Pecan pie is way, way down on my list of desserts that I like. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that I dislike them. They’re often too syrupy and too sweet, and rather than tasting sinfully indulgent like butter tarts, they leave me wanting something to wash them down with. When I ask people who love pecan pie what draws them to it, the two main reasons are (1) it is easy to make with a bottle of corn syrup and (2) they like pecans. Unfortunately for me, pecan pies are a staple at Thanksgiving time and all through the holiday season and they’re hard to avoid.
But I really do like pecans, so this year I decided to come up with a pecan pie alternative that is just as easy to make as the pie is and still has plenty of nuts. This pecan cake fit the bill on both counts and is definitely going on my Thansgiving table.
This pecan cake was inspired by a recipe for a similar walnut cake in one of my favorite cookbooks, The Good Home Cookbook. The reason I like it – aside from the fact that it has a great pecan/vanilla flavor – is that it is very unique. The texture is similar to a pound cake because it has a dense, yet tender, crumb. Pound cakes tend towards heaviness, often because they have minimal – if any- leavening. This cake, however, does not seem heavy at all because whole eggs are beaten into the batter and air is incorporated along with them. This results in an almost feathery feel to it that you’re definitely not going to find in your average cake.
The cake doesn’t need any frosting or glaze to be good, but it does pair well with vanilla ice cream if you’re looking for an accompaniment. It also toasts quite well if you’re planning on serving it in a breakfast/brunch situation. Be sure to store it in an airtight container, though, as it will dry out a bit (most egg-leavened cakes will) if left out too long.
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped
2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch nutmeg, freshly grated
5 large eggs, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in flour, salt and pecans at low speed until completely incorporated. Mix in vanilla and nutmeg.
With the mixer on low, add in the eggs one at a time, waiting until each is fully incorporated to add the next. Turn mixer up to high speed and beat for 5 minutes.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for about 30 minutes, then slide a knife around the edge to loosen the cake and turn it out onto a wire rack (reinvert so the crunchy top stays on top) to cool completely before slicing.