Piece of Cake...

As if all of the baking, cooking, and fussing in the kitchen in preparation for last week's baby shower wasn't enough, I signed up to take on this week's Cake Day at work. I've probably shirked my duties in that regard, as I don't think I've done one since April, when I used the leftover frosting from my birthday cake to top a store-bought mix, and called it a day. It wasn't quite up to my usual standards, but I didn't want that frosting to go to waste, and I didn't have the time to bake a whole new cake.

To make up for my perceived shortcomings last time, I decided to go all out with an elaborately frosted, completely made-from-scratch creation. For a recipe, I chose the maple walnut cake with maple cream cheese frosting that I had been considering for my birthday. Though it came with its own frosting recipe, I was eager to use the maple cream cheese frosting I discovered when I celebrated my blogiversary with carrot cake last year. I usually don't care much for cream cheese frosting, but this one won me over, and I was eager to see what else I could put it on besides carrot cake, and carrot cake sandwich cookies.

I was a little concerned about baking the cake itself, since my oven continues to cook inconsistently, though I haven't had another incident with it completely losing power. The cake's already long bake time of 50 minutes took nearly 65 minutes in my oven, though I started checking it at about 35 minutes because the commenters on Bon Appétit's website said that their cakes had cooked much faster than the originally specified time.

The cakes turned out rather dense, which I attribute to being made with a liquid sweetener. Usually, when you bake a cake using the creaming method, you cream together the sugar and the butter until the mixture is light and fluffy. This action causes the sugar to carve thousands of tiny holes into the butter, which form the seeds for the chemical leavers to expand those tiny pockets of gas into a light and fluffy crumb. Without granulated sugar to do that, the cake came out more dense, though it still rose.

Despite the seemingly enormous quantity of maple syrup in the cake, it wasn't overwhelming sweet. In fact, the maple flavor was subtle, though it certainly came through. I thought the walnuts were a perfect accent as well, though I've yet to meet a dessert that wasn't improved by the addition of nuts. The flavor combination actually reminded me of Maple Nut Goodies, the retro candies from Brach's that I used to share bags of with my mom when I was growing up. That connection alone would probably be enough for me to love this cake.

My beloved maple cream cheese frosting also went perfectly with the cake, though Justin found the combination of the frosting with the dense cake to be a little rich for his taste. It was very well-received by my coworkers as well, though there might have been something to Justin's richness theory, as everyone was content with a single slice.

Overall, I wish I'd made this cake for my birthday instead of the snickerdoodle-inspired confection that I ultimately chose. That cake was good, but this one was better, and the frosting was better by a long shot. I'm not sure when I'll have an opportunity to make this again, but I will certainly keep it in mind for special occasions to come. 

Maple Cake With Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Bon Appétit

3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, at room temperature
2 c. pure maple syrup
3 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/4 c. whole milk
1 c. walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 325°F.
Butter two 8-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper; butter parchment. Dust pans with flour; tap out excess. Sift 3 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and shortening in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add maple syrup and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks and egg 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions. Fold in walnuts. Divide batter equally between prepared pans (about 3 1/2 cups for each); smooth tops.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 20 minutes. Run small knife around sides of cakes to loosen. Invert cakes onto racks; remove parchment. Cool cakes completely before assembling and frosting.

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