roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt #bundtbakers

Whoa. I just realized that I haven’t baked a bundt cake since April.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

This has been one hell of a year, both personally with the Maxwell’s build out and opening, and for the country as a whole. This election cycle really has consumed me, chewed me up and spit me out, and just when I thought it would all finally be over, it seems like we’re in for even more struggle and strife.

While things may feel a little disheartening right now, life must go on, and getting back into the kitchen and revving up the ol’ stand mixer certainly helps me feel centered and whole again.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m so so thrilled that Lauren from Sew You Think You Can Cook chose pears as our inspiration for the #bundtbakers this month. Thank you so much Lauren! Not only do I absolutely love pears on their own, there’s also something especially cozy and satisfying about baking with fall fruit pear-ed (har har) with warm homey spices.

With Thanksgiving only a week away, a pear bundt cake is just what the doctor ordered.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

I have a confession to make though.
I haven’t always liked pears.

My grandfather has always had several fruit and nut trees on his property, and when I was little I thought pears were absolutely disgusting. I don’t know if it was the grainy texture, or the thick sandy skin, or what, but to be perfectly honest I didn’t care for a lot of the bounty of grandpa’s garden.

I was truly a child of the 80’s, and a lot of my culinary influence during my formative years came from spending time in my grandmother’s kitchen. She is a product of her generation, and Grandma’s food philosophy came from the atomic-age desire for shiny, new, packaged convenience foods rather than the back-to-earth approach many of us prefer today. As a kid in Grandma’s kitchen, packaged food was celophane-wrapped, sterilized heaven to me, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Give me a box of doughnuts, a bag of chips, a can of soup, a bottle of soda, and a grilled cheese sandwich made with plastic-wrapped processed “cheese food”, bagged sliced white bread, and margarine from a tub.
Who wants to have to pick and wash fresh fruits and vegetables from outside with all the dirt and bees and bugs, when the fridge is stocked with Cool Whip and Velveeta that’s clean and delicious and ready to eat?

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

Not me.
That’s who.

I did like Grandpa’s strawberries and plums, but even the strawberries had to be scrubbed and sliced and covered in sugar before I deemed them edible.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

Obviously my tastes have changed over the years, and as an adult I’ll take a ripe juicy pear, still warm from the sun, over a tub of chemically Cool Whip any day of the week.

As a kid, trips to my grandparents house filled me with excitement because I knew the cupboards were bursting with store-bought chips and cookies and doughnuts. These days I still get excited when I get to visit my grandparents, but now it’s because I know grandpa will load me up with sagging grocery bags filled with dirty bell peppers, lopsided butternut squash, fuzzy warm peaches, or sun-ripened tomatoes when I get ready to leave.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I was planning my bundt for this month, I knew that I really wanted the pears to be the stars of the show. My first instinct was to chop or cube or grate them just like apples into a traditional spice cake for flavor and added moisture, but somehow that didn’t seem like it was “enough”. My pears deserved better than playing second fiddle to cinnamon.

Determined to leave the pears whole (or at least halved) inside the cake, I decided to poach them in a bourbon ginger syrup. They smelled like heaven in the poaching liquid and I couldn’t help myself from sneaking spoonfuls of batter from the pan before it went into the oven. I was congratulating myself on a job well done before the cake even started to rise, and I couldn’t wait to get it out of the oven and see the autumnal perfection I’d come up with.

Aaaaaaand…

It was an absolute disaster.

The pears soaked up too much moisture in the poaching liquid, releasing it back into the cake to create a jiggly bundt with the weirdest almost blubbery texture I’ve ever had the misfortune to put in my mouth. As the cake cooled it sagged and the cake separated from the pears and slumped into a wobbly mess on the plate.

So, back to the drawing board. I knew I’d need a thicker, denser batter, and I obviously needed to find a way to pull moisture out of the pears before baking them into the cake. With poaching out of the question, I decided to try dry roasting the pears so they’d be tender but slightly dried out before going into the batter. Thankfully, it worked out beautifully and I think the pears are almost as happy about it as I am.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

You’ll want to use the smallest pears you can find for this recipe, because if they’re too big or tall they’ll take up too much room in the pan. They might cause the batter to run over in the oven, or could stick out the top of the cake and cause it to sit unevenly when plated. I also think that Bosc pears are the only variety firm and sturdy enough to stand up to being roasted, handled, and baked in this way without turning to mush or falling apart.

