Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Perfect Storm...

It is nearly 10:30, EST, and I am up with a cup of coffee (French-pressed, no less), and a cake I just pulled from the oven.  Little man is awake in bed, of course, and I am just dreaming (and not in the way I should be at 10:30 PM).  I dub this not a bad time to unwind and talk about my dad's birthday cake.  I dub 10:30 EST not a bad time to talk about this...

My dad is a very special man, and he deserves a very special cake.  My very special mother gave me a "Southern Living" cookbook a few Christmases ago, and this cake has spent many evenings taunting me from the front page of the dessert chapter.

Taunting?  Yes.  Yes because it contains nearly every delicacy that causes me to swoon, and yet my husband despises:  coconut, pecans, cream cheese, custard...wait...

"Dear, do you like custard?"

No answer...probably asleep.

We'll say that he doesn't like it.  Especially because it is caramel custard.  How can I make something so abhorrent to him, especially when I make a perfectly fine chocolate cake?  Lets pause to see another picture...

Because it's a Saturday, because I am wearing my lucky socks, because it's Dad's birthday- wait...

"Dad, do you like custard?"

No answer.  I am sure he does.  Especially because it is caramel custard.

Oh well, my Darling P, the next one is yours: chocolate, Oreo, peanut butter, brownie-layered; whatever you want.

In conclusion, I- I mean, Dad got this: a perfect textural storm of moist butter pecan cake, sandwiching layers of gooey caramel custard, and dressed in tart cream cheese frosting.  I toasted shaved coconut and mammoth Georgia pecans (thanks, Shannon), and left not a surface lacking in Dixie decadence.  The Southern Living Cookbook calls it "Caramel Cream Cake," but I call it "heavenly."  It was perfect, and if you can gather the free counter space, a few hours, and all of the ingredients, it is so very worth it.

Caramel Cream Cake (adapted from Southern Living)

For prep (can be done days before)

Chop one cup of pecans very, very finely (some of these are going into your cake; you don't want them to sink).  Spread evenly onto a baking sheet, and place in an oven, preheated to 350.  Toast for 5-7 minutes (keep an eye on these babies).

Spread 1/4-1/2 cup shaved or shredded coconut onto a baking sheet.  Place in preheated oven (350), and toast for 5 minutes (if you start to smell it sooner, check!)

Make Caramel Custard, recipe below

Pecan Butter Cake

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 t soda
1/2 t Kosher salt
1/2 cup finely chopped coconut
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup finely chopped pecans

Prepare 3 8" or 9" pans by placing a circle of parchment paper on the bottom.  I never butter or flour; it is a waste of time.  Make sure your parchment paper rounds are flush to the pans, or you might have some seepage.  

Beat butter for 2-3 minutes until fluffy.  Add sugar and beat for 5-7 minutes until extra fluffy, scraping the bowl occasionally.  Add egg yolks, one at a time, until fully incorporated.  Stir in vanilla. 

Add all of the dry ingredients, plus the coconut (I used organic desiccated coconut for this, as it is so dry and very fine) together in a separate bowl, blending thoroughly.  Now, add your dry ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, BEGINNING and ENDING with the dry ingredients (in 3 or so additions).  Scrape down the bowl occasionally, and do not beat too hard.  Fold in the pecans.  

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold a third of the whites into the batter, to lighten it, and then continue with the rest, gently until incorporated.  

Divide into the three pans (I used two and threw some batter away.  I cried).  Weigh these pans to make sure they are even.  Throw pans into an oven preheated to 350. Bake 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Place on a baking rack and let cool for 10 minutes.  Take a small, sharp knife and run it along the inside of the pan, loosening it from the sides of the cake.  Turn cake out of pans, and let cool completely.  

Caramel Custard

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup cornstarch
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
pinch of salt 
1 t vanilla

Whisk together first 6 ingredients in a heavy sauce pan until smooth.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then boil 1 minute until thickened.  Whisk in butter, and once mixed, pour through a mesh strainer.  Trust me on this.  Place plastic over surface of custard, and cool for at least 4 hours.  Stir in vanilla.  

To assemble:

I usually wrap up my cakes after they cool and place them in the freezer for at least a couple of hours.  It helps to hold the cakes together, and they are easier to frost.  If you do this and you are using only 2 pans and want to cut the layers in half, do it BEFORE they go in the freezer.  Look closely at my layers.  I forgot that step.  Wonk.  Wonk.  Divide the filling between the layers, leaving a small space around the edge, so that it doesn't bleed into your frosting.  Frost your assembled cake, and coat thoroughly with toasted goodness.  

Don't bake and give this cake away.  Make sure you are able to snag a piece.  You have earned it.  

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz package (full fat) cream cheese, softened
1 stick of butter, softened
1 pound confectioners sugar
1 t vanilla extract

Cream together butter and cream cheese.  Add Confectioners sugar and blend until just mixed.  Stir in vanilla extract.  

Oh my goodness.  It is now nearly midnight.  The little one just quieted, and I am off to bed (caffeine, you have no power over me).  

Have a beautiful day.  

Rachel Bee


  1. Mmmm this looks delicious!! And what beautiful photos of it :)

    P.S. I tagged you for a blogger award here: