This is a delicious combination of cake and pecan pie, perfect for fall and especially for a smaller Thanksgiving gathering where you don’t need multiple desserts but want some variety. To toast the pecans, place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a 350˚F oven for approximately 5 minutes until lightly toasted and fragrant. Maple syrup will give a better flavor and can be used for both the filling and moistening, but my preference is dark corn syrup in the filling as it is thicker and maple syrup for moistening the cake for better flavor.
Makes one 9-inch square or one 8-inch round cake, serves 20
- 3/4 cup (179 grams) dark brown sugar
- 1 cup (328 grams) dark corn syrup or maple syrup
- 6 egg yolks (112 grams)
- 2 1/4 cups (303 grams) half-and-half
- ½ cup (60 grams) cornstarch
- 1/3 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons (71 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups (500 grams) finely chopped pecans, toasted
- 16 tablespoons (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups (396 grams) granulated sugar
- 5 large eggs (250 grams)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup (225 grams) buttermilk
- 1 cup (336 grams) maple syrup or dark corn syrup
- 1 cup (100 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries (optional)
- 3/4 cup (149 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (118 grams) water
- 1 1/2 cups (150 grams) fresh cranberries
Make the Filling:
- Whisk together all ingredients except the butter and vanilla in a 3-quart saucepan until smooth and all lumps are gone. Continue whisking constantly over medium heat until it comes to a boil and continue boiling for 1 minute until it is thick.
- Remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla. Pour into a heatproof bowl and place plastic wrap on the surface and refrigerate for at least 4 hours but overnight is better. If you prefer, you can quick chill by whisking it over a bowl filed with ice until thick enough to spread.
Make the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Generously butter two 9 inch square or three 8 inch round cake pans. Divide 3 cups pecans evenly into buttered pans; shake to coat bottoms and sides of pans.
- Beat the butter until smooth and gradually add the sugar, beating until fluffy. Add the eggs yolks one at a time and then add the vanilla.
- In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and baking soda. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk starting and ending with flour. Add the remaining 1 cup of pecans and cranberries if used.
- Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert layers onto wire racks with wax or parchment paper underneath.
- Brush the tops and sides of each layer with maple syrup or corn syrup, allow to cool completely.
Make the Sugared Cranberries
- Heat ½ cup each of sugar and water in a small saucepan to a boil. Add 1 ½ cups cranberries and bring back to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Saving the syrup, strain out and place the cranberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet and allow to dry for 30 minutes. Save the simple syrup for use in tea or other beverages.
- Roll the cranberries in an additional ¼ cup of sugar. These can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for two to three days. If the sugar coating melts it can be coated again with fresh sugar.
Assemble the Cake:
- For three 8-inch layers place one cake layer, pecan side up, on your cake stand; spread half of the filling on top. Place second cake layer, pecan side up, on top of filling; spread with remaining filling.
Top with remaining cake layer, pecan side up.
- For two 9 inch layers cut each layer in half. Place the bottom half of the first layer on the cake plate, top with 1/3 of the filling on top. Place second half of the cake pecan side up on top of the filling; repeat with the remaining layers.
- Top with sugared cranberries and serve.