The bit of extra effort in roasting the pears and toasting the walnuts really pays off when you slice down into the cake to reveal a perfect cross-section of a whole pear (depending on where you slice).
And the flavor? Fuggitaboudit. Warm spices, tender roasted pears, crunchy toasted walnuts, buttery tender brown sugar spice cake, and a thick and tangy cream cheese glaze.
I mean. Come on.

This is basically THE perfect fall cake, and it would make an excellent addition to your Thanksgiving spread to boot. If you’re looking for even more fall inspiration and pear-y wonderfulness, make sure you scroll down past the recipe to see what the other #bundtbakers came up with this month!

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

Roasted Pear and Walnut Spice Cake

  • Servings: 8 to 12-ish
  • Print
4 to 5 small firm Bosc pears, depending on the size of your pan
1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts
2 1/4 cups all-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoons cardamom (optional)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs

Cream Cheese Glaze:
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan, refrigerate.

Peel pears, slice in half, and scoop out seeds with a melon baller or spoon. Place cut side up on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Flip and bake 15 minutes more. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Spread walnuts in an even layer on a small baking sheet and toast for 5 to 8 minutes, or until they smell toasty. Do not let them burn. Set aside to cool. Reserve 1/4 cup for topping the cake.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, & spices together in a bowl. Set aside. Mix vanilla into buttermilk and set aside.
In a the bowl of and electric mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute or two and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions.
Alternate additions of flour and buttermilk, mixing on low just until combined, and scraping the bowl between each addition. Start and end with flour so there are 3 additions of flour and 2 of buttermilk. Stir in 1 cup walnuts until evenly distributed.

Pour about 3/4 of the batter into the prepared pan, and tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles. Push pear halves into the batter, top side facing down into the bottom of the pan, arranging them so the cut halves face each other as a whole pear. Arrange pears so they’re evenly spaced around the pan. Spread remaining batter over the top, leaving at least half an inch of room for the cake to rise so it doesn’t overflow in the oven. It’s okay if the pears stick out of the batter a bit, as the cake should rise around them. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven, and cool in the pan for 30 minutes before turning it out onto a rack to cool completely.

While the cake cools, make the glaze.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until it’s fluffy and smooth. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 4 tablespoons of milk and blend until there are no lumps. If necessary, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition until the glaze reaches the desired drizzle-able consistency. It should be about the consistency of thick melted ice cream to drizzle correctly.

Place a tray under cake and cooling rack to catch any drips. Pour glaze over cake and let the glaze work its way down the side, tapping the tray on the counter if necessary. Top with toasted walnuts.

Well covered in an airtight container, this cake should keep at room temperature about 2 days, or longer in the fridge. Just make sure to serve it at room temperature if you refrigerate it.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

The bundt bakers really outdid themselves this month, and all these perfect pear cakes have my mouth watering like crazy!

BundtBakers
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You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board. Updated links for all of our past events and more information about #BundtBakers, can be found on our home page.

apple cider boulevardier

Do you guys need a drink?

Cuz I need a drink.

apple cider boulevardier | Brooklyn Homemaker

This week, and really this entire election cycle, has been a complete emotional whirlwind and I think we’re probably all ready for a nice stiff cocktail right about now.

And boy oh boy have I got a cocktail for you today.

apple cider boulevardier | Brooklyn Homemaker

A few months ago I discovered the “Boulevardier”, and I fell head over heels in love. (Don’t tell Russell).
If you’ve not heard of a Boulevardier, it’s basically just like a Negroni, but with whiskey instead of gin.

