About six years ago, I had joined an online baking group known as The Cake Slice Bakers (CSB). This group is comprised of bakers all over the world. Each year, the group selects a cake-focused cookbook, and each member bakes a selected cake from the book each month. The year I participated, our book was "Cake Keeper Cakes." One of the cakes from this book, an apple cake with a caramel topping, is still one of my all-time favorites, especially when served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
In 2011, I was accepted into a doctoral program in Adult Education at Penn State. That summer, I found out I was pregnant with our second child. I realized that being a mom, full-time professor, and doctoral student meant that I needed to consider what "extras" I could take off of my plate; sadly, regular baking, something I very much enjoyed, had to go. With that decision, I left the CSB group. Through the years, I baked here and there. I completed my doctorate in May, but I still had not returned to regular baking. Recently, I came across an old blog post; remembering the CSB, I did a google search and found that not only did the group still exist, but they were accepting new members! Maybe this is just what I needed to get back into baking. I sent an email to the group moderator, Anabel, and was invited back! They had just selected their new book, "World Class Cakes," and I had joined just in time to participate for November.
We had four choices for this month's cake:
I got up early and did my grocery shopping for the week, including all of the necessities for our dinner party with friends and for Thanksgiving. When I got home, my husband and kids were at their gymnastics class, so I had a quiet house to myself. I put on Eric Clapton's Unplugged album and started the baking festivities.
As the oven preheated, I toasted the pecans. I have found that the cheapest way to purchase nuts, particularly in smaller quantities for a specific recipe, is in the bulk section of the grocery store. Wegmans has a fantastic section of bulk nuts and grains. I bought about a cup of pecans for just a couple of bucks.
One thing that surprised me about this recipe is that it has no eggs. I don't know that I've ever baked a cake without eggs (or whites or yolks). I reread the ingredients multiple times to make sure I wasn't missing something. I was nervous that the consistency wouldn't be right, but I figured that someone who writes an entire book on cakes must know what they're doing!
Although the recipe called for a buttercream, I went with a cream cheese frosting, which is a favorite of one of my friends who was coming for dinner. My daughter helped with beating the cream cheese, butter, and shortening for the frosting.
This cake turned out great! I was relieved that an egg-free cake had such a light, fluffy consistency and a nice crumb. The cake wasn't too sweet, and the sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting was the perfect accompaniment.
I'm glad to be baking again with The Cake Slice Bakers!
Maple Syrup and Pecan Layer Cake
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup superfine sugar
2/3 cup soft brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
7 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease two 8-inch round cake pans.
2. Mix together the sifted flour, sugars, baking soda, and salt.
3. Separately mix together the buttermilk, melted butter, syrup, and vanilla extract and then stir into the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the chopped pecans.
4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
5. Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then turn out onto a wire rack.
6. Frost with your choice of frosting.