Oh, I miss this cake.

I distinctly remember the moment when I discovered this recipe. I was thumbing through (devouring, really) my just-arrived copy of Everyday Food magazine. There are a lot of delicious-looking recipes in that issue (November 2011), but when I came to this one, I just stopped and stared.

Maple cake. A layer cake made with lots of maple syrup. Okay. First of all, I love me some layer cakes. I prefer cake over all other desserts, and I prefer layer cakes with frosting over unfrosted cakes. Second: maple syrup is one of my favorite flavors. It’s so good, it’s so… maple-y. It’s a unique flavor, isn’t it? There’s really nothing else like it. And then this divine confection of maple-y goodness is topped not just with frosting, but with brown sugar frosting?!

So I handed the magazine to my husband and pretty much demanded that I make it as soon as possible. As you can imagine, he wasn’t about to hold me back. He knows a good thing when he sees it. His wife is hell-bent on baking a cake? He definitely can’t complain about that!

I made it that weekend, and while the recipe does take a good amount of maple syrup (1 1/2 cups! yowza), I knew that it would be worth it, even though pure maple syrup is rather pricey. While the cake was baking, the house was filled with the most luscious maple aroma ever.

This cake is dense and  moist with a nice tight crumb a lot like a pound cake. The flavor is divine. The maple really shines through – the flavor is right out in front, not like some maple recipes that you kind of have to search for the taste of maple. The brown sugar frosting is the perfect complement. I actually forgot to add the walnuts to the cake batter (I remembered after the cake had been baking for 10 minutes, oops!) and I think it turned out wonderfully, so I’m going to say that the walnuts are optional. I topped mine with maple sprinkles that we bought at a sugaring-off festival in New Hampshire this past spring. If you use walnuts in the batter, you can make a ring of whole walnuts around the top edge.

Maple Layer Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

Adapted slightly from Everyday Food, November 2011

Yield: 10 Servings Prep time: 45 minutes Total time: 1 hour 15 minute, plus cooling

For the cake:

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans

4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon fine salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup

3/4 cup whole milk

1 cup chopped walnut halves, toasted (optional)

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

  1. Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper; lightly grease parchment. Flour parchment and sides (tapping out excess); set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar on high until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on medium-high, add maple syrup in a slow, steady stream. Add flour mixture in two additions, alternating with milk, beating well after each addition and scraping down bowl as needed. Fold in walnuts, if using.
  3. Divide batter between pans; firmly tap pans on a flat surface several times to remove air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks, 15 minutes, then invert onto racks; peel off parchment. Invert cakes again and let cool completely on racks.
  4. Make frosting: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, and brown sugar on high until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Assemble cake: Place one layer, top side up, on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread top evenly with 1 1/2 cups frosting. Top with second layer, top side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and around sides of cake.