If it sounds like I’m speaking a foreign tongue and you have no idea what I’m saying, a Negroni is a classic cocktail, which first appeared in print in 1919, consisting of gin, campari, and sweet vermouth. They’re strong, herbaceous, floral, and rather bitter in a really refreshing way. The bitterness of Campari can be a bit of an acquired taste, but if you are a fan of apéritifs or digestifs you’d probably really enjoy it. Orson Welles said of the Negroni, “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.”
Smart man. It’s all about balance.

The thing is, I personally find the combination of gin and Campari a bit overpowering, so when I first tasted a Boulevardier, which substitutes bourbon for the gin, I was ecstatic and have been a huge fan ever since. It’s a strong cocktail, but the bitterness encourages sipping rather than chugging, which is never a bad thing!

apple cider boulevardier | Brooklyn Homemaker

We recently hosted the official opening part for Maxwell’s, and when I was planning the cocktail menu I decided to share my new love for the Boulevardier with all of our friends and neighbors. Like I said though, this is a pretty strong cocktail, and while we wanted everyone to have a nice time, we weren’t really trying to get all our friends wasted in the shop! Also, knowing that Campari can sometimes be an acquired taste, I was looking for a way to sweeten it up a little and mellow out the bitterness to make the cocktail appeal to a larger audience.

Since I was also making one of my favorite cakes for the party, and I was already buying fresh apple cider anyway, I thought I’d see if a splash of cider would help cut the bitterness, sweeten things up, and water things down.
Worked like a charm!
The cider mellows out the intensity of the Campari and makes this a delicious, autumnal, beautiful cocktail that everyone absolutely loved! I also decided to garnish the drink with some very thinly sliced apple rather than the traditional orange peel. So good!

apple cider boulevardier | Brooklyn Homemaker

I know that many people outside of the US are not very familiar with apple cider as we know it here in the northeast, so to explain, it’s basically nothing more than freshly pressed, unfiltered apple juice. If you can’t find fresh apple cider where you live, you could definitely substitute apple juice in a pinch. If you can get fresh cider though, I really think it has a superior flavor that’s a bit less cloying with a more intense apple-y richness.

apple cider boulevardier | Brooklyn Homemaker

Now, if this cocktail sounds good to you, but the idea of peeling yourself off the couch and putting pants on doesn’t, I’d like to offer you another way to put the ingredients for this drink into your hands.
Enter Drizly.com.
Drizly is similar to the food delivery websites that are so popular in larger cities right now, (Russell and I would probably starve to death without Seamless) but instead of food, Drizly delivers alcohol!

You have to be 21 (obvi), and you have to live within one of their delivery windows, but if both those things are true for you, the sky’s the limit! You can have any and all of your favorite hooch delivered right to your front door with the click of a button!
I mean, talk about a dream come true!

You can get the bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth you’ll need to make your very own boulevardier, and in some areas, you can even have the cider delivered! (I had to go to the store for that though, what a buzz kill!)

apple cider boulevardier | Brooklyn Homemaker

So, what are you waiting for?
You really have no excuse not to make yourself a fancy ass apple cider Boulevardier. It’s the perfect grown up cocktail for fall, and did I mention that Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away?

This drink is strong but not too strong, sweet but not too sweet, bitter but not too bitter, with a wonderfully warm, herbaceous, bright, and fruity flavor.

It doesn’t get much better than that, unless of course you have all the booze delivered to your front door without changing out of your PJs. Which you can.

apple cider boulevardier | Brooklyn Homemaker

Apple Cider Boulevardier

  • Servings: 1 cocktail
  • Print
1 1/2 oz. bourbon
3/4 oz. Campari
3/4 oz. Sweet Vermouth
1 1/2 oz. fresh apple cider
Ice
Thin apple slices for garnish

Place bourbon, campari, sweet vermouth, and apple cider into a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake just until well mixed and cold. Strain into a rocks glass, and serve with more ice.

Garnish with a slice or two of fresh, thinly sliced apple.

 

Maxwell’s for Hair

Alright friends! Here we are again! I promise you that this time you’ll get to see how it all turned out though!!!

The last time we were here we were just wrapping up our tiling job and I’d finally gotten the hang of mixing the grout and spreading it on in small patches so it wouldn’t dry too fast.
The next step was to finally start making the shop look pretty! Yay!

Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve always loved interior design and home decor, so when it came down to figuring out a layout and design for the shop, we decided we’d forgo an fancy pants designer and just do the work ourselves. Based on his experience and expertise, Russell helped me figure all the practical details like the layout, the spacing between the stations, and how high to hang mirrors and fixtures, but for the most part, the pretty-ification of the space was up to me.

I’m sure that I’ve mentioned this before, but I consider Pinterest to be an incredibly useful tool when it comes to organizing thoughts, ideas, and inspirations, as well as a great place to store information on specific products and even DIY projects I want to be able to easily find when I’m ready for them. I used Pinterest in this way when planning my own wedding, and I honestly don’t think it would have gone so smoothly and turned out so beautifully if I hadn’t had such a well organized and easily navigable place to “pin” everything I had floating around in my head. So, when it came time to come up about a modern, cohesive, and inviting concept for Maxwell’s, I knew just where to start.

We already knew we were working with a base of white subway tile, so we decided to go for a kind of classic black and white scheme with lots of warm wood accents. Everything was being done on a tight budget, so I did A LOT of comparison shopping and bargain hunting online, and every time I’d find something I liked, I’d “pin” it and then look around for similar, cheaper options. Sometimes I found them, sometimes I didn’t. If not, we’d talk it out and decide whether it was worth a splurge or not. Our biggest splurges, the barber chairs and the huge round mirrors, ended up being the pieces that have the biggest visual impact in the pace, which is why we decided they were worth the money.

To make up for those splurges though, I tried really hard to find ways of using basic inexpensive items in unexpected ways to make them look more interesting, impressive, and “expensive”.

To that end, I found some basic builder-grade vanity bars online that were available in a matte black finish rather than the standard brass or nickel. To make them look even more “custom” I mounted them vertically to flank the mirrors, rather than horizontally above them. It’s a simple touch, but I think it makes a big impact.

Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker

The shop has no closets or storage at all, so we knew we’d need to put in some cabinets or something. Originally we were thinking about buying some kind of second hand armoire or freestanding cabinet, but after a quick trip to Ikea we decided to just put up some inexpensive pine wall cabinets instead. To make them feel a little warmer and a lot less “Ikea-y” we decided to stain them and add some hardware.

Since our mirrors are framed in a rich, warm acacia, we decided to mix two store bought stain colors together to make one that would help make our pine cabinets look like they matched, or at least complimented, the mirrors.

While the shop was still under construction we kept the mirrors in their original boxes, and when we tried matching the stain we only opened the box enough to reveal a section of the frame. After the cabinets and stations were stained and the mirrors were hung, we realized that the mirror’s frames are made up of many smaller pieces of wood all with their own varying tones and colors, most of which aren’t quite as red as the small section we originally used to choose our stain color. The frames overall feel a little warmer and more yellow/brown than the reddish stain we went with, but in the end the stations and cabinets still look amazing and compliment the acacia really well, so who cares?

I mean, I do.
But only a little.

Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn HomemakerMaxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker

When it came to the stations themselves, we decided that some floating box shelves would add a clean, custom touch with plenty of storage. They were really simple to build, thanks to mom and her handy dandy miter saw, and we used pine again to save a few bucks.

Russell requested that we find a way to add a hole in the stations to hold a hair dryer, and thankfully, there’s a drill bit for that! Easy Peasy!

Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn HomemakerMaxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn HomemakerMaxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker

Next up: Paint!
With an entire wall of bright windows and tons of white tile going so far up the walls, we decided that we could afford to add a touch of bold dark color at the top of the wall without making the space feel cramped or dim.

After testing some colors on the walls and comparing them against the larger pieces in the room, we decided on a rich, deep, dark foresty green to compliment the gold tones in the chandelier and the warm red tones in all the wood. It looks almost black in many of the pictures here, but please just trust me that in person it’s a rich modern forest green.

Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker

From the very first day, one of the most confusing areas to design around was the electrical panel door toward the front of the shop. I tossed several ideas around with Russell, but we just couldn’t agree on anything. We talked about hanging his licenses from it, or using it as a service and price list, or mounting a long mirror on it, or even just painting something on it, but nothing really seemed right to either of us.

When the solution finally came to me, it was so simple that I almost felt stupid for not coming up with it sooner.

Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker

Chalkboard paint dummy!!!!

Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker

Now that we’ve tiled around it and painted the frame white, it actually looks like an intentional design piece rather than an annoying feature we were forced to design around.

Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker

Another that thing we knew would be a thorn in our sides from day one was the front wall of the shop.
When we first saw the space we noticed that the entire front wall was strangely slapped together and incredibly poorly insulated. It consisted of little more than wood framing holding up single panes of glass above, with thin single panels of wood covering the facade below.

We eventually decided that the most cost effective option would be to leave the wood panels in place on the outside, and just put in some insulation inside with more wood covering it up on the interior. We didn’t consider exactly how we’d make that happen, but were just taking one thing at a time and figured we’d worry about that when the time came.
Well, the time came, and our plan ended up being much more of a pain in the ass than we anticipated.

We didn’t have a table saw so we weren’t able to cut our own panels of wood to size, our contractor was already finished and long gone, and all the hardware stores we spoke to refused to cut the panels to the exact size we needed. The Home Depot in Brooklyn even has a big sign at the wood cutting station that says “No precision cuts”, which we assumed meant they couldn’t guarantee cuts to an exact 1/16th of an inch measurement, but what it really meant was that all they’re really willing to do is cut a board in half for you so it’ll fit in your car.

I played with a ton of different options in my head, but none of them ever turned out to be plausible. Once the tiling was done and we had no choice but just figure it out, we took a trip to hardware store to see what we could come up with. We were just about at our wit’s end after spending waaaay too much time wandering the aisles and coming up with zilch, when suddenly I spotted these packs of tongue and groove wainscoting panels. They were just about the right height and could easily be fit to the width we needed. Score!

Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker

All I had to do was staple-gun them in place, trim them out, and paint them glossy white to match the rest of the woodwork on the facade. I only sliced the tip of my finger off once while installing them too, so that’s good. Right?

Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker

Here’s the before, during, & after; all rolled into one!
(sorry the photos don’t exactly match up right, but you get the idea)

Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker

With the lower part of the wall well insulated, we planned to just live with the single pane windows above for the first year or so. Unfortunately, a few days into the buildout we noticed that one of them was actually cracked and we hadn’t noticed. The people who had the space before us had so much tape and crud and gunk on the windows that we didn’t even notice that they’d “sealed” the crack in the window with cheap packing tape.

So, we ended up having to replace the windows with fancy dual pane insulated ones, but now it’s done and we won’t have to worry about it again.

With work beginning to wrap up on the interior of the shop, I figured it was finally about time to go ahead and paint the exterior too.
After caulking and sanding the facade, I opted for some matte black paint for a simple, understated look that would let the interior view really pop through the oversized windows.

We also added some wood panels to the little awning above the shop in the photo below, and painted that all black as well. Eventually we’ll be mounting our logo to the the panel, but that’s a work in progress so for now the entire exterior is just a simple flat black.

Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemakerhttps://brooklynhomemaker.com/2016/10/21/maxwells-for-hair-getting-there/

With all that out of the way we were almost ready to open, but it was still really warm out and we still hadn’t sorted out the whole issue with the weird electrical work and the non-functional AC.
We had called in a work order with the utility company, but these things take time…

A lot of time…

So much time…

.

With the finish line drawing nearer and nearer, Russell decided to put in another call to see if there was anything we could do to speed things along. Long story short, Russell used his ability to make people fall in love with him to his advantage, and forged a friendship with someone in the customer service department.

I won’t go into all the details about everything that had to happen, but it took several appointments to figure out what was wrong, and even more to fix it. They actually ended up having to bring in a crew to dig a hole in the street outside to run new wires in to our electrical panel, and believe me, the whole process could have (and would have) taken several months if Russell hadn’t made that friend.

