Jordan: Let’s start by saying that this cake was delicious.
Kitra: It tastes like pralines, and that wasn’t even the intent. It’s that lovely.
Think nutty, buttery, and lightly caramelly. We ate more than half the cake in one sitting.
Added bonus: no wheat! Which generally is… not a bonus. But it’s good here.
That said, we failed at one part of this cake. Or rather, I failed at it. (Kitra was just along for the ride.) The original cake included cornmeal, but in an attempt to make it kosher for Passover, we swapped that out. We also swapped out the small amount of all-purpose flour (which also makes it gluten-free)… Unfortunately, I remembered too late that rice flour, which we used, is still kitniyot, just like corn is.
It’s totally doable to make this work though if that’s your goal. Just don’t arbitrarily pick rice flour like we did.
It wasn’t arbitrary! It was recommended by the people in the comments as a gluten-free swap, and I already had it in my pantry. It was, however, not fully thought-out. Fun side story: I’ve also done this in the other direction. I once used a kosher for Passover recipe to make cookies for a gluten-free friend and realized as they were going in the oven that matzo meal is, you know, decidedly not gluten-free. Cookies were good though.
I enjoyed them.
I’ll also note that this cake is kosher for Passover if you eat kitniyot (corn, rice, legumes, etc.), which as far as I can tell is mostly a matter of how strong your feelings are about tradition, unless you’re Orthodox.
Jordan has done a lot of research and needs more outlets for it. I just like cake and know I should eat less wheat because it doesn’t always make me feel great but I’m in denial.
In my defense, there are a lot of topics I have done unnecessary research on but this is not one of them. It just comes from being the only non-Jew at my boyfriend’s mother’s Passover seders. Ask me about World War I facial surgery and then we’ll get into some unnecessary research.
We should end on something other than facial surgery. So: this cake is great and you should eat over half of it in 20ish minutes. No regrets.
Pecan Browned Butter Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, where it was adapted from Watt’s Grocery
We made some significant changes here, the biggest of which was swapping the cornmeal for more pecan, which Deb Perelman does in another nut/cornmeal recipe of hers. This has the added benefit of eliminating the three-hour resting time in the original recipe and allowing it to be made entirely in the food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you’ll want to swap in an equal weight of ground nuts (pecans or other) and simply combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the butter, eggs, and vanilla.
If you want to make this rice-free, you could probably swap the rice flour for about 2 tablespoons of potato starch. (Fair warning that we haven’t tried this ourselves.) If you don’t cake about it being gluten-free and don’t want to buy another type of flour, feel free to use 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, as in the original recipe.
Finally, we found this cake to be a little on the sweet side, so we’ve marked a bit of the sugar as optional.
- 9 tablespoons (4.5oz) butter, cold is fine
- 1 cup (100g) pecan halves, toasted and cooled
- 1 cup (120g) powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons (25g) granulated sugar (optional)
- ¼ cup (35g) rice flour (see note)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- lightly sweetened whipped cream and berries of your choice, for topping (optional)
First, brown the butter. In a small pan, melt the butter and cook it over medium-low heat until it begins to turn brown and smell nutty. Watch it carefully once it starts to get foamy, stirring frequently, as it can burn easily. Once it’s nicely browned, pour it into a small bowl and put it in the fridge or freezer to cool.
Preheat your oven to 325°. Line the bottom of a 9-inch tart, pie, or cake pan with parchment paper (don’t skip this!) and generously butter the sides.
In a food processor, pulse pecans and sugar(s) until finely powdered. Add rice flour, baking powder, and salt and pulse again until combined. Once the butter has cooled to room temperature, pour it into the food processor along with the egg whites and vanilla, and blend until thoroughly combined.
Scrape batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. A toothpick won’t tell you anything useful here, so bake it until the edges are golden and the center is set. If you lightly tap the center, it shouldn’t leave much of an indentation in the cake once it’s done.
Let cool completely before topping with whipped cream and berries. Eat in one sitting (optional, but encouraged).