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More Nigella recipes

Autumnal Birthday Cake

by . Featured in HOW TO BE A DOMESTIC GODDESS
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Introduction

There is no reason on earth why this, adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, has to be a birthday cake, but since the first two times I made it were for my sister-in-law's and a friend's birthdays in late October and early November, that's how I think of it. In both cases, I put just one (gold) candle on top: better on any number of counts. I know that adorning plates with autumn leaves is not my usual aesthetic, but that's another benefit of using this as a birthday cake: you can allow yourself a little ironic leeway.

There is no reason on earth why this, adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, has to be a birthday cake, but since the first two times I made it were for my sister-in-law's and a friend's birthdays in late October and early November, that's how I think of it. In both cases, I put just one (gold) candle on top: better on any number of counts. I know that adorning plates with autumn leaves is not my usual aesthetic, but that's another benefit of using this as a birthday cake: you can allow yourself a little ironic leeway.

Autumnal Birthday Cake
Photo by Petrina Tinslay

Ingredients

Serves: 8

Metric Cups

For the Cake

  • 175 grams butter (softened)
  • 100 grams golden caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 350 millilitres maple syrup
  • 500 grams self-raising flour
  • 175 millilitres hot water

For the Icing

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 125 millilitres maple syrup
  • 125 grams golden caster sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon maple extract (optional)
  • 125 grams pecan nuts

For the Cake

  • 12 tablespoons butter (softened)
  • ½ cup superfine sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1½ cups maple syrup
  • 3⅓ cups self-raising flour
  • ⅔ cup hot water

For the Icing

  • 2 large egg whites
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ⅔ cup superfine sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon maple extract (optional)
  • 1 cup pecan nuts

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4/350ºF. Grease two 21cm (8-inch) sandwich tins with butter and line the bases with baking parchment.
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating in well after each addition, then gradually add the maple syrup to make a smooth mixture. Finally, spoon in the flour alternately with the hot water, beating gently until smooth again. Divide the batter between the two tins, and cook for 40 minutes. A cake-tester, inserted, should come out clean when they're cooked. Let the cakes cool in their tins on a rack for 10 minutes before unmoulding them, then leave them to get cold before you get on with the icing.
  3. Put everything except the pecans and extracts into a glass or metal bowl that fits over a saucepan to form a double boiler. Fill the saucepan with enough water to come just below - but not touching - the bowl when it sits on top. Bring the water to the boil, set the bowl on top and, using an electric hand-held whisk, beat the mixture vigorously for 5-7 minutes. It should stand up in peaks like a meringue mixture. Take the bowl off the saucepan, away from the heat, and add the extracts, beating them in for another minute.
  4. Cut out 4 strips of baking parchment and use to line the cake plate. Using your dreamy, ivory-coloured meringue, ice the middle, sides and top of the cake. Give the icing a swirly effect rather than smooth, letting the top have small peaks.
  5. Chop most of the pecans finely, leaving some pieces larger. Sprinkle over the top of the cake, and throw at the sides. This cake is best eaten the day it's cooked.
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4/350ºF. Grease two 21cm (8-inch) sandwich tins with butter and line the bases with baking parchment.
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating in well after each addition, then gradually add the maple syrup to make a smooth mixture. Finally, spoon in the flour alternately with the hot water, beating gently until smooth again. Divide the batter between the two tins, and cook for 40 minutes. A cake-tester, inserted, should come out clean when they're cooked. Let the cakes cool in their tins on a rack for 10 minutes before unmoulding them, then leave them to get cold before you get on with the icing.
  3. Put everything except the pecans and extracts into a glass or metal bowl that fits over a saucepan to form a double boiler. Fill the saucepan with enough water to come just below - but not touching - the bowl when it sits on top. Bring the water to the boil, set the bowl on top and, using an electric hand-held whisk, beat the mixture vigorously for 5-7 minutes. It should stand up in peaks like a meringue mixture. Take the bowl off the saucepan, away from the heat, and add the extracts, beating them in for another minute.
  4. Cut out 4 strips of baking parchment and use to line the cake plate. Using your dreamy, ivory-coloured meringue, ice the middle, sides and top of the cake. Give the icing a swirly effect rather than smooth, letting the top have small peaks.
  5. Chop most of the pecans finely, leaving some pieces larger. Sprinkle over the top of the cake, and throw at the sides. This cake is best eaten the day it's cooked.

Tell us what you think

What 6 Others have said

  • Can I use an alternate ingredient to substitute for maple syrup?

    Posted by miniagarwal on 29th December 2011
  • One of my favourites.

    Posted by lynneliessi on 12th October 2014
  • My baby son will be 15 next week and I've been wondering what type of cake to make for him - his Grandma always made everyone's birthday cakes but she died two weeks ago and my son is the first family member to have a birthday since. I'm sure this recipe will be a fitting tribute as my Mum loved everything Nigella. I hope it's as easy as it looks - my Mum is a hard act to follow when it comes to puddings!

    Posted by Fanny Hill on 21st October 2011
  • This cake is on my list for next week!

    Posted by Repunsel on 2nd October 2011
  • I made this for a birthday 2 days ago. It was good, the recipe turned out nicely. However, the icing made it very very sweet and rich. (The party guests loved it all the same, only it was just me who found it too sweet). The cake had a glorious aroma as it was baking and I couldn't resist trying a crumb of the cake when it came out of the oven (prior to icing it) and it was lovely, warm and sticky. Next time, I'll make it minus the icing, and serve it warm from the oven with a little cream. Absolutely yum. PS A lot of party guests said that it tasted like pancakes and the cake was demolished in an hour.

    Posted by AmyC84 on 2nd June 2011
  • I'll definitively will try this this weekend, yum yum...

    Posted by Julybilou on 21st October 2011
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