Monday, 17 November 2014

Pecan Toffee Chocolate Cake

We were out for dinner again this weekend, and guess what I was asked to bring? Yes, dessert again. Of course, I have to try something new...I had 3 pears that I was going to use, but when I cut them open, they were not very nice on the inside, all brown and mushy. So the upside down pear and chocolate cake turned into a pecan toffee chocolate cake!

Instead of pears, I used the pecans that I had. This also allowed me to use up some cocoa; when my daughter moved back home she brought a lot of cocoa with her!

The toffee soaked into the cake and then set into a chewy, gooey layer...combined with the crunchy pecans and some whipped cream, it all made a nice contrast to the soft warm cake.

Start by lightly greasing a 10" springform pan, and lining the outside with tinfoil, to catch any bits of toffee that might ooze out. Place the pan on a tray.

Now you have double protection from toffee drips on the bottom of your oven!

Melt 3 ounces of butter and pour it into the prepared pan. Tilt the pan to swirl the butter around so that it is evenly distributed.

Sprinkle 3/4 cup brown sugar, as evenly as possible, over the butter.

Then drizzle 1/4 cup of honey over the brown sugar.

 Now place 1 cup of pecan halves over the brown sugar and honey. There is no need to arrange them perfectly, just make sure they are evenly spaced.

Set the pan aside while you prepare the cake batter.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream:

4 ounces of soft butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar

As the ratio of sugar to butter is quite high, this takes a while to become light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl down occasionally.

Heat the oven to 350F.

While the butter and sugar are creaming, sift the dry ingredients together:

1 cup  + 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 good pinches of cayenne pepper

When the butter and sugar have become light and fluffy, add:

3 eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl down in between each addition.

Add one third of the dry ingredients, and mix on low speed until just combined.

Measure out the wet ingredients:

1/4 cup plain yoghurt
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add half of this to the batter and mix until just combined.

Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the remaining wet ingredients and lastly the remaining dry ingredients. When this has been fully incorporated, scrape the batter into the pan, on top of the pecans.

Using a spatula, or the back of a spoon, carefully spread the batter evenly across the nuts, being careful not to disturb them.

Bake in the 350F oven until the cake is set in the centre, and springy to the touch, about 30 - 40 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven, and immediately run a sharp knife around the edges of the cake.

Invert the cake onto a plate or tray, and leave it to sit for about 5 minutes, before carefully removing the pan.

Allow the cake to cool before cutting.

                Serve the cake at room temperature, with softly whipped cream, or ice cream.

  • As I mentioned at the start of the post, this was originally intended to be a pear and chocolate upside down cake, which I still want to make. If you choose to use fruit instead of nuts, try thinly sliced pears; pitted and halved cherries; thinly sliced peaches or plums; fresh cranberries; sliced fresh rhubarb.
  • Any type of nut, or combination of nuts, will work for this cake.
  • Go wild, and use a combination of fruit and nuts... pear and almonds; peaches and pecans; cranberries and pistachios.
  • You can use corn syrup or maple syrup if you don't have honey.
  • The spices added to the dry ingredients for the cake batter can be omitted, or changed. Other spices, or flavours that will work well include cinnamon; coffee (use 2 tablespoons of strong coffee in place of some of the milk); cardamom; ground ginger, and adding a bit of grated fresh ginger to the butter and sugar while it's creaming; almond extract instead of vanilla; grated orange zest; Chai or Earl Grey tea can be used to flavour the milk before adding it to the batter.
  • If you are using salted butter, use half the amount of salt for the batter.
  • You can use buttermilk as your liquid, instead of yoghurt and milk. I had no can also use sour cream instead of yoghurt along with the milk. Part of the milk can be switched to strong coffee (see above) or orange juice.
  • It is important to let the cake sit in the pan for 5 minutes, to allow the caramel to set a bit, as well as to soak into the top part of the cake. It is equally important to remove the pan as soon as you can after this resting period...once the caramel has cooled down completely it becomes harder to remove the pan. If this happens, place the pan back into a warm oven for a couple of minutes, to soften the hardened caramel. Remove the pan immediately.
  • Store the cake at room temperature.
  • Turn this into individual cakes, by dividing the butter, brown sugar, honey and pecans amongst 12 muffin cups, then spreading the batter over the top and baking them. Remove from the muffin tins after about 5 minutes, by inverting it over a tray.
  • This can also be baked in a 9" X 13" pan.

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