On Trial: ToH Best Desserts Ever – Toasted Butter Pecan Cake

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During February and March, we’re going to be taking a baking tour through Taste of Home’s “Best Ever Desserts” and putting them to the test: Do they stand up to their claim of best ever? Last week we tested their cover recipe, a Layered Mocha Cheesecake, and found it lacking. In fact, I wouldn’t even recommend someone make this for a casual dessert. There are better and more satisfying cheesecakes out there.

This week, we’re taking a look at their Toasted Butter Pecan Cake. I only took one picture of this while making it, because it’s essentially created with the usual cake ingredients:

2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

The white cake is spiced up by melting 1 1/4 cups of butter in a pan and toasting 2 cups of chopped pecans in it. You can pick up bags of chopped pecans at your local grocery store’s baking aisle, although they can still be a little large, regardless of saying “chopped” on them. If you prefer them smaller, take a small meat mallet to them while they’re still in the bag or, if you’ve already removed them from their package, put them in a sealable bag and give it a light whacking.

While that was happening, I went to work on preparing the rest of the cake batter. It’s pretty standard: Mix your ingredients thoroughly in a bowl.

When I was done with that, I realized I had ignored the pecans for too long and burned some of them. When they’re done toasting, remove them from the pan and spread them out on a cookie sheet lined with foil.

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As you can see, I have a few burned bits in there. Before putting this into your cake batter, be sure to remove them, then mix them into your batter. Spread the batter evenly among three greased 9-inch baking pans and bake. I used two round pans and baked the cakes for a bit longer – hey, it all tastes the same.

The frosting is a delicious cream cheese frosting, but again, nothing an amateur baker hasn’t seen before. I would definitely recommend this over any store bought frosting, as I am not a fan of that canned crap. The frosting is pretty, uh… I don’t want to say “generic,” but it is not specific to the taste of the pecan cake, and can be used on many, many other cakes and cupcakes. It is also so simple (don’t be thrown off by the list of ingredients) that any novice can make it. In fact, I put my husband to work on this while I was doing other things. So easy even a Neanderthalspouse can do it.

Frosting:
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
1 packages (2 pounds) confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 to 3 Tbsp. milk

Basically, you take these ingredients, put them all in a huge bowl, and combine. Simple as that. If you are someone who is looking to build a nice repertoire of frostings you can use on different cakes and cupcakes, I would snag this. That may sound funny but I have a lot of excellent cake and cupcake recipes, but it’s harder to find decent frostings. Even I have entertained ideas of purchasing canned frosting. Don’t do it! There are better tasting frostings out there, and this is one of them. It tastes fun and light, and is truly the star of the the Toasted Pecan Cake. It does make a lot, even for this cake, so if you’re going with cupcakes, you may want to consider cutting the recipe in half.

The Verdict: Not Guilty of being a Best Ever Dessert

This is a nice cake, moist with a great texture, and is something that I would make again to finish off a casual springtime BBQ. Unfortunately, the wow factor just isn’t there — it’s a wonderful white cake with some pecans in it. Additionally, the frosting is nice but it is the crowning glory of the cake, upstaging the dessert, rather than acting as its spectacular sidekick. In my opinion, as a best ever dessert, the frosting should be over-the-top and tailored only to this cake, but it isn’t. I could use this frosting on fifty other cakes, and a “best ever” shouldn’t do that. I would recommend this to you as it is definitely worth making again once or twice for a casual occasion, but I do not think it is a best ever.

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Note: I couldn’t capture a picture of my cake because I was late for an event and had to run. By the time I had a chance to take a picture of the cake, it was mostly eaten. The picture you see above is from the Taste of Home Magazine, and looks pretty much like the cake I made, except mine was only two layers.

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