Monday, November 15, 2010

Nigella's Autumnal Birthday Cake

Mike's parents were in town this week so I had time to clean the house and do some baking of course.  I love cake but it seems a bit indulgent and riduclous to make one when it's just the four of us since I don't want Liam eating too many sweets (unlike his mother), Ellis doesn't eat solids, and Mike and I can realistically only eat an entire cake in 3-4 days by which time it's usually a bit stale.  So when we have guests, it's the perfect excuse to bake a cake.

I made this cake which Nigella adapted from Magnolia a few months ago when we had dinner guests and it was delicious so I thought I would make it again.  The cake is beautiful and very impressive if I do say so myself.  And it's easy peasy.  I don't know why but I used to think baking cakes was a difficult thing to do, when in fact cakes are, well, a piece of cake.  I had that thing happen where the butter and egg separated from each other despite continuous and rigorous beating, but I continued on and the cake turned out well.  The cake itself isn't too sweet, and the icing is over-the-top sweet so it ends up being just about perfect.

The only thing I did differently was her method of 7 minute frosting.  I LOVE 7 minute frosting.  It's tasty and looks beautiful, and so easy to make!  What I did was dissolve the sugar in the syrup over low heat, meanwhile beating the rest of the ingredients together.  Once stiff peaks had formed in the egg white mixture I poured the syrup/sugar in slowly and then beat for another 7 minutes.

A note on the self-rising flour: can you even get that here?  For every cup of flour I removed 2 teaspoons and add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, so for this recipe I removed 6 teaspoons flour and added 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder.  I'm sure I should have removed a bit more for the 1/3 cup flour but whatever, it turned out fine.


  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3 1/3 cup self-raising flour
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 2 8-inch round cake pans, buttered and lined (I just lined with parchment)
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 7 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon maple extract, optional
  • 1/2 cup pecans


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating in well after each addition, then gradually add the maple syrup to make a smooth mixture. Finally, spoon in the flour alternately with the hot water, beating gently until smooth again. Divide the batter between the two tins, and cook for 40 minutes. A cake-tester, inserted, should come out clean when they're cooked. Let the cakes cool in their tins on a rack for 10 minutes before unmoulding them, then leave them to get cold before you get on with the icing.
  3. Put everything except the pecans and extracts into a glass or metal bowl that fits over a saucepan to form a double boiler. Fill the saucepan with enough water to come just below - but not touching - the bowl when it sits on top. Bring the water to the boil, set the bowl on top and, using an electric hand-held whisk, beat the mixture vigorously for 5-7 minutes. It should stand up in peaks like a meringue mixture. Take the bowl off the saucepan, away from the heat, and add the extracts, beating them in for another minute.
  4. Cut out 4 strips of baking parchment and use to line the cake plate. Using your dreamy, ivory-coloured meringue, ice the middle, sides and top of the cake. Give the icing a swirly effect rather than smooth, letting the top have small peaks.
  5. Chop most of the pecans finely, leaving some pieces larger. Sprinkle over the top of the cake, and throw at the sides. This cake is best eaten the day it's cooked.

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