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

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)

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

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:

  • 9-inch round cake pan (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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Comments

  • 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 :)

  • N

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

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi there! I checked in with the author of Cake I Love You, and she says either honey or corn syrup would work for the cake, but she recommends using corn syrup for the topping so that it stays gooey and doesn’t crystallize. Also, if you use honey for the cake, it will likely brown more deeply. Hope this helps! Let us know what you end up doing and how it turns out!

      • N

        Thanks so much for your response! You guys are awesome. I will definitely let you know if it works or not. Thanks again x

  • 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?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi Lee! My suspicion is that your oven temperature is off. Keep baking your cake until it’s done, and then I’d recommend getting an oven thermometer that you can put itside your oven to check it’s exact temperature. Good luck!

      • Lee Rand

        Thank you so much. I did just that. It’s a truly beautiful cake. I cook for a homeless kitchen, I’m going to take a couple in this week.

        One other thing – my caramel was a bit grainy. I’m not sure whether I went to hot or not hot enough. Any ideas on that?

        • Emma Christensen

          Hi again, Lee! I heard back from the book author and the author of this post. Jill O’Conner, the cookbook author says: “Graininess could come from over-cooking in the oven or stove top. If you are worried about over-boiling the topping set the timer as it starts to boil, before it is really rolling. Another problem could be not using the golden syrup (or corn syrup) or not using enough of it. Also make sure you are using the right sized pan–many people use an 8-inch pan when you really need the 9-inch size. A smaller pan will mean the cake will take longer to bake which could affect the topping.”

          Sally, who wrote this review, also notes that she sometimes has graininess problems with other recipes if she lets the topping cool down too much before assembling the cake.

          I’ve updated the recipe with a few of these notes to hopefully help make the instructions more clear!

          • Lee Rand

            Thank you so much. Please pass on my thanks to the author and let her know I will buy the book on the back of this recipe.

        • Emma Christensen

          So glad to hear it!! The graininess is probably from boiling slightly too long. I’ll check in with the authors to see if they have any suggestions. Thanks!

  • 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!

    • Emma Christensen

      Oh no! I’m so sorry this didn’t work for you! A few notes from Jill O’Conner, the author: “Graininess could come from over-cooking in the oven or stove top. If you are worried about over-boiling the topping set the timer as it starts to boil, before it is really rolling. Another problem could be not using the golden syrup (or corn syrup) or not using enough of it. Also make sure you are using the right sized pan–many people use an 8-inch pan when you really need the 9-inch size. A smaller pan will mean the cake will take longer to bake which could affect the topping.”

      Sally, who wrote this review, also notes that she sometimes has graininess problems with other recipes if she lets the topping cool down too much before assembling the cake.

      I’ve updated the recipe with a few of these notes to hopefully help make the instructions more clear!

  • 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!!

    • Sally

      HI MG
      You don’t need to sift the flour before measuring,so the measurement is BEFORE sifting.
      Jill says “to accurately measure flour, stir the flour in the bag or canister to lighten, and spoon into the measuring cup, allowing it to overflow the top without tamping it down. Scrape straight across the top of the cup with the back of a knife. allowing the excess flour to fall back into the bag or canister. She also notes that 1 cup of cake flour is 120g if you have a scale.

      Start timing the caramel as soon as small bubbles appear, before it becomes a rolling boil.
      This is such an awesome cake, I hope you make it!
      Sally

      • MG

        Sorry to belabor this, but do you need to sift the flour after measuring, or does cake flour come pre-sifted? And the recipe calls for 1.5 cups (150g) of flour, so how could one cup be 120g? Thanks again!

        • Sally

          Hi MG,
          You are right! I think I contributed to the confusion. The recipe calls for “1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour” I assume that means to measure AFTER sifting, even though the author states earlier in the book to measure and then sift. In that case theoretically it would read “1 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted.” Baking is full of this kind of uncertainty. Ack!

          You are correct about the gram measurement, too. According to King Arthur Flour 1 cup cake flour is 120g, but I’m guessing if you sift it first, it may be less. I hope that helps. And thanks for clarifying that.

          BTW, do you usually measure or weigh your ingredients? Enquiring minds want to know!

          • MG

            I try to weigh whenever possible (I like consistent results!). And I really appreciate the expertise provided by this site. Whenever I have people over for dinner, the recipe they usually ask for has come from your site!

  • Paul M.

    I used a 9-inch spring form pan and had to almost double the baking time. Baking powder was fresh last month so it’s not a chemical issue. Also, there seemed to be too much batter for a single layer 9-inch pan as pictured.

    My experience unmolding the cake was not easy as the topping had almost hardened and pulled clumps of cake out. I was able to make repairs but the hardened overflow that cooled on the plate made it very difficult to cut. However, the flavors were fantastic and enjoyed by my friend who normally shuns desserts.

    I’ll make it again but instead use two 8-inch pans and put the pecan topping on each. Chopping the pecans smaller or using pecan bits will also help.

  • Nancy in California

    I would like to know what to do if you want to bake this cake in advance. Since the recipe calls for it to be served warm … should a cake made in advance be unfolded as per the instructions and served at room temperaure? Can it then be reheated (out of the baking pan)? Or should it be left in the pan until it is ready to serve?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Nancy! I checked in with the cookbook author, Jill O’Connor, and here’s what she had to say:

      “To reheat the cake, definitely take it out of the pan as soon as it is finished baking and let it cool. To reheat, I would place it on a baking sheet covered loosely with foil and reheat in a 325 degree oven just until the cake is warmed through, then serve warm. I would not recommend freezing the cake, as the topping won’t turn out well after thawing.”

      Hope that helps!

  • Bethchay aguilar

    My favorits pecan cake I always made….super yummy. Thanks for sharing this recipe…

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Charles

    I made this very carefully, taking heed of all the warning regarding Golden Syrup and timings; and using a 9″ cake tin.

    My problem was that the topping became runny in the cooking process, causing the cake to seem under cooked as it was soggy. I gave it an extra 10 minutes before realising the topping was the cause of the soggy cake.

    I left it to cool for 5 minutes before turning it out where the cake fell to pieces and the topping was extremely runny.

    Despite those problems, the taste is fantastic and I will make it again. The next time I will add the topping during the 5 minute cooling period in the tin, after cooking the cake.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Madeleine

    It should be mentioned that a regular 1inch deep cake pan is too little. The pecan caramel overflew, the batter is definitely not cooked enough. I do hope the taste is worth it considering the cleaning job I have ahead of me.

    xxxxxyyyyy