Lucky for us, because the source of the problem wasn’t inside the building, it was the utility company’s responsibility to fix it and pay for it, and not ours! Finally, something worked out in our favor! Imagine that!

Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker

You can’t imagine what a relief it was when it was finally fixed, but it also felt kind of weird and anticlimactic, like oh, it’s just working like normal #NBD.
But then, when the shop was suddenly cool and comfortable after so many months of being stiflingly sweaty and unbearable, we definitely did plenty of jumping up and down with joy. And we didn’t even break a sweat!

Around that same time, I suddenly looked around the shop and realized that after months and months of hard work and countless to-do lists, there wasn’t really much of anything left for me to do!

The only problem with all of our sparkly white tile was that even with the warm wood tones and custom accents the space ultimately ended up feeling a little cold and sterile.
We’d always known that we wanted to bring in a couple of plants to add some life and color and texture to the room, but once we were about ready to open, it quickly became clear that we needed more than just a couple. The next thing we knew we were amassing a small jungle, and the bright greens and mix of tones and textures instantly brought a welcome warmth and vibrance to the space! We’ve actually added even more since these photos were taken, and I still have my eye out for more yet!

Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn HomemakerMaxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker Maxwell's for Hair | Brooklyn Homemaker

So, there you have it folks! After months and months of hard work and gallons of sweat, Maxwell’s is open for business!

If you live in Brooklyn, or ever find yourself in Bushwick in need of a haircut and some sparkling conversation, please stop by Maxwell’s at 274 Troutman St. Russell specializes in barbering and short hair, but his staff can do short hair, long hair, straight hair, curly hair, men’s hair, women’s hair, you name it! This place is the total package folks, so come check it out!!!

butter pecan layer cake

I can’t even believe it friends.

Brooklyn Homemaker turns three years old this weekend!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

They grow up so fast!
Sniff.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

This year has been sort of crazy with the whole Maxwell’s thing and all the time I’ve had to spend away from Brooklyn Homemaker, and I’m so thrilled to finally be getting back into the swing of things just in time to celebrate my anniversary!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I probably said this last year too, but I never would have believed you if you’d told me three years ago that I would have started doing this and kept with it for three whole years.
When I first started I didn’t even have a real camera, and for the first few months I shot all of my photos on my iPhone in my dimly lit kitchen at weird, unflattering angles. If you’d told me three years ago that I would not only get a real camera, but also get pretty good at figuring out how to use it, I definitely would have had my doubts.
If you’d have told me that some of my photos would be even half as good as the ones I spent hours drooling over on Pinterest, or that people would actually want to pin my photos and recipes for themselves, I probably would have laughed in your face!
If you’d have told me that people would actually want to cook my recipes, and would enjoy them enough to share with their friends and families, I’d have been absolutely floored!
Naaahhhhhh! No friggin’ way!!!

I still wake up sometimes and want to pinch myself.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

It seems like I start having these thoughts around the same time every year, as my blog anniversary approaches, about all the things I’ve accomplished and how far I’ve come. The friendships and bonds I’ve built, the skills I’ve gained, and how my goals and priorities have changed over these past few years.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

This is definitely a time to for reflection, a time for appreciation, and a time to be grateful. Perhaps most importantly though, it’s a time for cake!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

The idea of this cake was a bit of a throw back to the very first cake that inspired this whole blogging adventure, the Aunt Sassy Cake from Baked.

I knew I wanted to make another big ass fancy celebration cake filled with nuts and covered in a velvety icing, but I didn’t want to just make the same cake all over again.
I did that already! haha!

I thought that a play on the Aunt Sassy Cake with a fun, autumnal twist would be a great way to pay homage to the cake that started it all, while also making it feel little more seasonally appropriate this time of year.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I played with a few ideas in my head, but the inspiration really came when I was flipping through the channels one day and happened to catch a few minutes of Jeopardy.

When my sister and I were little, we used to spend a lot of time at our grandmother’s house. If we’d stay after dinner, we’d sit next to grandma on the couch and watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, and if we were good, grandma would fix us a bowl of ice cream.

