This Texas Pecan Cake highlights the pecan nut in all of its glory! The moist yet delicate brown sugar cake compliments the pecans, while the cinnamon milk chocolate frosting delivers a contrasting flavor and texture. Topped with fudgey chocolate border and more pecans, this Texas Pecan Cake showcases Texas’ state nut in the best possible way!
I needed to make a Texas themed cake sooner or later. Finding the bag of pecans in the kitchen cupboard sealed the deal—I had to bake a pecan cake. Making the pecans the star of the show was not hard, but making a unique dessert was a different matter. There is a saturation of pecan filled desserts out there. Not that old time recipes are bad. I love butter pecan cake or pecans with caramel, but I wanted to develop a new cake combination while still having an old time heritage feel.
Pecans are the quintessential dessert nut. Less bitter than other nuts, pecans are the go-to mix-in for bars, brownies, cookies—and of course—cakes. Toasting the nuts enhances these smooth and buttery flavors. Sadly, pecans became (or have they always been?) disgustingly expensive.
The United States is one of the largest producers of pecans and we should be—pecans derived from the North American continent. Yet with a rising international appeal, the demand on pecan exports sadly drove the price up both internationally and domestically.
I came across this recipe on Texas Coop Power. On their site, Texas Coop Power has multiple recipe contests. The cake component for this Texas Pecan Cake won a contest and I was itching to see why! The brown sugar in the cake batter accentuates the warm rich notes of the pecans. Soft and pillowy, the delicate cake gets a textural contrast from the toasted pecans and gets moistness from ricotta cheese. Yes you read that right, ricotta. In this case, the eggs separating method worked the best, giving the cake a two-hit punch—the egg yolks provided moisture, while the beaten egg whites provided levity.
To further drive home the Texan vibes, a cinnamon laced satiny milk chocolate frosting was needed. This frosting is reminiscent of Texas chocolate sheet cake. You may think this frosting is weird on it’s own, but when paired with the brown sugar cake, it tastes phenomenal and extremely well balanced!
Warm spices, buttery, crunchy, creamy, and chocolately—Texan Pecan Cake delivers in all of these categories! Though the cake is innovative with ingredients like ricotta cheese and with new processes like ice bath whisking, Texas Pecan Cake has a homey rustic feeling. This cake tastes like that special cake at a potluck or holiday party. It’s the cake you love to eat again and again, it’s the cake that secret ingredient. But here it is, Texas Pecan Cake for holidays or simply because it’s Thursday!
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 5 large eggs, separated then brought to room temperature
- ½ cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup buttermilk, room temperature
- ½ cup full-fat ricotta cheese
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
- ½ cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup sour cream
- ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 to 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
- pinch of fine salt
- ¼ cup (½ stick, 2 ounces) unsalted butter room temperature
- 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Toasted pecans
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 3 8-inch round cake pans with baking spray. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl whisk together 2 cups of the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. Pour beaten egg whites into a separate bowl.
- In the cleaned bowl of the stand mixer, add the butter and brown sugar. Use the paddle attachment to beat on a medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the oil and beat for an additional 4 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
- Reduce speed to low and add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- In a separate bowl whisk together the buttermilk, ricotta, and vanilla.
- Finally in another small bowl toss the toasted pecans with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour, set aside.
- With the speed still on low, add the dry mixture in 3 additions followed by the wet ingredients in 2 additions. Begin and end with the dry mixture. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl down as needed. Add in the pecans. Fold the stiff egg whites into the pecan batter.
- Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating halfway. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out mostly clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap until you're ready to assemble.
- Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate, stirring frequently until smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Once melted increase the heat to medium. Add in sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon. Stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the melted chocolate and the butter mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer, stirring to combine. Place the mixing bowl over an ice bath and whisk the mixture constantly until the frosting thickens and begins to harden against the sides of the bowl, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Attach the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium high until it lightens in color and thickens even more. If the frosting isn't thickening, wrap an ice pack on the sides of the mixing bowl as it beats. The cold, combine with the mechanical beating, will thicken the frosting.
- Pour into a container and let it set up for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Mix in the sour cream. Store in air tight containers in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble.
- In a medium bowl sift together the cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and salt. Set aside.
- In the the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter and cream cheese on a medium-high speed until lump-free and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add in the vanilla. On a low speed, add the cocoa-powdered sugar mixture 1 cup at a time. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat for a final 20 to 30 seconds. You don't want to over whip this frosting or else you'll lose the fudgey taste and color.
- If the cakes have domes, use a serrated knife to level off the tops. Place a spoonful of frosting to secure the first cake layer onto a plate or cake board. Spoon on some of the Texas Sheet Cake frosting. Top with the next layer and repeat with frosting the top. Finish with the final cake layer. Use an off set spatula to press the a thin layer of frosting to the outside of the cake. This will be the crumb coat. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes to seal in crumbs. Frost with final bit of Texas Sheet Cake Frosting. Using a piping bag fitted with a star tip pipe on rosettes around the border. Press the remaining of the toasted pecans to the top and sides of the cake.