Christmas Cakes from Epicurious

Pecan Spice Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Photo by Roland BelloPecan Spice Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Photo by Roland Bello

Pecan Spice Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


yield: Makes 10 servings
active time: 1 hr
total time: 2 1/2 hr

Several traditional southern themes - pecans, Caribbean spices, and, of course, thick, tangy cream cheese frosting - come together in this gorgeous layer cake that's both down-home and elegant.

Ingredients

For cake
• 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces and softened, plus additional for buttering pans
• 2 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
• 1 1/4 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
• 3 large eggs at room temperature 30 minutes
• 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1 1/2 cups sour cream
• 3/4 cup pecans (3 ounces), toasted , cooled, and finely chopped

For frosting
• 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
• 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
• 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
• 3 3/4 cups confectioners sugar (from a 1-pound package)
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1 1/3 cups pecans (5 ounces), toasted, cooled, and finely chopped

• Special equipment: 2 (9-inch) round cake pans (2 inches deep)


Preparation

Make cake:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour cake pans, knocking out excess flour.

Sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a large bowl.

Beat together butter (1 1/2 sticks) and brown sugar in another bowl with an electric mixer (fitted with paddle attachment if using a stand mixer) at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture and sour cream alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until batter is just smooth. Mix in pecans until just combined.

Spoon batter evenly into pans, smoothing tops, then rap pans once or twice to expel any air bubbles. Bake until pale golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edge of pans, then invert racks over pans and reinvert cakes onto racks to cool completely.

Make frosting:
Beat together cream cheese, butter, and zest in a bowl with clean beaters at medium-high speed until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Sift in confectioners sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined, then add lemon juice and beat at medium-high speed until frosting is smooth.

Assemble and frost cake:Halve each cake layer horizontally with a long serrated knife using a gentle sawing motion. Put 1 layer, cut side up, on a cake stand or large plate and spread with about 3/4 cup frosting. Stack remaining cake layers, spreading about 3/4 cup frosting on each layer and ending with top cake layer cut side down. Spread top and side of cake with remaining frosting (about 3 1/2 cups) and coat side of cake with pecans (1 1/3 cups), gently pressing to help them adhere.

Cooks' notes:
-Cake layers (not split) can be kept, wrapped individually in plastic wrap and placed in large sealed plastic bags, chilled 1 day or frozen 1 week. If frozen, thaw in bags at room temperature, about 2 hours.
-Frosting can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature, then stir until smooth before using.
-Cake can be assembled and frosted 8 hours ahead, then kept, loosely covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature.



More Christmas Cake Recipes from Epicurious.com:


Chocolate Panna Cotta Layer Cake (pictured)
A creamy chocolate pudding fills this rich cake and an easy-to-make chocolate band wraps it up in style. Chocolate Panna Cotta Layer Cake. Photo by Con PoulosChocolate Panna Cotta Layer Cake. Photo by Con Poulos

Chocolate Chestnut Torte with Chocolate Cognac Mousse
We liked this particular recipe with Lindt or Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate, which is around 50 percent cocoa solids. We tested the ganache with chocolate containing a higher percentage, and found the flavor too intense and the consistency less velvety.

Twelve-Layer Mocha Cake
What better way to celebrate the holidays than with something fabulous? In this elegant European-style cake, thin layers of different flavors come together in each bite. Fine-textured spongecake, soaked in espresso syrup, plays off of crisp hazelnut meringue, while the coffee and mocha buttercreams intensify the richness of a collapsed chocolate soufflé. The faint, bitter edge of dark coffee essentially saves this dessert from itself.

Chocolate Fallen Soufflé Cake
If you're not familiar with soufflé cakes, this dessert may look a little odd - but it's delicious. The cake is designed to be eaten once it has collapsed and cooled (just the opposite of a regular soufflé).

Brown-Sugar Spice Cake with Cream and Caramelized Apples
In this recipe, simple pantry ingredients come together to make a homey cake that's so tender and moist, you'll be fighting over the last piece.

More from Epicurious.com:

The Ultimate Christmas Guide from Epicurious
Easy Holiday Cocktail Party Bites
One-Dish Wonders: Our Favorite Casserole Recipes
The Rules of Regifting