This is a great cake for the autumn season or, if you’re me, that can also be translated as “any time of the year.” Because I love caramel and brown sugar. I even like pecans on top of a cake, even if not within the cake. Plus, it’s a sheet cake which practically means “so easy to make.”
The original recipe calls for toasting and caramelizing the pecans in melted brown sugar. I cheated because I had this package of pecan pralines a friend had given me and I thought it’d be a good way to use them. Although I like the flavor of toasted pecans and you can rarely go wrong with brown sugar caramel, I tried an authentic praline when I was in New Orleans and I found them too sweet for me. It’s true. It was like being in the mood for kettle corn and eating caramel corn instead. People who’ve eaten both know what I’m talking about.
But the praline part of this is only for the topping. Let’s talk about the cake first. Because it was delicious. Perfect cakey texture, not too light, not too dense. For once I baked it just the right amount of time so it wasn’t under- or overbaked. I love the brown sugar overtones of this cake and honestly, you don’t even really need the frosting ... says the non-frosting person. I only made a half recipe of the frosting since I was baking in a 9- x 13-inch pan rather than a sheet cake and that was sufficient. If you make the full recipe, I think it might be a little too much but that’s me.
I didn’t love the chopped up pralines I used on top though. I think if I had done as the original recipe instructed with just toasted pecans and brown sugar caramel, it would’ve been a lot better. Either way, I like the cake.
Caramel Praline Sheet Cake
Adapted from Chef in Training
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1. Pralines: Toast pecans in a medium skillet over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Add brown sugar and stir constantly until sugar is melted and coats the pecans. Dump nuts onto parchment paper and separate as they cool.
2. Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium saucepan, combine butter, water and shortening. Bring to a boil, whisking together. Remove from heat and place in a large mixing bowl.
3. Add brown sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved.
4. Stir in buttermilk, baking soda, eggs and vanilla, one at a time, whisk with each addition.
5. Add flour and stir until smooth. If floor lumps remain, put through sieve for a smooth batter. Do not overmix.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Cool.
6. Frosting: Combine butter, cream and brown sugar in medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until mixture begins to boil.
Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and pour evenly over top of cake. Sprinkle with pecan praline.
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