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


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)


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.