Spice Cake with Maple Buttercream and Pecans

Just in case my pear and frangipane tart turned out to be a disaster, I needed a backup Christmas dessert. Enter this delicious spice cake, with maple buttercream frosting and a ring of toasted chopped pecans. Fortunately the tart was great, so we had plenty of tasty desserts around the house last week.

I’d made this spice cake before as cupcakes with a maple cream cheese frosting, but decided on a maple buttercream this time. The chopped toasted pecans add a nice dimension of flavor, as well as some crunch. The recipe below made one 8-inch layer, but you could easily double it for a fancier two-layer cake.


For the cake

  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • heaping 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • heaping 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • heaping 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • heaping 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces sour milk*

*Place 1/2 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in a glass measuring cup and add enough milk to equal a total of 6 ounces. Stir, then let sit for 5 minutes before using. 

For the frosting

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • About 2/3 cup chopped toasted pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8-inch round cake pan with baking spray and line the bottom with a parchment circle.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. You’ll note that the measurements for the spices are heaping, so seriously, don’t hold back.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and shortening on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add sugar and vanilla and cream together until well-combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour mixture and sour milk alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until just combined after each addition.

Pour batter into cake pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 1 hour, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, in a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add the powdered sugar, all at once, then beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take several minutes.

Add vanilla and 2 tablespoons maple syrup, then beat on medium speed for about 3-4 minutes, until very light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl very well at least a few times. Taste; add 1 to 2 more tablespoons syrup to reach your desired flavor.

Place the cooled cake on a serving platter and frost the top only, then sprinkle toasted pecans around the edge.

Makes about 8 servings.


Spice Roll with Caramel Sauce

The Great British Baking Show has made me a more creative – and adventurous – baker. I’m on vacation this week, and between errands, cleaning, and yoga, I’ve spent some time checking out the latest season. Inspired by various treats, I made this spice roll and caramel sauce.

While the contestants on the GBBS don’t roll their cakes in towels, choosing instead to cool them, then roll them, this method works best for me. I’ve come a long way from my very first pumpkin roll, achieving a nice spiral (see below). In hindsight, the maple cream cheese filling could have used a bit more maple syrup – it’s not as strong a maple flavor next to the rather strong spices in my cake. The entire treat is still delicious, though.


For the cake

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

For serving


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 10 x 15 x 1 pan with parchment. Place a lint-free tea towel on a heatproof surface (I use a cutting board) near your oven and dust it with powdered sugar.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and apple pie spice; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs until foamy, then slowly add the sugar, beating on medium speed until the mixture is thick and a light lemon color, about 5-7 minutes; add vanilla just before you stop beating. When the batter is done, it will fall from the whisk in a ribbon, then mound on top of the batter before blending back in. Gently fold the flour mixture in (I used my whisk attachment for easy clean-up).

Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading with a spatula to create an even layer. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the top springs back when you touch it. Remove from oven, then quickly and carefully flip your cake onto the powdered sugar-sprinkled tea towel. Gently peel the parchment away – I needed to use an offset spatula to prevent some of the cake from sticking to the parchment. Starting at one of the short ends, roll the cake up in a tight spiral and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before filling.

To make the filling, beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar and beat on low, then medium speed, until completely combined. Add maple syrup and beat to combine.

Carefully unroll the cake and add filling, then re-roll and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for about 1 hour before serving; serve with caramel sauce. Store in the refrigerator.

Behold, a lovely spiral!