February 8, 2014

Maple-Gingerbread Cake with Salted Maple-Caramel Sauce

 Maple is a perennial favorite around here, and this recipe from Bon Appetit is a creative twist on the usual flavor combinations. I cut this recipe out of the magazine in the fall of 2013, but looking back through my recipe books, I actually found a version that they printed back in 2010. There is a reason this one has stuck around.

Maple sugar can be a little hard to track down, and it is a bit pricey. Trader Joe's used to carry it, but sadly doesn't anymore. I found maple sugar at a local upscale grocery chain, but I have a note that the Joy of Baking says you can substitute 1 1/2 cups white sugar and 2 teaspoons maple extract for 1 cup of maple sugar. (I have not yet tried this.)

The creme fraiche in the frosting makes this very creamy and rich. The maple-caramel is absolutely decadent, but it really makes the cake.

Maple-Coated Pecans
  • 3/4 cup pecan halves, toasted
  • 1/4 cup Grade B pure maple syrup
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup maple sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 1 1/2 cups chilled creme fraiche
  • 1 1/3 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup maple sugar
  •  6 tablespoons powdered sugar
Salted Maple-Caramel Sauce
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup maple sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 to 6 drops imitation maple extract
Maple Coated Pecans
  1. Place large piece of foil or parchment on work surface. Combine nuts and maple syrup in heavy medium skillet (not nonstick) over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and toss to coat. Cook until syrup is dark amber and almost cooked away, thickly coating the nuts--about 3 1/2 minutes. 
  2. Scrape nuts onto covered work surface, quickly separating clumps. Sprinkle with sea salt and cool until coating is hard, about 1 hour.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Combine first 4 ingredients in food processor; add ginger. Blend until ginger is finely ground, about 1 minute. In a mixer with a large bowl, beat maple sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. (Batter may look curdled.) 
  2. Stir 3/4 cup hot water and molasses in a small bowl. Beat dry ingredients into butter mixture in 4 additions, alternating with molasses mixture in 3 additions.
  3. Divide batter between prepared pans (about 2 1/2 cups each). Bake until tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks.
  1. Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar. Whisk until sugar melts and mixture is thick and boiling, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in cream. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking often. Boil, whisking often, until sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon and is reduced to 1 cup (another 2-3 minutes). Remove from heat. Whisk in salt and extract. Cool.
  1. Combine creme fraiche, cream and both sugars in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until very thick and stiff.
  1. Cut around sides of cake pans; turn cakes out onto racks. Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread with 1 1/3 cups frosting. Drizzle with  3 tablespoons caramel sauce.
  2. Top with second cake. Spread a thin layer of frosting over entire cake and chill for 15 minutes to create a crumb coat. 
  3. Spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons caramel sauce. Cover and chill cake for at least 1 hour.
  4. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before continuing. Press pecan pieces into sides of cake. Serve cake slices with caramel sauce drizzled on top!

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