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Pecan Cake

pecan cake slice

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.

Pecan Cake
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.

Serves 16.

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  • Amanda
    November 7, 2007

    That looks so good! I was looking for a recipe for something to make on Thanksgiving morning and this looks just right.

  • Julie O'Hara
    November 8, 2007

    You’re right about pecan pie…but maybe most people don’t bother to make a top-quality version. My husband loves it, but i bet he’d love this cake as much.

  • Pamela
    November 8, 2007

    This sounds simply delicious! I’m looking for ideas for Thanksgiving dessert, and this just might be it. Right now, I’m thinking toasted slices of this pecan cake, topped with bananas cooked in a rum sauce and vanilla ice cream.

    My only question is this: I only have shortening at home. Would that work for this recipe?

  • Amy
    November 8, 2007

    I’m with you on the pecan pie. I hate it. Too sweet, and I can’t get over the uncooked look. Honestly, it reminds me of snot. But I also do not like pecans. Although that cake does look good.

  • Nicole
    November 8, 2007

    Pamela – I think it would work out just fine with shortening as far as the texture goes, but you definitely won’t get the same flavor (much like a pound cake wouldn’t be the same without that signature butter flavor). I’d pick up some butter and make it then to ensure that you get the absolute best results.

    By the way – bananas cooked in rum sauce? Sounds fantastic!

  • Pamela
    November 8, 2007

    Well, it’s that Crisco butter-flavored shortening… so I’m hoping it’ll be all right. I’ll let you know how it turns out. 😀

  • Ayah
    March 17, 2009

    My question is about baking powder.. is any used?

  • Joan
    December 8, 2009

    I am wondering also abuot the baking powder. Was this an error that none is shown in the recipe????

  • Lisa
    December 10, 2009

    I made this cake last night, and it is horrible. It is so dry. No wonder you say it goes best with icecream…you almost have to eat it with icecream so you don’t choke. I am so disappointed. Are you sure you didn’t leave out any liquid? Milk, or something? Oh my god…..glad I didn’t make this for the holidays…..I would have been so ashamed.

  • Nicole
    December 10, 2009

    Lisa – I’m sorry to hear that! It doesn’t sound like it came out quite right – or, at least, it didn’t come out the same way that it does for me. I definitely didn’t leave anything out and I’ve made it many times. It’s similar to an angel food cake in terms of “wetness,” which isn’t too moist, but also isn’t dry. Is it possible that the cake was overbaked at all? I’m sorry it didn’t work out!

    And no, to the previous commenter, there is no baking powder in this cake.

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  • […] food processor until they were very, very finely chopped, then incorporated them into the batter of this cake. The cake is incredibly light, with an almost feathery, fluffy, texture. The crumb is very tight, […]

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