Pecan pie popcorn naked cake
I’m a judge for a show on the Food Network in the US called the Holiday Baking Championship and I learn a lot from the contestants. This is called a naked cake, so named because it contains no cloak of buttercream to cover its naked crumb or umbrella of fondant to hide its nudity – it’s delightfully rude, just like this combination of popcorn, pecan and rich creamy filling.
250g pecan nuts 350g butter, softened (I use salted) 325g soft light brown sugar 7 medium eggs 4 tbsp whole milk or water seeds of 1 vanilla pod or 2 tsp vanilla extract 325g self-raising flour ½ tsp baking powder 100g toffee popcorn (I use Butterkist)
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM 75g butter, softened 250g full-fat cream cheese (I use Philadelphia) 125g icing sugar (sifted if lumpy)
EQUIPMENT 3 x 20cm round loose-bottomed cake tins stand mixer or hand-held electric whisk (optional)
1 Preheat the oven to 180C (fan 160C/350F/gas 4) and line the cake tins with baking parchment. Put the pecan nuts on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes, checking them regularly and giving the tray a good shake halfway through cooking to ensure they cook evenly. Remove them from the oven and leave to cool, then chop roughly and set aside. 2 To make the sponge, cream together the butter and light brown sugar for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. You can do this in a stand mixer or using a hand-held electric whisk. You could also do it by hand, but it does take time and lots of elbow grease! When the mixture is light and fluffy, add three of the eggs and half the milk or water, the vanilla and half the flour and beat until just combined. Add the remaining four eggs, milk or water and flour, as well as the baking powder, and stir, mixing as little as possible so that the cakes remain light and fluffy. Using a spatula, fold in the toasted pecan nuts. 3 Divide the mixture among the lined tins and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of each cake comes out clean. Once the cakes are baked, remove them from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tins. 4 When the cakes have cooled, make the filling. Mix the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl along with the icing sugar. Be careful not to over-stir, as the cream cheese thins if it is overworked. If the buttercream does get a little runny, just place it in the fridge to firm up a bit. 5 Put a blob of the buttercream on a cake stand or serving plate and put the first cake layer on top of it. This will stop the cakes from moving around too much when you are layering. Spread a third of the buttercream over the top of the first cake and repeat with the other cakes, finishing with a layer of the buttercream on the top. Then pile the toffee popcorn on top and serve. ➤