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July is a time full of family birthdays, with Mr M, my mother then my sister-in-law, C all having birthdays in a row, with a week separating each.

When we got together for my mum’s birthday, I naturally offered to do the cake baking, particularly as I was itching to test out my brand new cookbook from David Lebovitz ‘Ready for Dessert’ (and yes, I am *always* ready for dessert). The only stumbling block was that mum requested a caramel cake, which is fine, but it seems David has a thing for chocolate (and so do I) and his book was filled with decadent chocolatey goodness.

I trawled through my cookbooks and was feeling generally a bit uninspired with the suggestions on offer. In Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’ she includes a recipe for an Autumnal birthday cake, a layered cake spiked with maple syrup. This looked perfect.

As I was baking the cake I came across a slight problem, that I had bought a bottle of maple syrup, but the original recipe calls for a total of 1 litre of maple syrup (750 mls in the cake and 250mls in the icing). My bottle was a paltry 500mls. Not good (and serves me for being disorganised and not carefully reading the quantities prior to heading to the supermarket). Somewhat panicked, I substituted golden syrup for 250ml of the maple syrup and set about trying to find an alternative frosting that would work with the cake. I settled on a butterscotch cream cheese frosting,  adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook , basically because we had all the ingredients in the house, and maple and butterscotch go together right?!? I also decided to steal an idea from the Magnolia cookbook and place toasted pecans in between the layers:

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So how was this experimental cake? It was very tall (given it was two layers), quite dense and had the very rich frosting, so tiny pieces were required. Since the frosting has cream cheese in it, is isn’t super sweet and there is a little hint of salty savouriness. The cake itself didn’t taste all that maple-y, which is probably because I didn’t use enough of the stuff, though I have read elsewhere  that the original was almost too maple-y (the quote is “it tasted like pancakes”). The toasted pecans gave a nice textural element and a slight earthy, toastiness.

All in all, it “wasn’t my best cake ever” (thanks for that Mr M) but it was pretty tasty and mum reported that it improved overnight and was absolutely delicious when she took it in to work the following day. It would be worth trying the recipe with the correct quantities of maple syrup and seeing whether it made a difference…

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Butterscotch, maple and toasted pecan layer cake

For the cake

170g butter, softened
75g caster sugar
3 large eggs
750ml maple syrup (or, if you fail at buying the right amount of maple syrup – 500ml maple syrup and 250ml golden syrup)
400g plain flour (or 480g if using spelt flour)
6 tsp baking powder
180ml hot water

For the frosting

450g cream cheese, softened
85g butter, softened
220g brown sugar
2 tbs golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup pecans
  • Pre-heat the oven to 175C.
  • Mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one. Beat well after each egg is added. Gradually pour in the maple syrup and continue beating until smooth.
  • Mix the baking powder and flour. Spoon in half the flour mix into the butter and eggs, followed by the hot water, then the remainder of the flour. Beat gently until smooth.
  • Divide the batter between 2 8inch round, springform cake tins. Bake for 40 minutes.
  • Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  • To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter in an electric mixer until smooth.
  • Add the sugar, golden syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before using.
  • Toast the pecans in a 175C oven for about 10 minutes, until lightly coloured and fragrant. Chop roughly.
  • To assemble, place one cake on the serving platter, spread with frosting and most of the chopped pecans. Layer the other cake on top and cover the top and sides with frosting. Garnish with more chopped pecans.
  • Enjoy!  
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