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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- Scrape nuts onto covered work surface, quickly separating clumps. Sprinkle with sea salt and cool until coating is hard, about 1 hour.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Combine creme fraiche, cream and both sugars in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until very thick and stiff.
- 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.
- Top with second cake. Spread a thin layer of frosting over entire cake and chill for 15 minutes to create a crumb coat.
- 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.
- 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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