Thing is, at the time I hated the ice cream flavors she tended to keep in the house. All I wanted was chocolate, or maybe mint chocolate chip, but grandma usually only had maple walnut or butter pecan. Garbage ice creams in the eyes of a child, and ones that i lovingly referred to as old lady flavors in my teen years.
As I got a little older I finally learned to appreciate those “old lady” flavors, and eventually I even learned to love them.
These days I can’t get enough of them, and even get into trouble with Russell when I come home from the store with a pint of butter pecan, when he’d have preferred chocolate, or maybe mint chocolate chip!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

With butter pecan in mind, I decided to go for a tender pecan layer cake, and I opted to brown the butter to amp up the nutty flavor. Browning butter only takes about 10 minutes with some stirring and a watchful eye, and it adds an incredibly rich, earthy, nutty flavor to regular everyday unsalted butter. It has such an amazing flavor that I decided to brown a little extra to mix into some silky Swiss Meringue Buttercream I wanted to use to ice the cake.

To make things even richer, and fancier, and prettier, I went ahead and drizzled the whole kit and kaboodle in some heavenly homemade caramel with a splash of (optional) bourbon.

This cake is the freakin bomb. Perfect for fall. It could even work as an elegant alternative to pecan pie at Thanksgiving!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

It’s been a wild ride so far, and hopefully this is just the beginning.

I’m so honored and grateful for all of you guys out there. I’m so so luck to have so many amazing friends out there in the world who have been so encouraging and engaging through everything that I’ve done so far. I’m looking forward to many more recipes and posts and years ahead, and I hope you’ll all be along for the ride too!

Love you guys! Thanks for everything!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Butter Pecan Layer Cake with Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Brown Butter
(Make ahead if possible)

4 sticks of unsalted butter

Melt butter in a large stainless steel (or light colored) sauce pan over low to medium heat. As the water cooks out, the butter will sizzle a lot. Stir frequently with a silicone spatula.

Once the butter starts to foam, usually about 5 minutes in, you want to watch it very carefully so it doesn’t burn. You’ll also want to use your spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan often. This will promote even browning and help prevent the milk solids from sticking to the pan as they brown. They’re delicious so you want them in your finished butter, and if they do stick they’ll be a pain in the butt to clean.

The foam may make it hard to see, but as you stir you’ll begin to see the milk solids in the butter begin to turn brown. Once the milk solids are brown and the butter smells toasty and nutty, you’re done! Immediately pour the butter, milk solids & all, into a heatproof dish to prevent it from further cooking. The milk solids can go from nutty and golden to black and burnt in less than a minute!

For the recipes below, you want the butter to be soft, but you don’t want to use the butter while it’s still hot and melted. Refrigerate the butter until solid, then let it soften at room temperature. If you want to make it ahead, it’ll keep for a long time if stored in an airtight container.
Butter contains a good amount of water which cooks off when you brown it, so after browning your 4 sticks of butter won’t measure 2 cups. Since the cake and the icing require the same amount of butter, I just say 1/2 the brown butter in each recipe for simplicities sake.


Brown Butter Pecan Cake
Adapted from Cooking Classy

3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup whole pecan pieces for decorating (optional)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 of the brown butter (will be a bit shy of 1 cup), softened
1/4 cup peanut oil (or canola or vegetable oil)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks (reserve whites for icing)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 3 Tbsp butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add pecans, toss to coat, and cook until slightly browned and fragrant, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or dish to stop cooking and set aside to cool. If using whole pieces for decorating, separate them from the chopped pecans and reserve for later.

Butter 3 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper, butter parchment paper and then lightly dust pans with flour shaking out excess. Set pans aside.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butters and sugars together until very pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, adding in vanilla with the last egg.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed just until combined, then add in 1/2 of the buttermilk and mix just until combined. Repeat alternating flour and buttermilk, ending with the final 1/3 of the flour. Remove the bowl from your mixer and fold in pecans until they’re evenly distributed. Divide batter evenly among the 3 prepared baking pans, using a kitchen scale for accuracy if desired.
Bake in preheated oven 25 – 30 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
Remove from oven and cool for 10 to 15 minutes on a wire rack, then run a knife around edges of the pans to ensure the cakes are loosened, and invert them onto the racks to cool completely.


