I was cleaning out all of my old USBs and deleting a lot of files when I found pictures of this pumpkin pecan cake with brown butter icing hidden away in a file. I realize that this is more of a cake I should be sharing with you in the fall or early winter (just like these pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting!) but I couldn’t handle the thought of waiting 8 or 9 months just to share this with you. So here it is in all its glory! This layered cake has a nice, warm pumpkin pecan flavour that is jazzed up with a bit of orange zest. The cake layers are sandwiched with candied pecans and brown butter icing (the icing alone is enough reason to make this cake) and the whole thing is covered with more icing and pecans! You don’t have to coat the sides of the cake with candied pecans like I did, but I had enough pecans to do so and I didn’t like the way the icing looked plain anyways. This cake was a hit and even if you don’t have plans to bake it now, it’s definitely a cake to bookmark for next fall!
Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Brown Butter Icing
For the Cake:
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1¼ cups packed, light brown sugar
1 cup fresh or canned pumpkin purée (not pie filling)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1½ cups unbleached cake and pastry flour
½ cup ground toasted pecans
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp each ground ginger, cinnamon and allspice
1 tsp orange zest
½ cup buttermilk
For the Icing:
½ cup unsalted butter
8 oz cream cheese, softened
¼ cup brown sugar
1¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 cups (500 mL) chopped candied pecans** (plus more for garnish)
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
Grease sides of two 9-inch (1.5-L) round metal cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Beat in pumpkin and vanilla until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, whisk fl our, ground pecans, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and orange zest. Stir into butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, making 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of wet. Scrape into pans; smooth. Bake in the centre of oven until a cake tester comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in pans on rack for 10 minutes. Turn out onto racks; peel off paper. Invert; let cool.
For icing, in a large heavy skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns a golden brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a bowl and let stand until the little bits sink to the bottom, about 5 minutes. Transfer to freezer and chill until firm, about 15 minutes. Scrape the top of the butter from the bits at the bottom; discard bits.
Transfer brown butter to bowl with the cream cheese and brown sugar. With an electric mixer beat until the brown sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar until incorporated and fluff y, 1 to 2 minutes.
To assemble the cake, brush any crumbs from cake layers. Cut each in half horizontally. Place 1 layer, cut-side up on cake plate. Spread with about ¾ cup (175 mL) of the icing. Sprinkle evenly with ½ cup (125 mL) of the candied pecans. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining layer, cut-side down. Spread entire cake with a scant cup of the icing to mask. Refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes. Spread cake with remaining icing and decorate with remaining pecans.
** to make candied pecans:
Yields: 2 cups of candied pecans
1 large egg white
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups raw pecan halves
Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk egg white until the whites have foamed into small white bubbles. Add sugar, spices, and salt. Whisk until thick and opaque. Add pecans and toss to coat. Once thoroughly coated, spoon pecans onto prepared baking sheet. Leave any extra coating in the bowl.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until nuts are fragrant and toasted golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.