Pecans are definitely my favorite nuts– they have this wonderfully caramel-y flavor that adds richness to any recipe they’re a part of. Almonds are more versatile, and walnuts are cheaper, but it’s always pecans for me. Which is why, when I saw Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for a cake featuring a full pound of toasted pecans, I had to try it.
The recipe uses finely ground pecans instead of flour, with browned butter to amp up the caramel notes, and boy, is it delicious! It’s soft and moist, and intensely flavorful; the pecans add a somewhat rustic texture, but the complex flavor makes it sophisticated. I served mine with whipped cream and berries, but it would be amazing all by itself– I’ll eat mine with a nice cup of tea, but it would go equally well with a glass of dark beer, I think.
If you want to make this yourself, the two steps to watch out for are the browning of the butter– you need to be careful not to let it burn– and the whipping/folding of the egg whites to avoid deflation. The result is totally worth it.
Thanks again, Deb, for an amazing recipe!
Flourless Pecan Cake
- 15 ounces (420 grams) whole or chopped pecans, or pecan meal/flour
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 9 tablespoons (130 grams) unsalted butter
- 7 large eggs, separated
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Note: I was lucky enough to find pre-toasted, pre-chopped pecans at Trader Joe’s– great shortcut to streamline the process!
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Prepare a 9″ round cake pan with baking spray and line with parchment.
- To toast pecans, spread onto a baking sheet and put into the oven for 7-10 minutes, until they smell toasty. Let cool completely before proceeding to the next step.
- In the bowl of a food processor, process pecans, sugar, and salt until finely ground. Make sure you stop before it starts to feel damp (so it doesn’t turn into pecan butter).
- Heat butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until milk solids turn amber-colored. Watch carefully– once they start to color, they’ll burn quickly! Pour butter into a large bowl to let it cool until merely warm (not hot, or it’ll cook your eggs).
- Once your butter has cooled down, add egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
- Add the pecan/sugar mixture to the egg yolks and stir to combine. The mixture will be very thick.
- Beat egg whites to stiff peaks– remember, they won’t be shiny and dense like a meringue; they’ll still look foamy, but they’ll hold their shape.
- Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into your thick batter to lighten it up. Then add the remaining egg whites in two installments, folding carefully to keep it as aerated as possible.
- Pour into your prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out with moist crumbs. My cake domed slightly, but sank down to be almost flat when cooled.
- Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool the rest of the way.