Pecan Caramel + Biscoff Birthday Cake

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It was a weekend of birthdays for me last week. My sisters 30th and my friends 31st. It meant it was also a weekend of cake. Since we are still in lockdown and I have all the time in the world for once, I decided to make them both birthday cakes.

I’m really missing the culture of coffee and cake; although this heatwave here in England makes me crave ice cream by the tub load. I miss sitting, chatting and relaxing over a slow coffee and sweet cake with a loved one. I don’t often make cakes like this is in my spare time. I prefer a humbler cake at home but the special people in your life deserve something wonderful.

That brings us to this lovely cake. Five layers of brown sugar sponge, dark pecan caramel and glossy light-as-air Biscoff swiss meringue buttercream. A dream. Surprisingly, this cake isn’t too sweet. I was worried it was all going to be a bit much together, but it’s helped by the light texture of the buttercream.

In these weird and unfamiliar times, I like to think that something as simple and small as a piece of cake can help. Even if it is just a little.

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Ingredients – makes one 6inch layer cake

Sponge*

  • 300g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 200g soft light brown sugar
  • 6 medium eggs
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • splash of milk

Pecan Caramel

  • 50g toasted pecans, chopped into small pieces
  • 100g double cream
  • 3g sea salt
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 25g glucose (this can be found in the baking isle in the supermarket)
  • 135g unsalted butter

Biscoff Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 150g egg whites
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 250g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 150g lotus biscoff spread

*this sponge recipe makes three 6inch cakes. If you don’t have three cake tins, you can either bake two and then the third after, as the mix can sit while the others bake. Or you can only make two sponges and have a shorter cake with four layers of sponge. To do this you will have to divide the recipe down to make 800g total (400g per tin.)

Method

To make the caramel (made the day before assembly)

  • Place the cream and salt into a small pan and set over low heat. To make a dry caramel, sprinkle half the sugar into a deep pan and place over low-medium heat. Let the sugar melt, then sprinkle the rest of the sugar on top and stir gently. Try not to stir too much as it will crystalize the sugar and create lumps. Once all the sugar has melted, add in the glucose and continue to cook until golden brown.
  • Keeping the pan on low, carefully add in the butter in small chunks. Stir to combine each lump of butter until all of it has been emulsified into the caramel. Gently add in the hot cream in two additions. Be careful here as the caramel will bubble up so don’t add too much cream at once. Continue to cook until the caramel is bubbling and there are no hard pieces of caramel at the bottom.
  • Pour the caramel into a container. Place clingfilm on the surface of the caramel and leave to cool overnight.
  • Once cooled completely, stir in the chopped toasted pecans and place into a piping bag.

To make the sponges

  • Pre-heat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line three 6inch cake tins (if you dont have three cake tins, use two and then bake the third one after.)
  • Cream together the butter, both sugars and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy. Gradually add in the eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Add in the dry ingredients in three additions. Scrape down the side of the bowl, add in a splash of milk and mix again to combine.
  • Portion the mix evenly into each cake tin (400g in each tin.) Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out to cool completely.

To make the Biscoff Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • Place the egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk together and place over a pan of boiling water. Cook until the egg whites reaches 70°C, whisking often (I use a digital thermometer to check this.) Place the bowl onto a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on medium-high speed until cool, white and fluffy.
  • Add in the softened butter in small pieces followed by the biscoff spread. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and whisk again. The buttercream should hold its shape and be very glossy and fluffy. Place some of the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle ready to assemble the cake.
  • Note: the buttercream can be made at least 3 days in advance, stored in the fridge and re-whipped before using.

To assemble

  • Have your caramel & buttercream in piping bags and a cake board or serving plate ready.
  • Trim the top off each of the sponges to make sure they’re flat. Cut each sponge in two equal layers and set aside. Take your serving plate/board and pipe a small piece of buttercream in the centre. Place your first piece of sponge on top to secure it. Pipe three rings of buttercream on top of the sponge, leaving space for the pecan caramel in between. Pipe two rings of pecan caramel, filling in the empty spaces between the buttercream. Place your second piece of sponge on top and press lightly to ensure the sponge is level. Repeat until you have placed your last sponge on top (I like to use 5 sponges out of the 6 as I like the height and look, and keep the other sponge for snacks or freeze it for another time.)
  • Using the biscoff buttercream, crumb coat the entire cake and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.
  • Finish by doing a second layer of buttercream and garnish as desired. I used star nozzles on the top and bottom edges, warmed Biscoff spread to create the painted strokes with a pastry brush (once the cake has set in the fridge) and pearls to finish.
  • Store in the fridge until needed.

 

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