cake, I Love You!”