Standing on her feet all day at Eliza’s Beauty Shop in Eunice, Momma never had time for magazine-reading, but she sure did subscribe to a lot of periodicals for the ladies who sat in her hydraulic chair. She got Ladies’ Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, Women’s Day, McCall’s, Redbook, Reader’s Digest, and a few others. Each month, in many of these publications, along with stories on housekeeping, parenting, good wifing techniques, fashion trends, sewing, and whatnot, there was often a new cake featured inside or sometimes starring as the cover story.
When she brought the old, dogeared issues home from the shop, I, being the budding little baker that I was, couldn’t get through them quickly enough. You have to understand that, in the 1970s, a time before everyone had microwaves, cable television, home computers, and, god-forbid, cell phones – there was always, always something far MORE useful for our innocent lives than any of those Jetsons-y gadgets could ever hope to provide – namely, Mississippi Mud Cake, Sock-It-To-Me Cake, Orange Dreamcicle Cake, Easter Sunday Cake, Decadent Double Dutch Chocolate, and on and on. There was even something called the Watergate Cake after a particular scandal making the headlines – nothing says 1974 like Watergate Cake!
So, if you’re wise, or just a nostalgia-fiend like me, you’ll keep an eye on (Parenthetically Speaking), because I plan to disentomb many old recipes and update them, just like I did with the one I’m about to share with you. Which brings me to my biggest news: At least once a month, we’re gonna have a CAKEOVER! And I’m starting with a doozy: my Louisiana Butter Pecan Cake!
This recipe is based on an old pecan praline cake from New Orleans that I tinkered with here and there to make it my own. I updated it with sea salt, cream cheese, and sour cream, and used less sugar for the frosting, then tested and re-wrote the instructions to clarify them – the original version I found had been written in pencil, in broken English, so the instructions were not at all clear unless you were fortunate enough to have your mémère (grandmother) looking over your shoulder to guide you through the process.
Now, before we start, let’s just get this one thing out of the way: In southern Louisiana, the word PECAN is pronounced “pa-cahn,” and absolutely, definitely, most positively NOT “pee-can.” Say it that way and you’ll be (quite deservedly) forever-marked as a Baptist, or worse, one-a them damned Yankees.
Finally, on to the serious business of making what I think is one of the absolute best cakes you can make outside of a devils-food-with-vanilla-cream-cheese-frosting cake. (That’s perhaps as close to Heaven some of us hell-bound mortals down here on Earth are gonna get. We’ll get to that recipe another time.)
I made a cupcake version of my Louisiana Butter Pecan Cake (120 of them to be exact) for the 60 guests at my wedding reception. Not one of the little buttery gateaux survived the night.
Seriously – You need to drop whatever little unimportant thing you’re doing right now (achieving world peace, curing acne, birthing another unnecessary baby) and make this cake.
MOE’S LOUISIANA BUTTER PECAN CAKE
For the Cake
2-2/3 cups chopped pecans (divided in half for the cake; save half for the frosting)
1-1/4 cups butter, softened
½ cup of vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup milk
For the Frosting
1/2 stick butter, room temp.
8 oz package of cream cheese, room temp.
3 to 3.5 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons of sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1.5 teaspoons of coarsely ground sea salt
*Plus the remaining pecans that were toasted for the cake.
For the Cake
1 – In a baking sheet, roast pecans that have been tossed in 1/4 cup of the melted butter. 350° for 15 minutes, stirring frequently; set aside.
2 – Using a kitchen mixer, cream sugar, and remaining butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Incorporate the vegetable oil, vanilla and sour cream. (you can do this in a large bowl with a hand mixer as well)
3 – Sift the flour, baking powder and salt (or use a whisk to mix); add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Stir in 1-1/3 cups of toasted pecans. (you will use the remaining pecans in the frosting)
4 – Pour the batter into two 7-inch buttered and floured baking pans (no more than 2/3 full – don’t overfill) and bake at 325° for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Using 7-inch pans will allow you to make four layers – once you’ve cooled them completely, use a serrated knife to cut each layer into two layers (dental floss doesn’t work well because of all the pecans in the batter). You should have enough batter left over to bake a fifth layer, but that would be a REALLY high cake. I used the remaining batter to make a thin one-layer cake that I cut and stacked into a two-layer half-moon cake, frosted it, and froze it for later. You can also use larger pans or a sheet-cake, which will adjust the final height of your cake accordingly.
No matter what size pans you use, cool the cake for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
For the Frosting
Cream butter, cream cheese, and 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Add sour cream and vanilla; beat until smooth (add another half cup of confectioners’ sugar if you prefer a thicker frosting). Stir in remaining toasted pecans and the sea salt. The sea salt, sour cream, and cream cheese are my additions to this recipe as well as making it a tall cake instead of a wide cake / plus I reduced the amount of confectioner’s sugar (original recipe had 8 cups! OMG!). The sea salt truly helps tame the sweetness of this cake and adds a wonderful flavor dimension – but you can leave it out. If you make the frosting while the cake is baking, you may wish to keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to frost the cake.
Now, I have one request: when you make this magnificent (and I do say so myself) cake, let me know how it turned out in the Contact section. And make sure to FOLLOW me! (form is at the bottom of this page) so you don’t miss the other cakes coming up (I’ve got a lime cake that’s gonna make your lips curl and your soul insanely happy, I promise).
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