Monday, November 25, 2013

Pecan Pie Cake

Pecan pie is a staple at every Thanksgiving table. This year, surprise everyone by presenting this favorite holiday dessert in cake form.
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Can you think of any other holiday that is one hundred percent centered around food?
As such, Thanksgiving is the ideal time to pull out all the stops, finding all of your best recipes and making them look (and taste!) amazing.

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I'm really not a pie person, but I do adore pecans and the gooey filling of a pecan pie. And layer cakes are always festive and just scream special occasion. For these reasons, I bake this cake almost every year for Thanksgiving.

You'll start with three layers of a syrup soaked pecan cake. Between those layers rests the creamy, gooey part of the pecan pie. I could just bury my face in a bowl of this stuff!
You might notice that this cake isn't frosted. Score! A no fuss dessert, that way you can put all of your energy in making sure that turkey is perfectly cooked!
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Oh, and those pretty little nature garnishes? Super simple! They are cut out of refrigerated piecrust. 

Pecan Pie Cake
adapted from Southern Living
Makes 1 (3 layer) cake

For the cake:
3 cups finely chopped pecans, toasted and divided
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup dark corn syrup

For the filling:
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup cornstarch
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Pastry Garnish:
1 refrigerated pie crust
1 large egg
1 Tbsp water
24 pecan halves

Sprinkle 2 cups pecans evenly into 3 generously buttered 9-inch round cake pans; shake to coat bottom and sides of pans.
Beat butter and sugar on medium high speed, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition until well blended. Beat in vanilla.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in remaining 1 cup pecans.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites at medium speed until stiff peaks form and fold one third of egg whites into batter. Carefully fold in remaining egg whites only until just combined. Divide batter evenly into prepared pans. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh the pans to ensure they are even.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-23 minutes or until a cake tester inserted comes out with no crumbs. Be careful not to over bake. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. In a microwave safe bowl, heat corn syrup for 30 seconds on high heat. Invert cakes onto wire racks. Invert again and brush tops and sides of layers with corn syrup, and cool completely.
Spread half of pecan pie filling on 1 layer, pecan side up. Place in refrigerator for 10 minutes for filling to set. Place second layer, pecan side up, on filling, and spread with remaining filling. Place in refrigerator again for 10 minutes for filling to set before placing final layer, pecan side up, on top of filling. 
Arrange pastry garnish on and around cake.

Whisk together first 6 ingredients in a heavy 3-quart saucepan until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, and boil 1 minute or until thickened. Remove from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla extract. Place a sheet of saran wrap directly on surface of mixture to prevent a film from forming, and chill for 4 hours or overnight.
Whisk filling before spreading.

Unfold piecrust and press out fold lines. Cut 8 to 10 leaves from piecrust with a 3 inch leaf shaped cutter, and mark leave veins using the tip of a knife. Reserve pastry trimmings. Whisk together egg and water, and brush on pastry leaves.
Crumple 10 to 12 small aluminum foil pieces into 1/2 inch balls. Coat with vegetable cooking spray, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Drape a pastry leaf over each ball place remaining pastry leaves on parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake at 425 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Gently remove foil from leaves.
Pinch 12 pea-size pieces from pastry trimmings. Place between pecan halves, forming sandwiches. Cut remaining pastry into 2-inch pieces, and wrap around pecan sandwiches, leaving jagged edges to resemble half-shelled pecans. Brush with egg mixture. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire rack. 

This cake can be prepared in advance, baking the layers up to 2 days before, wrapping them tightly in 2 layers of plastic wrap.
The filling can be made one day ahead.
The pastry garnish can be made up to 5 days ahead.


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