Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bourbon Pecan Cake

Slice of cake with whipped cream
Whipped Cream Adds Extra Decadence

Recipe by Great Grandma Ellen


It’s Mardi Gras, AKA Fat Tuesday, the final day for pre-Lenten revelers to indulge in, among other naughty things, sweet pecan cakes laced with liquor. This cake is unlike anything you’ll find in a bakery. The recipe is at least 120 years old, passed down through the generations to my cousin Jon, originally from Shreveport, LA. He got it from his 90 year old mom Marjorie, and she in turn got it from her grandmother Ellen. Marjorie says that Ellen used to soak the raisins in the bourbon to prevent the alcohol from cooking off during baking. Doubtlessly this sort of resourcefulness helped Ellen to live, as she did, to age 105.

Closeup of Baked Cake in Pan
All Other Pecans Finely Chopped
It’s a fact that 120 years ago more time was spent on baking. Keep this in mind when you attempt this cake, and be thankful for your electric mixer (ours broke at an inopportune moment, unfortunately), which will cut down on the prep time. Hubby Bruce suggested using a food processor to finely chop the pecans. The original recipe calls for chopping by hand, but next time I’ll give the processor a whirl. Chopping 4 cups of pecans very finely can be meditative, unless you’re trying to get yourself and the cake to a party, like we were.

Overhead view of batter decorated with pecans
Decorating with Pecans: 20 Easy Pieces
Separating the eggs, then beating and folding in the egg whites adds another layer of complexity to the recipe. These steps are key in lightening the cake’s texture, urging the large quantities of butter and pecans rise to an impressive height. So do not skimp on this step; the egg whites need to hold stiff peaks before being folded into the other ingredients. Also note that eggs are bigger than they were 120 years ago. Use moderate-sized eggs, not extra large ones.

Rubber spatula folding in egg whites
Taking Care with Folding in Egg Whites
Finally, it’s surprisingly time-consuming to line a tube pan with waxed paper. Since the walls are not straight, the paper needs to be applied in several pieces, or the bottom cut into an arc (the latter if you’re more clever than I am). I traced the bottom of the pan onto a manila folder, to make a template to cut the waxed paper. Super-exacting, but next time I’ll be able to reuse the template and save a lot of time.

So, have I suggested not being in a hurry when you make this cake? Do let it cool in the pan for at least ½ hour, as it will break apart if unmolded too soon. You can let it sit longer, but don’t wait until it’s cold. We actually transported the hot cake to a potluck in its pan and unmolded it after the main meal. Possible, but not recommended. 

Enjoy your Mardi Gras. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Thin slice of cake with whipped cream
A Little Slice'll Do Ya
Bourbon Pecan Cake
serves 20

4 cups pecan meats
2 cups seedless raisins
1 cup sifted flour
4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup bourbon
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
6 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup soft butter
1 ½ cups sugar
6 egg yolks
20 pecan halves (for topping)
whipped cream (optional garnish)

Grease 10-inch tube pan, then line with waxed paper. Grease again, on top of waxed paper.

Finely chop 4 cups pecans. Mix pecans with raisins and 1 cup flour, set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Stir nutmeg into bourbon, set aside.

Sift 2 cups of flour with baking powder and salt, set aside.

With electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff, gradually adding 2/3 cup of sugar, set aside.

Cream butter with electric mixer. Mix with 1½ cups sugar. Beat in egg yolks one at a time, until light and fluffy.

At low mixer speed, alternate adding bourbon and flour mixtures, in two parts each, to butter mixture. Mix well after each addition.

Fold nut mixture into batter.

Fold in beaten egg whites.

Turn into tube pan and decorated with pecan halves.

Bake for about 1¼ hours, or until toothpick comes out clean or with a few crumbs.

Cool in pan on wire rack for at least ½ hour.

Remove pan and peel off paper from sides. Gently turn cake onto plate and remove paper from bottom, then invert onto serving platter.

To make this even more decadent, serve with whipped cream.

Template making illustrated
Making Bottom Template: Fold in Quarters




Cutting Paper with Template illustrated
Cutting Wax Paper Using Template

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