Bourbon Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Minimalist Baker

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup unsalted butter (4 tablespoons, or 1/2 stick)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp bourbon (optional)
pinch of salt

Place sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium heat, gently swirling the pan (not stirring) to combine. Simmer (not stirring) for about 15 minutes or until a rich amber color is reached. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slightly toasty aroma. Once the sugar starts to go from clear to golden, watch it very closely as it can go from perfect to burnt in under a minute. If you want to use a thermometer, cook until the sugar reaches 350 degrees.
Remove the pan from heat and slowly stir or whisk in the butter. It will bubble up a lot so be careful. Once the butter is combined, repeat the process with the cream. Then add the bourbon and salt stir or whisk to combine.
Place the pan back over the heat and simmer for another minute or two while stirring continuously.
Remove from heat and let it cool for about 15 minutes before pouring into a heat-safe dish or jar to cool to the touch. Then close or cover the container and transfer it to the refrigerator to cool completely before use. Any leftover caramel (I didn’t have much) can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for several weeks.


Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Martha Stewart 

6 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
remaining 1/2 of the brown butter (will be a bit shy of 1 cup), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and a small amount lemon juice or vinegar to remove any trace of fat or grease. Make a double boiler by placing the mixer bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

Place egg whites, sugars, and salt into the bowl and whisk gently but continuously until the sugar is completely dissolved and the egg whites reach between 150 and 160 degrees F.
Attach the bowl to your mixer and use the whisk attachment to whip the egg whites on high speed until thick, glossy peaks form and the bowl no longer feels warm to the touch, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment and reduce speed to medium-low. Add butter, about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition. The meringue will deflate slightly as butter is added, don’t worry. Once all the butter is added, beat until the icing is smooth and silky, usually about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the vanilla and beat on low just until combined.

If the buttercream curdles, don’t worry! Just keep mixing and it will come back to smooth.
If the buttercream is too thin and runny, refrigerate the bowl for about 15 or 20 minutes before mixing again with the paddle attachment until it comes together.


Assemble cake:

Remove parchment from each layer, and trim the domed tops off with a cake leveler or sharp bread knife if necessary. Flat layers will definitely result in a much prettier & more professional looking finished cake. My cakes didn’t dome much, so you may not need to do this step. Make sure the layers are completely cool (or cold) before you proceed.

If you’re not serving the cake the same day it’s baked, I recommend you brush each layer of cake with two or three tablespoons of simple syrup before assembly to keep it nice and moist for days. Just heat 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water together until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Place first layer on a cake stand, serving platter, or cardboard cake round. Top with roughly 1/4 of your icing (about one generous cup), and spread the icing out with an offset icing spatula, in as even and level a layer as possible. Place the next layer on top and check from above and from multiple angles to make sure it’s stacked perfectly centered with the layer below, and that it’s flat and level. Adjust if necessary.
Add another 1/4 of the icing, smooth it out, add the top layer, and check and adjust if necessary.

Using another 1/4 of your icing, spread a thin layer of icing over top and sides of cake with an icing spatula. I like to start at the top and slowly work my way down the sides. Be sure to fill in any gaps between layers and make the sides and top is as smooth and flat as possible. This thin layer of icing is referred to as the “crumb coat” and is meant to seal in any crumbs so they’re not seen in your final layer of icing. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to an hour to set the icing before you proceed.
Spread the remaining icing evenly over top and sides of cake, trying to get as smooth a surface as possible.

Top the cake with about 3/4 to 1 cup of the cooled caramel sauce, carefully and evenly drizzling some down the sides.
If desired, top the finished cake with the optional 1/3 cup of toasted whole pecans from above.

This cake is best the day it’s baked, but will keep well in a cake saver at room temperature for up to 2 days, if the weather is not too hot or humid. Otherwise, wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If refrigerated, you’ll need to let it come up to room temperature for at least an hour before serving.