Brown butter was probably created by mistake. A cook somewhere left the butter on a stove just a bit too long, and ended up with brown oil and separated milk particles at the bottom. Luckily, that obscure cook was curious enough to taste what looked like burnt butter and found out the taste and fragrance were actually great – nutty and deep. While the term “brown butter” describes only to the color, the French term, “Beurre Noisette” (i.e. “hazelnut butter”) captures both color and nutty flavor much better.
Brown Butter is used for quick sauces, especially with fish, but it is wonderful in many other dishes, cakes included. When I started developing this recipe, I decided to use brown butter instead of regular butter, in order to enhance the cake’s nutty flavor and aroma. Even though this complicates the recipe a bit, it worked so well that I believe once you’ll make it, you’ll realize it’s well worth extra effort.
One important thing to remember about brown butter – it needs attention. Keep an eye and make sure to take it off the heat at the crucial moment, when the color turns brown, about a second before the whole thing burns altogether…
The syrup gives the cake a nice shine and extra sweetness. If you feel you don’t need either, you can serve the cake without it.
Prep time: 40 minutes
Baking time: 40 minutes
For the brown butter:
1 stick (115 grams) butter
For the pan:
2 Tbs butter, soft
20 pecan halves
For the cake:
4 XL eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup heavy cream, at room temperature
½ cup brown butter, at room temperature
2 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1 cup finely chopped pecans
For the maple-rum syrup:
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup sugar
½ cup water
2 Tbs dark rum
1. The brown butter: melt the butter in a small pot over medium-high heat. Once large bubbles start to appear, lower the heat to medium-low. Don’t mix. When the color turns brown, take off the heat and let stand at room temperature, so that the milk solids will sink to the bottom. Carefully pour through a fine strainer to a small bowl, trying to keep the solids in the pot as much as possible. Let cool a bit and strain again. If all went well, you now have ½ cup of nicely browned oil/butter and your kitchen smells like roasted nuts. Keep at room temperature until use.
2. The cake: Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Brush 11”(28cm) round spring-form baking pan with Bundt insert with the soft butter. Place the pecan halves all around, flat side up.
3. Place the eggs and sugar in a mixer bowl and whisk until pale and fluffy. Add the maple syrup, heavy cream and brown butter and whisk to incorporate. Change to a mixing hook and add the chopped pecans. Add the flour, baking powder and salt (preferable through a sifter) and mix to a smooth batter. Add the batter to the prepared pan.
4. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
5. Let stand in the pan for 1-2 minutes before releasing it. Turn over a large plate and remove the Bundt insert. Let the cake cool a bit before brushing with the syrup.
6. The syrup: mix all the ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat. Let the syrup cool a bit and brush the cake with it all over. Bring to room temperature and serve.