Maple-Walnut Cake with Brown-Sugar Frosting

For Thanksgiving, I wanted to bake something that said “I’m more than just a holiday cake.  I’m also a seasonal cake, yo!”  So for all things delightfully seasonal, I turned to the queen of holiday goodies herself, Martha Stewart, for a cake that tastes like you’re wrapping up your turkey meal  with a syrup-loving lumberjack.

Like most of Martha’s recipes, she gets pretty specific in some areas, like when to alternate ingredients when mixing.  This maple-walnut cake isn’t complicated, but the outcome of the cake also depends on getting the ingredients prepared just right beforehand.  I had every intention to do this.

For the cake:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup chopped walnut halves, toasted

For the frosting:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

I learned that there are two grades of maple syrup, A and B, and Martha says it’s ok to use either one.  I used Grade A because that’s all I could find in the supermarket.

I stupidly searched for some of the ingredients the day before Thanksgiving.  What should have been at 20 minute run to the market turned into 2 hours.  On top of that dumb decision, I forgot to set my eggs and butter out!  So I had to improvise.  Yes, those are my eggs and butter on a heater.

Once my eggs and butter were more-or-less what I considered room-temperature,  I got started on beating the butter and brown sugar until it became light and creamy.  Then I added the eggs.

One of my fears was that I didn’t buy enough maple syrup.  I guess I was too frustrated getting caught in the day-before-Thanksgiving rush that I forgot to check how much I needed.  It turned out that I had JUST the right amount after all!  It’s a Thanksgiving miracle!

Then I slowly poured that perfectly-measured maple syrup into the mixture.

After all the wet ingredients were mixed, I slowly added the flour mixture (flour, baking powder, and salt) to it, alternating with milk, just like Martha says.  I took a quick break to chop/hammer (I should probably invest in some sort of kitchen-appropriate tool to smash my ingredients in the future…) the walnuts so that I could fold them into the batter later.

I poured the batter into two cake pans and left them in there for about 35 minutes.  After they cooled down a bit, I removed the parchment paper I had put at the bottom of the pan initially and proceeded to trim off the “dome top” of the cake (although surprisingly there wasn’t too much of a dramatic dome shape this time).

I left the cakes to continue to cool on the rack while I prepared the frosting: cream cheese, butter (which I had to let warm on my heater again…), brown sugar, and powdered sugar.

Then I frosted the cake like so…

…and gave it a walnut crown worthy of its superior maple-walnuttyness.

I had to wait until the Thanksgiving party to cut and taste it.  I informed the hostess beforehand that this was another one of my food challenges.  She didn’t worry, because, I mean, just look how awesome this cake looks.

I had a piece of my own cake for dessert and was pleasantly happy with the result!  After pouring literally an entire bottle of syrup in this cake, I was afraid it was going to be insanely sweet.  The cake is actually the perfect amount of sweet…the icing is overly sweet, in my opinion (all that brown sugar!, but still very tasty and complimentary to the maple flavor and walnuts.  I liked how the cake had a great sturdy texture while staying moist.  It also came out taller than I expected, but still very pretty.  One guest took a big chunk home and said she’d have it with coffee the next day.  It wasn’t until she said it that I realized that yes, this is would also be a really great coffee cake.

Presentation:  Nice! The walnut crown signified the cake’s dominance at the dessert table.
Edibility:  Very good – and apparently also good with after-dinner coffee.
Tastiness:  So tasty!
Rematch?:  Maybe again next fall!

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